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Juniors Review

This article appeared in  "The Mag" 

Young Guns Go For It

The graduation of Shola Ameobi and Steve Caldwell to the Newcastle senior squad this season has raised the profile of United’s Youth Academy, and interest continues to grow in our home-produced youngsters. now present our guide to the potential toon stars of tomorrow that might yet save Douggie breaking his piggy bank open.

Bubbling under – Fringe players.

Gary Caldwell. To many reserve team watchers, the signing of Andy O’Brien is mystifying, given that Steve Caldwell is already in competition with Hughes and Dabizas for a first team spot, and his younger brother Gary continues to improve.
The two brothers linked up in the centre of the Scotland Under-21 defence against Belgium recently, as Gary made his debut at that level and Steve captained the side on his seventh appearance. In a very average reserve team this season, Gary has consistently delivered gutsy defensive displays, as well as a physical presence in the opposition penalty area at set-pieces, while his ability to bring the ball out of defence and pick out colleagues with long pinpoint passes is also praiseworthy.
Verdict – might just scrape a Premiership appearance this season.

Stuart Green. A Cumbrian-born midfielder who has worked his way through the United youth sides before breaking into the reserve side this season. He looks to be most effective in a central position, often linking up with fellow prospect Bryan Kerr, but has found himself in an unfamiliar wide position at times to accommodate others. Stuart unluckily injured himself in the away game at the mackems in February when he dislocated a shoulder, and has only recently returned to full fitness. The fact that Kerr has already made his senior debut may place the hard-tackling Scottish midfielder in pole position to make the step up to a senior midfield spot.  
Verdict – losing a couple of months to injury may mean that he has to wait until next season for a senior debut, but his passing ability and willingness to shoot should mean he’s not found wanting. Has consistently linked up with Kerr at a younger level – no reason why this can’t continue.

On The Way – Under 19 players

Bradley Orr – In what has been a difficult season for Kenny Wharton’s lads, Liverpudlian Bradley has been a regular in the midfield, and has scored three goals from that position (along with one at St.James’ in the Youth Cup). While many of our youngsters are slightly built, Bradley has a bit more “meat on the bones” and has been a valuable physical presence when the lads have faced strong opposition.
Verdict – targeting a reserve place next season.

Joe Kendrick – Dublin-born Eire International, Joe has made the breakthrough this season into the reserve side, and has been used both as a left-sided midfielder as well as a full back. Whether this versatility will count against him is uncertain, but the fact he’s left-sided and quick should lead to him making his mark.
Verdict – looking to become a reserve regular next season.

High Hopes – Under 17 players

Michael Chopra – despite attempts by the club to underplay Michael’s achievements and potential to avoid excess publicity (and pressure on the kid), he is still touted as “the new Shearer” in certain quarters, and elements of big Al’s play can be seen in his playing style. This season his partnership with Richard Offiong has been a frequent source of goals, and he marked his recent promotion to the Under 19 side with a double strike on his debut against Nottingham Forest. “Chops” scored at St.James’ in the Youth Cup this season, surely not the last time he’ll grace that particular ground.

Verdict – much speculation about getting straight into the reserves, but the probability is that he’ll start to make reserve appearances while playing regularly for the Under 19’s next season.

Damon Robson – no relation to Bobby apparently, Chester-le-Street born Damon has been part of the settled Under 17 lineup this season and his intelligent use of the ball from midfield has seen him grab three goals as well being instrumental in supplying Offiong and Chopra with quality service. A string of impressive performances saw him promoted to the Under 19’s recently.
Verdict – expected to continue his development in the Under 19’s next season.

In addition, honourable mentions must be given to Under 17 midfield colleagues Chris Moore and namesake Craig Robson, who will hopefully maintain their good form in the Under 19’s.

Similarly the defence of Lee Norton, Andy Ferrell, Peter Ramage and Aaron Labonte have all improved this season individually, although the Under 17’s have struggled to keep clean sheets. They should continue to improve next season.

New Talent – Next Season’s Under 17 players

One of the features of this season’s Academy games has been the emergence of  younger and younger players into both junior and reserve sides. While this has partly been prompted by the likes of Ameobi and Caldwell being required by the first team, Academy chief Alan Irvine has seen his confidence in raw talent repaid by some good displays from inexperienced players.

A prime example of this is Steven Taylor, who looked has comfortable and unflustered when he called upon to play in defence for the Under 17 side, despite being only 14 when he made his debut at home to Birmingham City in August. Other emerging youngsters to have made their mark include midfielders Ross Gardner and Neale McDermott and Lewis Guy, a striker. All three players have represented England at under 15 level this season, and can look forward to playing regularly for the under 17 side next time out.


Page last updated 24 June, 2009