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 If the Kids are United
 Part 8 - Appeared in the Mag Summer Special, May 2002

Newcastle United may have brought down the curtain on a memorable season of football with defeat at Southampton, but two days later a team in black and white were parading round St.James’ Park with a trophy.

League and FA Cup success may have eluded us for another season, and with the reserves slipping out of the Northumberland Senior Cup and blowing the league at the final hurdle, it was left to the U17 side to add something to the trophy cabinet.

A two-legged victory over Manchester United secured the Premier Academy league title for the first time, as the current crop of young prospects went one better than Chopra and Co. who were beaten in last season’s final by Ipswich.

Having won their league group in normal competition, and then sailed through the final group section, the youngsters were confronted with the might of Arsenal, at their own London Colney training ground in a tricky Quarter Final tie.

On a beautiful day in Hertfordshire, and in front of a distinguished gathering including Don Howe (no trilby) and Arsene Wenger (sour-faced), United found themselves behind after 41 seconds.

Not letting this setback get them down though, they set about their task in a positive manner, and equalised in the 3rd minute. Lewis Guy burst into the area with an Arsenal player holding him back. The ref rightly pointed to the spot, and Lewis himself tucked the penalty away via a post. 

A deserved second goal came from the head of captain Chris Carr after a neat free-kick from the impressive Beaumont found him at the far post. The half-time whistle saw Newcastle going in 2-1 up in a half they just about shaded. 

To Newcastle's credit the centre-halves Carr and Steven Taylor stood firm in a frenetic second period, restricting Arsenal to potshots from distance, and we held on for the victory in relative comfort.

Another away trip beckoned in the Semi-Final, a slightly easier trip to Sheffield United, where in a bout of small-mindedness, the Blades opted not to play the tie at Bramall Lane. Cynically they denied their youngsters the chance to play on a decent pitch, hoping that they’d be able to hustle a result from Newcastle by playing on a poor sloping surface at their usual home venue.

Happily this wasn’t the case, and in front of a crowd approaching 300 at the Forgemasters pitches, two goals from Steven Taylor and one from Calvin Zola-Makongo saw us reach the final courtesy of a 3-2 victory.

 Having soaked up some early pressure, with keeper Adam Collin making two noteworthy stops, the Magpiestook a 23rd minute lead some Zola magic beat two players on the right. His shot was parried by the home keeper and Steven Taylor  slammed home the rebound.

Shortly afterwards the same player repeated his earlier strike, McDermott's cross was headed goalwards by Guy and Taylor again hammered the loose ball in for his second goal. 

Sheffield gained a foothold in the tie on the stroke of half time, when the harsh award of a free kick against Taylor gave Ross the chance to drive home an unstoppable free kick.
They then equalized on the hour, slightly against the run of play, as Sharp's low effort beat Collin at his near post. 

With extra time looming, both sides pressed for a winner and Guy had the chance to wrap it up, but put his shot wide from six yards. However a last gasp winner in the pouring rain took Newcastle through. Alan O'Brien outstripped the full back down the left and cut it back to Zola who side-stepped a defender to hit an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

So a two-legged final beckoned for the lads, and once it was confirmed that Manchester United had overcome Leeds, the posturing from Old Trafford began.

Eventually agreement was reached for the first leg to be played on Cup Final morning at Old Trafford, the home side having insisted on moving the tie from it’s original slot of the following Monday. Newcastle went along with this, but were forced to seek assistance from the FA when the reds refused to play the second leg of the final on the scheduled date, trying to move it the final Saturday of the Premiership season. For once Manchester United didn’t get their way.

Against a background of slightly strained relations between the two sides, a meagre attendance of around 1,000 was on hand at Old Trafford. A sensational 45 minutes later and Newcastle were enjoying a half time rest having scored three goals without reply, through Zola and a brace from Lewis Guy.

Back roared the home side in the second half though, and after a period of pressure
just after the hour mark, the inevitable reply arrived, Johnson heading home a cross from Eagles.

At 3-1 Manchester committed more and more resource to the attack, as we tried punish them on the break, most notably through Zola, who tested the home keeper with a 20 yarder on 72 minutes.

As time ran out, it looked as if w’ed take a 3-1 advantage into the second leg, but with two minutes of normal time remaining, Collin was only able to parry Jones' long shot, leaving Poole to squeeze the ball home from a tight angle.

At this stage, this being Old Trafford and the home side losing, the Fergie clock came into operation as the Referee indicated five minutes of stoppage time. We held out and there was just time for Lewis Guy to spurn one golden opportunity to give Newcastle a clear advantage before the final whistle, but post-match comments from both camps confirmed a mutual feeling that there was a lot more football left in this tie.

And so the scene was set for a decisive evening at St.James’, and in front of 6,000 fans (and the MUTV cameras who beamed out both legs of the tie live), Newcastle played their collective socks off and dominated a scoreless first half.

The breakthrough came within three minutes of the restart; a shot from Zola breaking the deadlock at the Gallowgate end, and when local lad James Beaumont  chipped in with a memorable curling shot, the celebrations were underway.

The visitors played some entertaining stuff, but lacked punch up front and never looked like being a threat once we’d scored. On a night when all the toon lads played their part, special mention must be given to the committed performances from both full backs Kris Gate and Martin Brittain, who cleaned up at the back and also drove forward when play allowed.

On the left flank, Alan O’Brien also delighted the crowd with a couple of superlative crosses in from the byline, despite not being 100% fit. One thoughtful final touch from the departing Irvine was to bring on Chris Shanks, Ben Webster and Guy Bates as late replacements – all three players having played their part in a successful campaign when deputizing for absent colleagues.

Chris Carr proudly lifted the trophy bedecked in black and white ribbons and the team then went on their second lap of honour - during the first Guy and Beaumont threw their shirts into the crowd before having to retrieve them again for the presentation! Gordon Milne had handed over the trophy in the absence of Bobby Robson.

The victory allowed Academy Director Alan Irvine to leave on a deserved high note to assist David Moyes at Everton, and confirmation has now come that Kenny Wharton will be his successor at Newcastle.

United chose to promote from within rather than look elsewhere, and after understudying Irvine since moving from the Boro Academy in 1999, "Bones" has the honour of taking charge as the Academy move to their new purpose-built facility at Little Benton. Assisting him will be Peter Beardsley, and they face a stiff task if they’re to continue to progress that our youth setup has made under Irvine.


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Page last updated 24 June, 2009