HAVING handed Adam Armstrong his senior Newcastle United debut last weekend, John Carver has hinted at further teenage debutants in the final nine matches of the season.
Armstrong, a Newcastle-born 17-year-old, became the Magpies’ second youngest Premier League debutant when he came off the bench for the final four minutes of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Fulham.
The teenager, who hails from the Chapel House Estate, near Westerhope, was still catching the bus to Newcastle’s Benton training ground at the start of the season, but his 13 goals at reserve and youth-team level earned him a call up to the senior squad and saw him follow in the footsteps of Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll to become United’s latest homegrown centre-forward.
He is likely to retain his place in the squad for Saturday’s home game with Crystal Palace, and with Newcastle comfortably positioned in mid-table, he is unlikely to be the only youngster stepping out of the development ranks before the end of the campaign.
Rolando Aarons and Lubo Satka both travelled to Craven Cottage as part of Newcastle’s first-team group, and while they were not named in the final 18-man squad, there is every chance of them being involved in one of the Magpies’ remaining matches.
“We’ve got 16-year-olds as our 19th or 20th men, and what an experience for them to be involved with Premier League football at Craven Cottage, with a great atmosphere and so many travelling fans,” said Carver, who has assumed control of match-day managerial duties while Alan Pardew serves a three-match stadium ban and a further four-game suspension from the touchline.
“Part of it for our young players is being able to play in front of our crowd, which is 52,000, and that is not easy. Not everyone can do that.
“It’s nice for them to get a taste of it, and it just proves the good work that is being done in our academy through Joe Joyce, Dave Watson and Kev Richardson.
“We have a nucleus of four or five players who have a chance. We were all there when they lost to Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the Youth Cup (last week), against a top side who had paid a lot of money for their side and had some very, very good players. We had some players who did very well, and those occasions are very important to pick up experience.”
At the start of the season, Pardew stated there would be a push to improve the identification of local talent in an attempt to prevent promising youngsters from Newcastle, Northumberland and north County Durham being attracted elsewhere.
Alan Shearer and Michael Carrick are famous examples of young Geordies slipping through the net, but in more recent times, Killingworth’s Jack Colback ended up playing for Sunderland even though Newcastle United might have been considered a more natural home for him.
While there will still be an attempt to cherry-pick some of the best young players from Europe – a policy that has not really borne fruit in recent years despite the much-trumpeted arrival of the likes of Tamas Kadar, Romain Amalfitano and Olivier Kemen – there will be an increased focus on the nurturing of North-East talent.
“If you get one through a year you're happy,” said Carver. “Two, you're delighted. So to get four or five who are being nurtured in the right manner by the guys down there, it's very important.
“It's difficult to say whether they will get on the pitch though. I do know Davide Santon is coming back next week, and Sammy Ameobi, one of our younger players, is coming back as well.”