Arsenal. Manchester United. Leeds. Everton. West Ham. These are just several of the most well-known football club academies in the UK. They have all been famous for churning out well-trained players on a consistently basis over the past few years and, as a result, have fast become highly respected and soughT after academies to get into.
Though Newcastle have tendered and brought up several top class players over the past decade (Given, Carroll, Taylor), we haven’t been able to do it on a consistent basis.
There is only one way of fixing this problem: funding. This season, as I reported two months back, Newcastle finally realized the importance of cultivating local talent, and Mike Ashley has decided to splash the cash and invest £1million a year into the Benton Academy, as of next season, as they bid to create a regular conveyor belt of Andy Carroll’s.
Here, I will take a look at the most exciting prospects at the club:
Jak Alnwick - Like his older brother, Ben (who plays for Tottenham), Jak is a goalkeeper. He’s proven himself in the U18s and Reserve’s, and has gained a reputation for being an excellent shot-stopper. He has featured for England previously at U16 and U17 level, and actually started out as a youngster at Sunderland before making the short move across the north-east to St. James Park. He was then called into the U20 squad by Brian Eastick for the FIFA U20 World Cup in Colombia in July 2011. Newcastle are well known for producing top goalkeepers and, if he continues to develop as he has already, he could be the next Tim Krul.
Freddie Woodman - Also a goalkeeper, this lad is the youngest player on my list. Many of you would have heard of Freddie back in December, when he became the youngest ever Newcastle United player to play in an U18 game, during a 3-1 victory over York. Previously at Crystal Palace, the youngster signed last Summer, joining his father, Andy Woodman, the club’s goalkeeping coach in the North-East. Freddie has also been called up to the Under 16’s England side and has lifted the Victory Shield in the past year, playing with lads who are mostly two years older than him.
Remie Streete - The son of former Wolves player Floyd Streete, imposing defender Streete has a physical presence beyond his years and became a regular in the Reserves towards the end of the 2010/11 season. Earlier on in the season he was training with the first team, before he picked up an ankle injury in a reserve team game. However, Pardew reckons that the Aylesbury-born 17-year-old could even bypass a loan move to step on to the first-team stage as early as next season. Quick, strong and aggressive with a good long pass, the former Boldon school pupil is tipped for big things in the future.
James Tavernier - James has set the example for other Newcastle youngsters, by playing on loan at Gateshead, Carlisle, Sheffield Wednesday and the MK Dons, and he has improved his game considerably over the last 15 months, by playing 50 games on loan. Many young players foolishly turn their back on loan opportunities, especially to clubs in the lower tiers of English football. But his open-minded approach has seen his game improve considerably, gaining a greater level of confidence and more experience. Although able to play across the back four, he is best known as a right-back with good attacking attributes, and his professional approach could see him pushing for a first team place next season.
Alex Gilliead- As we reported last month, Alex Gilliead is making leaps and bounds in the U16 team this year. This season has been somewhat of a breakthrough season for the 16 year old striker, which has seen him make his England U16 debut at the Montaigu Tournament in France, competing against the likes of Wales and Morocco. He’s also collected the Jack Hixon Trophy for his part in the Academy’s Group D winning campaign this season. He’s proven he’s got the talent in his age group, and let’s just hope he can continue to develop as a player and can cement a first-team place in the U18s next season.
Adam Campbell - A fast, tenacious striker who made his debut for United’s under-18s side while still just 15, Adam Campbell is a product of the famous Wallsend Boys’ Club. Although long-regarded inside the club as a massive talent, the flame-haired forward enhanced his reputation at the Manchester United Premier Cup World Finals in the summer of 2010, where he won the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. Previous winners of that prestigious honour include Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres and Carlos Tevez. Capped by England at under-16 level in 2011, he was called into the England under-17 squad for the Algarve Tournament at the beginning of 2011 and wasted no time in scoring on his debut after just five minutes.