First appeared in "The Mag" May 2003
The season ended for our reserve side at St.James’ Park in early May with a 2-0 victory over Whitley Bay to reclaim the Northumberland Senior Cup. However that was to be a rare high point in a season that saw an inconsistent second string side serve up a series of forgettable performances, both home and away.
While playing all their home league games bar one at either the unsuitable venues Gateshead Stadium or Kingston Park was a major handicap, using 61 players over a season also indicates the extent to which the side was constantly being altered.
At various times factors including the increased number of substitutes required for Champions League games, players being loaned to other clubs and a lack of effort by supposed first team squad members all adversely affected the composition of the side and it’s effectiveness.
Having said that though, a record only one win from the four fixtures against Nationwide league sides and reserve whipping boys Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City has to be questioned.
While the likes of Bellamy, Robert, O’Brien and Viana all made cameo appearances en route a first team recall, others such as Steve Caldwell, Ameobi and Bernard earned promotion to the senior squad after some decent displays in the stiffs, often in front of a watching Sir Bobby Robson or right-hand-man John Carver.
Regrettably, reserve regulars also had to suffer as the likes of Wayne Quinn, Gavilan, Bassedas and Marcelino also strutted their stuff with varying degrees of inadequacy.
That the latter name in that quartet was by far the most
composed and professional is especially frustrating – why his time on
Tyneside saw him only concerned with enriching his bank account rather
than his reputation is destined to remain a mystery.
On to the positives then, and when a team sees a regular influx of inexperienced players, which by the end of the season included schoolboys, some glue is required in the form of a steady hand and guiding influence on the field. In previous seasons the likes of Stuart Pearce and John Barnes both took this role, and in this campaign it’s been Robbie Elliott.
His thirteen starts saw a series of solid performances from left back into midfield, displays that looked much better in retrospect when he missed out in the latter stages of the season through injury.
Of the younger players, midfielder Bradley Orr appeared in all but two league games and after being handed a new contract impressed in a number of matches, ending up with the captain’s armband to go along with his four goals.
Dubliner Stephen Brennan can also reflect on a successful campaign in which he
established himself at right back, where his displays earned a call-up to
the Republic of Ireland U21 side and a Newcastle contract until 2005.
What the future holds for him is debatable though – at this moment in time he looks unlikely to get a run in the first team and has a fight on his hands even to get on the bench. That being the case he’s likely to feature in the reserves next season, hopefully in his preferred central striking role rather than the wide position he endured for parts of last season, when he looked anything but effective. There’s always the chance though that a lack of opportunity will see him looking elsewhere, either on loan or not.
Having a harder season in many ways has been Chopra’s erstwhile strike partner,
South Shields-born Richard Offiong. After a couple of reserve appearances,
he first made the trip to Darlington for a spell, before heading over the
border to link up with SPL strugglers Motherwell.
The award of a contract and squad number for Calvin Zola remains inexplicable after twelve reserve league appearances this season without a goal, with the suspicion being that non-footballing reasons may have contributed to the decision.
Elsewhere there have been good contributions from midfielder Ross Gardner, despite the distraction of the ongoing tribunal case with the Academy over mistreatment of players.
Mention also for Andy Ferrell, who began the
season at full back for the U19s, moved into midfield and found his
shooting boots which resulted in promotion to the reserves before injury
curtailed his season.
That situation has to be addressed if it’s not to overshadow the next
campaign as much as the last one.
Page last updated 24 June, 2009