Newcastle have relatively little to play for this season and, as is often the case at Newcastle, attentions have already turned towards next season and what will invariably be a Summer of rebuilding.
The summer is being built up by the media and the club following a week in which we posted record profits. However, with eight matches left to play, the season is far from over. John Carver must Sunday’s match against Sunderland as an opportunity to breathe fresh life into the rest of the season. Although it appears Carver will be remaining at the club for the foreseeable future, it is uncertain in which capacity and he has yet to really secure himself as a long term option as head coach. A win against Sunderland could go a long way in persuading the board that he is the correct man for the job.
Newcastle have had a number of their academy prospects representing their respective countries over the international break, but the one who has impressed more than anyone else has been England U18 forward Adam Armstrong. He has been a player who has been on the edge of the first team for a while without ever breaking through. The striker has scored consistently throughout the age groups for both club and country and these final eight matches could be the perfect opportunity for him to try and make an impact in the Premier League. We haven’t produced a quality first team player since Andy Carroll, but Armstrong has all the qualities that could allow him to reach or even surpass the achievements of the 6ft 4in striker.
Armstrong scored three times in two matches for the England U18s and even captained the side. He appears to be the focal point for the England youth side with a number of players commenting on his quality and how they look to him for inspiration on the pitch, while Wayne Rooney made time to talk to the youngster over the international break.
Newcastle haven’t been great in the attacking half recently and throwing Armstrong in this weekend will be tempting to Carver, especially as he is an advocate of young players.
The Newcastle youth academy graduate has featured in ten league matches since making his debut, but only once from the start, against Manchester United on Boxing day. Though he has had opportunities to score, he has so far failed to make the impact that he has at youth level.
His movement and pace have seen him terrorize youth teams across the country this season, and that has been reflected in his scoring record (7 in 8 in the U21 league). Meanwhile, he is very comfortable on the ball and has shown glimpses of quality playing just off the striker in a number 10 role.
He will be disappointed that he was unfairly written off by some after his first Premier League start at Old Trafford, but it was a tough environment for the youngster and he should now be given more chances to show what he can do in the first team.
This Sunday may come too soon for Armstrong and as a Geordie, a start in the Wear-Tyne derby may do more harm than good as it will be a toxic atmosphere at the Stadium of Light.
However, it would be great to see Armstrong given a go over the next few weeks, and should be at least used as an impact substitute in the derby. He has a lot of talent, but we must give him time and not expect too much too soon as it might take Armstrong a while to make an impact in the Premier League.