While the clubs
u17 side are now involved in the National playoffs, for their u19
counterparts, the season is almost over. As was mentioned in the last issue,
Kenny Whartons boys faced an almost impossible task to qualify by getting
past leaders Nottingham Forest, and so it proved.
A 3-3 draw with Forest on the banks of the Trent was a major blow, and despite
bouncing back with a 4-2 victory at Sheffield Wednesday, any lingering hopes
were extinguished by a 5-1 reverse away at Liverpool a few hours before our
senior side faced Arsenal in the FA Cup at St.James.
Once it was confirmed that no playoff games would extend their season, the
retained list was announced and Stephen Pringle, Jon Brain, Chris Meredith,
Kevin Dixon, Robert Kent, Johnny Mann and Carl Heiniger along with u17 player
Damon Robson were released, to join the ranks of youngsters looking to restart
their careers at a new club.
None of the lads had secured definite deals at the time of writing, but all
had been approached by prospective new employers. Carl Heiniger found himself
at Villa Park in the Bradford City reserve side on a trial, while both Chris
Meredith and Damon Robson received invitations from Bristol City. Robson was
also said to be attracting the attention of both our local rivals from
Teesside and Wearside.
Goalkeeper Jon Brain, is heading back to former club Carlisle United on trial,
where ex-toon junior keeper Peter Keen is still on the books. Two of his
occasional reserve colleagues have also agreed to make the journey down the
A69, with Ryan McGuffie and Mark Boyd also now available. Like Brain, Boyd was
formerly with Carlisle before the call came from Tyneside.
The final few u19 games have seen an influx of players from the u17s, and
young strikers Lewis Guy and Calvin Zola-Makongo marked their introduction at
a higher level with goals in their first starts.
However, the season is very much alive for the u17s, and they began their
playoff campaign with a convincing 4-0 victory in London against Fulham. The
result was never in doubt after two strikes from Zola-Makongo in the opening
quarter hour, a second half spot kick from Neale McDermott and Lewis Guys 23rd goal
of the season at this level sealing the win.
Home games against Wimbledon and Crewe (already beaten 6-0 on Tyneside in
league) now follow, before the competition alters to a straight knockout
basis, culminating in a two-legged final.
In between the sticks at Fulham was Adam Collin, who while being the regular
keeper for the u17s has been moonlighting with the reserve side in recent
With Jon Karelse being sidelined through injury and illness for much of
the season, and Robson understandably reluctant to risk Steve Harper on a
regular basis, an opportunity arose for one of the Academy keepers to take a
Following a brief appearance from Carl Bell, the aforementioned Brain then had
a short run before Colin was handed the gloves when Middlesbrough reserves
came to Tyneside, having been sidelined with a broken arm.
Unfortunately for him the whole Newcastle side had a stinker, as the smoggies cruised to a 4-1 victory
on a damp night at Kingston Park. A slight improvement saw the points shared
with Sheffield Wednesday the following week, but the turning point then looks
to have come for the second string with a morale-boosting 8-0 win in a
friendly at Bishop Auckland.
After that success, Tommy Craig kept faith with Collin and hes played in
our run of three consecutive home games, bringing maximum points and a rise to
the top of the table. An entertaining 5-2 win over Manchester United saw
Collin & Co beamed live into the homes of MUTV viewers, while the 2-1
defeat of Bolton saw him seconds away from a clean sheet before a Trotter shot
home a consolation goal from a corner with Collin unsighted.
However, he had the easiest night of his fledgling reserve career so far in
the following game, as a very disappointing Manchester City side barely
mustered a shot on target all night, and Collins chief contribution was to
make a couple of well-timed jumps to claim incoming crosses.
Collin will hope to keep his place in the reserves as they try and hang on to
top spot, along with fellow Academy graduates Orr and Chopra. While England
striker Chopras name is well-known (although hes recently featured in a
right wing role for the reserves) that of Bradley Orr is less familiar.
The powerfully-built Liverpudlian midfielder can also point to an encouraging
display in the Bishop Auckland friendly, in which he grabbed a goal and showed
some good creative touches.
Hes now a regular substitute for the reserves and in his only start to date
wasnt found wanting on a tricky night at the Stadium of Plight, when in an
unfamiliar wing role, he supplied a beauty of a cross for Cort to head home as
well as putting in some crunching tackles.
After never always seeing eye-to-eye with the coaching staff at the Academy in
the past, its good to see that Bradley has got his act together and is
starting to show more of his quality alongside established professionals.
Finally, in response to a few requests, this time out well round up the
young striking talent at the club:
Michael Chopra: now considered a reserve team player, a return of 30 goals in
21 u19 starts shows that Academy league football is no longer a challenge for
him. Two goals early in his reserve career may have raised hopes prematurely
that he would blaze straight through to the first team, but after a dip in
form hes shown signs of being more involved in the last few games. Big
things will be expected next season though. Contracted to United until 2003.
Richard Offiong: after looking at one stage as if he was ahead of Chops in the
race to a reserve spot, Offy has slipped out of the limelight in recent months
as hes struggled for form. Now that Colin McMenamin has been declared
surplus to requirements he should have the chance to make up ground again, but
hasnt really done enough to warrant a reserve place. Contracted to United
Calvin Zola-Makongo: along with LuaLua the second Congo-born striker at
United. Having hit 12 goals in 13 u17 games, the imposing figure of Zola found
himself promoted to the u19s and was soon back on the goal trail at
Barnsley. If hes reminiscent of anyone its Ameobi with the same languid
style, along with a hint of the trickery of LuaLua. Also like Shola its
difficult to judge how good he is as his physical size allows him to almost
bully more diminutive opponents. Contracted to United until 2004.
Lewis Guy: Has had a good season in the u17s, with 23 goals in 24 games
plus one for the u19s. Has already had a number of Premiership scouts
monitoring his progress - high hopes that hell continue to develop and
maintain his scoring touch.
Guy Bates: Due to the form of Lewis Guy, the more rugged Bates has had to
share a forward spot with Zola-Makongo, but still weighed in with 4 goals.
Marc Walton: a comparative newcomer and still to start his first game for the
u17s, athough hes grabbed two goals when coming on as a sub. Will hope
to establish himself next season.
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