West Ham visit St James Park on Tuesday night, as Rafa Benitez hopes to complete a second promotion of the season.
Understandably more low key than the first team reaching the Premier League, nevertheless, victory over the Hammers would prove to be another considerable success for the Spaniard.
Last season saw Newcastle’s Under 23s finish third bottom of Premier League 2 Division 2, the competition for reserves teams/up and coming players.
That 2015/16 season they finished with only 18 points from the 22 games, with Rafa Benitez at the club and investing time and resources in the youth set-up, that became a third place finish with more than double the points (37).
Top team Swansea went up automatically and then play-offs for the next four to see who also goes up – Newcastle beat Fulham 2-0 in the semi-finals and West Ham defeated Wolves 2-1 – there must be a result on the night, so extra time and penalties if required.
In the normal league season, Newcastle’s Under 23s lost 3-1 away and drew 0-0 away, but won a dramatic Premier League Cup match against the Hammers 4-3 in extra-time.
West Ham Under 23 Manager Terry Westley says his players are desperate to make up for that defeat and are so much looking forward to the chance to play at St James Park again.
If winning tonight it would allow Newcastle’s younger players the chance to play a far higher calibre of opposition week in week out and that can only help their chances of potentially progressing to first team football. The top division of Premier League 2 featuring the likes of Arsenal, Spurs, Everton, Liverpool, Man City and Man United, plus Sunderland…
West Ham Under 23 boss Terry Westley speaking to football.london:
“We were never out of the top four of the league until the last game of the season at West Brom. We have been around it, then had a bit of a dip, then away at West Brom and showed that charcter.
“Now it’s Newcastle in the final to get promoted.
“We have had some really good fixtures this season and this is the biggest of them. What it’s also been allowing us to do is play a young team. We have had some U16s in the team at times.
“It would be a real challenge for the younger players playing in the top league. You can see they are up for it, there is no telling them that they need to be. They already are.
“We wanted to play Newcastle, they have knocked us out of the cup, the lads want to beat them and it’s a chance to play at St James Park again. The lads will be more than up for it. “