With the end of the year approaching, Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson selects his North-East Team of the Year for 2019.


Martin Dubravka has had an excellent 12 months at Newcastle United, but Darren Randolph just nudges ahead of him thanks to his consistently superb displays for Middlesbrough.

The Irishman, widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the whole of the Football League, was the bedrock of a Boro defence that was the foundation of last season’s promotion push under Tony Pulis.

He has carried over his fine form into the current campaign, fuelling renewed speculation of a possible return to the Premier League next month. For all Aynsley Pears’ promise, Boro will be a lesser side without him.


Despite only being 20, Peter Kioso has made a major impression since joining Hartlepool United in the summer, following a successful trial that resulted in him leaving Southern Premier League side Dunstable.

While he has played at centre-half, the youngster looks especially at home at right-back, with his rampaging runs down the flank making a major contribution to Pools’ attacking play.

His athleticism is one of his key attributes, ensuring he fits the mould of the modern-day full-back perfectly, and he looks more than capable of playing at a higher level than the National League.


Newcastle’s defence has been the best part of the team throughout 2019, and while he has been sidelined for the last month or so, Fabian Schar has been a key part of the Magpies’ defensive set-up.

The Swiss international is tailor-made for the five-man backline fielded by both Rafael Benitez and Steve Bruce, allying a comfort in possession and desire to break forward with a cleanness in the tackle and impressive positional nous.

He also has a knock for scoring goals, as evidenced by his double strike in January’s win over Cardiff and his equaliser against Watford at the start of this season. A seasoned Swiss international, who will be a key part of his nation’s Euro 2020 campaign, his £3m price tag looks a real snip.


The Newcastle skipper has enjoyed another strong year, both in terms of his performances on the pitch and his leadership of the Magpies squad off it.

He was Rafael Benitez’s talisman in the second half of last season, starting all bar two matches from the start of last December onwards, with his performances leading to a clamour for him to receive international recognition. For all that England boast plenty of young defenders, that could still be on the cards.

He started the current campaign strongly, and while he will be badly missed as he recovers from a knee injury, he will remain an influential figure in the dressing room.


Most Newcastle supporters knew precious little about Jetro Willems when signed on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer, but he has quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite thanks to his energy and commitment on the left flank.

He has proved defensively reliable in his four months in a Newcastle shirt, but it is his attacking forays that have really caught the eye, resulting in memorable goals against Liverpool and Manchester City.

Newcastle negotiated a €11m fee for a permanent transfer when they negotiated the Dutchman’s loan deal, and that already looks like an excellent piece of business.


This has been a difficult 12 months for Sunderland, but Luke O’Nien’s committed displays have provided a rare chink of light amidst the gloom. Little wonder he is one of the few players to have been spared the supporters’ ire in the last few weeks.

He could have made the Team of the Year as a right-back or a number ten, but he gets the nod on the right of midfield, which could well end up being his optimal position over time.

He has remained upbeat and passionate despite Sunderland’s struggles, and two of his best performances of the year came in the two-legged play-off semi-final against Portsmouth. He has found his goalscoring touch this term, with the pick of his strikes securing a home win over Southend.


This time last year, Isaac Hayden was still trying to engineer a move away from Newcastle because of complications in his personal life. They have been solved, and the midfielder now looks like signing a new deal at St James’ Park. It will be one of the most significant pieces of business the Magpies conduct in the next few years.

Strong, athletic and consistently effective with the ball at his feet, Hayden has been the linchpin of Newcastle’s midfield over the last 12 months, winning the respect of both Rafael Benitez and Steve Bruce.

He has helped hold things together at the base of midfield, no matter who has been playing alongside him, and is under-appreciated when it comes to getting on the front foot.


Will Hatfield, one of Alun Armstrong’s summer signings, hit the ground running for Darlington and has not stopped since. He arrived from Guiseley, bringing an energy and physical presence to a midfield which was sorely lacking a player of his capabilities last season.

Armstrong has tinkered with various formations and personnel this season, but ex-York man Hatfield has remained a constant for Quakers.

The one match he has missed has been through suspension having accumulated five bookings, an almost inevitable consequence of being such a competitor with a fierce will to win


His reputation has taken a bit of a battering in the last few days, and he has almost certainly played his final game in a Sunderland shirt after a breakdown in his relationship with Phil Parkinson, but Aiden McGeady's performances in the second half of last season in particular have still earned him a place in this team.

He was Sunderland’s principal match winner last term, scoring some crucial goals from January onwards to help the Black Cats make the play-offs. His two goals in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley stand out, with McGeady almost securing Sunderland some silverware.

He started the current campaign strongly, and was still Sunderland's most influential player prior to this week's developments, which will almost certainly see him move on next month. For all his issues, he will be badly missed.


Forget the level he is playing at, few strikers in the country, let alone the North-East, have enjoyed as productive a last 12 months as Glen Taylor. Spennymoor Town’s star, the centre-forward was rightly crowned the National League North Player of the Season last term.

He finished the 2018-19 season with 32 goals in all competitions, the last of which came in the play-off final at Chorley and almost saw Spennymoor win promotion to the National League.

Unsurprisingly, that made him National League North’s top scorer, and he has been in prolific form again this season, with his goals helping Moors push towards the promotion places after a somewhat slow start.


He had left the North-East by the start of July, but Ayoze Perez’s performances in the second half of last season are still sufficient to have earned him a place in the Team of the Year.

He was superb in the closing stages of last term, proving an ideal partner for the more physical Salomon Rondon as he finished the season with 12 Premier League goals to his name.

Six of those goals came in Newcastle’s final five matches, including a memorable hat-trick against Southampton, and his performances persuaded Leicester City to trigger a £30m buyout clause in his contract and take him to the King Power Stadium.


It would have been easy to pick Rafael Benitez for the managerial role given the adoration he generated from the Newcastle support, but Steve Bruce deserves huge credit for the way in which he has succeeded the Spaniard in the St James’ Park hotseat.

It would be an understatement to say he was an unpopular appointment, but he has gradually started to win the Newcastle fans round thanks to his jovial demeanour, tactical nous and astute man management.

The thrashing at Leicester City proved a key turning point, with Bruce abandoning his attempts to make a radical move away from the template established by Benitez. Opting for more of the same has proved the boldest move he could make.


Martin Dubravka (Newcastle), Paul Dummett (Newcastle), Lewis Wing (Middlesbrough), Rob Ramshaw (Spennymoor), Stephen Thompson (Darlington).