Main Page

Quick Links

The Rest
   Club info
   Last Season
   Small Ads
   Unlikely Lads
   A-Z Index
 If the Kids are United
 Part 28- Appeared in the Mag, February 2004 

Our year-end Academy update last time ended on a low note, with only progress in the FA Youth Cup to look forward to in the second half of the season after an inconsistent run of league form saw us clinging on to third position in the table.

Spirits were boosted however after a last-minute invitation to the club to compete in the
Ferrarelle Napoli International Cup in Southern Italy in early January, which was to result in the welcome acquisition of silverware by that rarest of means for this club – a penalty shootout victory.

Our first game saw the Brazilians of Santos beaten 2-0 and we then followed that up with a 3-1 victory over Italian side Fiorentina. A single goal loss at the hands of host club Napoli provided some anxious moments while waiting for the other group result, but superior goal difference took us into a final against the Greeks of P

That game was scoreless at the end of normal time but striker Carl Finnigan converted the crucial spot kick after Guy Bates, Phil Cave and Martin Brittain had netted to see us through 4-3 in the shootout.

Unfortunately any optimism that this continental friendly success brought seems to have evaporated since domestic competition restarted, with the U19 side having lost three of the four league games played since, conceding no less than fifteen goals in the process.

A demoralizing 1-5 home defeat to our bogey side Leeds began the second half of the season in ill-starred fashion, a scoreline made more noteworthy by the fact that all of the goals came after the interval, including a blitzkrieg six-minute spell in which the visitors netted four times.

Things looked to have improved though in our next game as we made the short trip to Hurworth to face Middlesbrough. A well-worked Chris Farman goal gave us a half-time lead and when Guy Bates doubled our advantage from the penalty spot, things looked even brighter.

However, that was the signal for the home side to move up a gear and start to stretch Newcastle down both flanks, their increased pressure bringing the scores level at 2-2 by the 70th minute.

Boro continued to drive forward and the seemingly-inevitable winner came in the 89th minute as our defence were overwhelmed and we were made to rue missed opportunities at the other end of the field.

A narrow 3-2 victory in the following game at home to Derby did improve the mood in the camp, but losing a two goal lead for the second successive match against a struggling side weakened by first-team callups then having to rely on a dubious refereeing decision not to give the Rams a penalty for an obvious handball was less than ideal…

Just days later we were back on Teesside and punished again for our defensive shortcomings, when our FA Youth Cup dreams for another season were dashed by last year’s losing finalists in the final minute of the game, although the home side should have been well ahead before that.

That fifth round tie had come about after victories on the road in the previous two roads, first down at Fratton Park against Pompey and then in the Potteries at Stoke City.

Our visit to the Britannia Stadium on a wet night in January wasn’t pretty as the quality of the game was as poor as the conditions, but we somehow squeezed through with the only goal of the contest, leaving the home side quite literally left cursing the match officials.

After a turgid performance from the Magpies in the first half in which the Potters had the better of things and missed a couple of chances, things looked to be proceeding in a similar fashion after the interval.

However, two incidents within a three minute period were to ultimately shape this tie, as United replaced Daryl Smylie with striker Carl Finnigan coming on to add some much-needed support to lone Newcastle front man Guy Bates.

And when the linesman called over referee Harwood on 58 minutes following a dispute over a throw in, Stoke winger Fisher received a straight red card, presumably for abusing the flagwaver.

Previous to that, the City front three of Fisher, Paterson and Palmer had caused problems, with United 'keeper Bartlett forced into action on several occasions.

In particular it was Shola Ameobi clone Palmer who provided the main threat, tussling throughout the evening with his marker Steven Taylor.

However once down to ten men and having harangued the referee en masse, the home side lost their discipline and saw Jay Denny booked for a foul on Pattison within moments as things threatened to get out of hand.

With Palmer on his own up front for the home side, United began to spend more time in the Stoke half and Bates left the City crossbar wobbling after striking with a snap shot from fully thirty yards after Pattison had brought the ball out of defence on the counter attack.

It was Bates who made the decisive breakthrough with only four minutes of normal time remaining, picking up a Pattison pass outside the City area and forcing his way past a couple of challenges before shooting home via a deflection that wrong-footed the City 'keeper.

That knocked the stuffing out of the home side, who failed to test Bartlett in the remaining time which included a shade over four minutes added on.

Not a classic by any means then, but the result was all that ultimately mattered and there were enough incidents to hold the attention of the crowd, even if the majority of them went home moaning bitterly about being mugged by the big boys from the Premiership and their friendly officials.

That took us through to a tie at the Riverside Stadium and what looked like being a long night on smogside when a clearly superior home side took
the lead after only six minutes, Jason Kennedy driving the ball home from just inside the area.

Boro went on to totally dominate the first half hour, our lads struggling badly thanks to a litany of misplaced passes and mistimed tackles. However, on our rare forward excursions, Pattison put two reasonable chances wide before we then sneaked an equaliser on the stroke of half-time. Good work by Webster and Bates allowed Finnigan to burst into the box and he coolly placed his shot under home keeper Knight to the delight of those Newcastle fans in the crowd.

The second half was a more even contest, which crucially included five minutes of injury time after United ‘keeper Bartlett took a kick to the head from Craddock who was lucky just to get a yellow card, our lad soldiering on with a big Terry Butcher-style bandage round his head.

We looked like forcing extra-time until a sickening late winner for the home side, when Steven Taylor was caught in possession in midfield and Craddock won the race to round Bartlett and win the tie for the Boro.

And after that heartache, a resumption of league duties the following weekend provided no solace, as Nottingham Forest completed the double over us with a 5-3 victory on the banks of the Trent.  

Ex Newcastle Academy midfielders Ross Gardner and James Beaumont were in the Forest side, who took a first minute lead and were three up by the half hour mark.

An improvement after the break saw Pattison reduce the arrears four minutes into the second half but Hawkins got his second and Forest's fourth, just before the hour mark.

United didn't buckle, though, and Pattison grabbed another after 70 minutes and then Scott Marshall won a one-on-one with the keeper to get it back to 4-3 with ten minutes remaining.

However, a dubious refereeing decision killed off any hopes of a tremendous comeback four minutes from time, as Weir-Daley emulated Nat Lofthouse in barging over keeper Ben Smith, chesting the consequent loose ball into the back of the net to confirm a victory for the home side.

In many ways that goal sums up our season – performances with no lack of effort, but apparent deficiencies in formation, tactics and team selection that have contributed to low morale among the players and murmurings of discontent on the sidelines.

Whether there will be a change in the coaching personnel as recently rumoured remains to be seen, as does the promised long-term benefit of playing younger lads at this level ahead of next year’s lowering of the age range by a year to make this an under 18 league.

What seems beyond question though is that the assertions of Freddy Shepherd and John Hall before him about harnessing the cream of our local talent and filling the first team with home-grown players remain no more than a pipe dream.

We may have the new facilities, but there’s little sign of any tangible return on the club’s investment at present in the form of the next generation of local heroes.


Back to Main Page

Page last updated 24 June, 2009