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 If the Kids are United
 Part 17 - Appeared in the Mag Jan 2003

While the wintry weather closes in and frozen pitches result in the cancellation of Academy and reserve fixtures, for some of our youngsters a break in sunnier climes is just around the corner.

While their club colleagues shiver on Tyneside, England duo Ross Gardner and Lewis Guy jet out with the national U18 squad for the Merdien Cup tournament in late January, held this year in Egypt.

England kick off their cup campaign in Port Said on January 25th against Burkina Faso, and then play Mali, Egypt and Nigeria, the winners being decided on scorelines in those games, rather than on a knockout basis.

Meanwhile, Newcastleís Republic of Ireland defender Stephen Brennan is also packing his bags as he links up with his U20 counterparts in the United Arab Emirates.

Ireland are taking part in a four team friendly tournament along with the hosts, Korea and France, which gives them the chance to sample conditions in the location that will host the World Youth Championships from March 25th to April 16th.

England will join the Irish at those Championships, along with exotic opponents such as Panama and Uzbekistan, and more familiar foes such as Spain, USA and the Germans. Who plays who will become clearer after the draw, scheduled for January 29th.

Both Michael Chopra and Richard Offiong featured for the England U20 side in recent games, but at the time of writing itís not confirmed whether either will be at the finals. Brennan however looks likely to be on the Irish plane and toon fans should be able to keep track of events, with Eurosport preparing to cover the event.

Slightly closer to home, a number of our youngsters have a foreign trip of sorts lined up, when reserve coach Tommy Craig returns to his native Glasgow on January 18th to face Rangers. The friendly match is being staged at Ibrox Park between U21 representatives of the two clubs and with the Scottish Premier League currently on a seasonal break, should attract a healthy attendance of soccer-starved scots and exiled toon fans.

Included in that Newcastle side should be midfielder Bradley Orr, who has just put pen to paper on a professional contract that keeps him at United until 2004. The 20-year-old Liverpudlian has come through the ranks to become a regular performer at reserve level, and made four starts last season.

Heís already exceeded that number this season, and weighed in with goals in victories away to Blackburn and more recently, over Manchester United at Old Trafford.  That game was picked up on by Skysports and other media outlets as it marked the return of Roy Keane in a red shirt, but a 3-2 victory for Newcastle meant that all the goals, including  A Cort double and Bradleyís blast were televised nationwide.

Turning to the current U17 and U19 sides, and poor weather caused the postponement of the opening games of 2003 against the mackems, leaving the lads hopeful of action in an away double-header at Sheffield Wednesday on January 18th.

In the weeks leading up to the Christmas break, the U17s stretched their unbeaten run to 9 games. Following a hard-fought draw with the mackems, wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Derby on Tyneside were recorded along with a draw at Bolton and victory at Leeds despite some rough treatment from the home side.

However, they ended up losing a remarkable final match of the year at Blackburn, where the home side eventually ran out 6-4 winners. Three goals down in the first quarter, Newcastle rallied but still looked down and out when Rovers scored again to make it 4-1 after the break. A great effort in the closing stages pulled the scores back to 5-4 in favour of Blackburn, but the clinching sixth goal came in the final minutes as the Magpies searched for an equaliser.

The U19s also had a solitary blemish on their good record in the final fixtures of 2002, with a 2-0 loss at Leeds. Apart from that though they continued their scoring habit, registering four against Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn and going one better in a 5-1 romp at Barnsley in their final game.

As ever, former toon trainees keep turning up with other clubs, and in recent weeks Oliver Cowie has been at Blyth Spartans, while Jonny Mann in the attack for Unibond side Bishop Auckland and scoring in a recent game at Matlock Town.

Midfielder Stuart Green finally left United in a deal said to be worth £150,000 plus a hefty sell-on clause, as he made his loan move to Hull City a permanent one, while on-loan Richard Offiong found himself on the wrong end of an FA Cup upset when part of the Darlington side who tumbled out at home to Farnborough in the third round.

Over at Carlisle meanwhile, the Third Division strugglers have taken striker Jamie Burt on loan from Chesterfield, and cheered on by his brother and fellow ex-mag David (plus former toon team mate Jamie McClen) New Years Day saw Jamie make a scoring debut in a 2-1 loss at Hartlepool.

For the 23 year old it's a chance to kick start a career that looked to be on the up when the Spireites signed him from Whitby last season despite Carlisle announcing at  the time they had reache agreement with the player. Burt then hit five goals in his first nine games for Chesterfield and by the end of the season was the subject of unsuccessful bids from Bradford City.

However the former Scarborough player had struggled to find the net this season, with only a solitary strike against Barnsley to show for his 21 Chesterfield appearances. Burt left Newcastle after failing to win a professional contract, having appeared in the junior and reserve sides, and will remain at Brunton Park for the rest of the season. Also on loan at Carlisle is ex-toon striker Paul Robinson who came from for a three month spell in late November. 

Finally, celebrations in Lanarkshire on Boxing Day for former toon reserve defender David Cowan, as his return to the Motherwell side coincided with 1-0 toppling of SPL leaders Glasgow Rangers at Fir Park.

The 20 year old had been missing from the 'Well ranks since a leg injury sustained away to Hibernian in late November, but returned to fill a midfield berth and avenge the 3-0 Ibrox reverse that marked his first team debut back in October.

And there was more good news for Cowan, being approached by the Scottish FA, with a view to an international callup. It was quickly confirmed that the English-born player qualifies through having a Scottish grandfather, and itís expected that Cowan will be offered the chance to play in an upcoming Scotland U21 friendly.


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Page last updated 24 June, 2009