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Newcastle United ‘letting top young talent leave’ – I said a reality check was needed

8 months ago
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Back in March I had an article published on The Mag (see below) about Newcastle United letting ‘to young talent leave’.

This came on the back of news that Rafa Benitez was having a massive clearout of the younger players, more leaving than ever before.

I asked then for some perspective and that has been rubber stamped today.

Far too often the local media build up players far too much on the basis of very little/next to nowt.

It doesn’t mean young players won’t come through and make a living out of the game – but that is totally different to making it in the Premier League with Newcastle, or indeed any other PL club.

Monday has seen the following announcement: “Newcastle Benfield are delighted to announce the signing of England Youth International and former Newcastle United U23 player Mackenzie Heaney.”

Heaney was one of the players I picked out in my article in March (see below).

All the best of course to the player and his new club but the reality is that Newcastle Benfield play in the Northern League Division One.

This has been a repeated pattern, Newcastle producing players who are with the club a long long time and yet their next step after leaving St James Park is to end up in non-league football.

Nothing wrong with football outside the top four divisions BUT it doesn’t suggest that these players who were kept on so long by NUFC, ever had a chance of getting anywhere near the first team squad.

Here is hoping that as well as his first team transfer budget, Rafa is successful in getting Ashley to allow proper funding for the Academy and Training Ground to be completely transformed, so that in the future NUFC can start to produce a regular supply of young players good enough to come through, or at the very least be sold on and the cash reinvested.

My article on The Mag – 19 March 2018:

It was recently revealed that Newcastle United will be releasing a large number of young reserve players when their contracts are up in June.

Nothing new about this as it is a yearly thing but it is claimed that the clearout will be a bit more extensive than usual.

Rafa Benitez is said to be unhappy with the general levels of ability underneath the first team and is hoping to improve that significantly in the coming seasons.

The obvious hope being that first team players will eventually be produced via the youth set-up, whether they are local or from further afield.

The latest name to be revealed today, is Mackenzie Heaney.

The 19 year old is one of those said to have been told he will not have his contract renewed and could be set to join Norwich after going though for a trial, according to media reports.

Those media reports have generally come with comments such as Newcastle ‘letting top young talent leave’ included.

I think we have to have some sense of perspective here.

Pretty much any young players with any prospect of making it at Newcastle, will head out on loan these days. The likes of Adam Armstrong and Freddie Woodman maybe the most high profile.

However, the bottom line is that even these better players going out on loan are not usually at a great level.

Freddie Woodman is turning out for Aberdeen in the Scottish Premier and Adam Armstrong is at a similar level probably, playing regularly and scoring goals at the top of League One, having had his last two loan spells in the Championship, at Barnsley and Bolton.

For the rest though, they tend to be lower down League One, into League Two and non-league, with also many of them struggling to get a game.

This doesn’t mean that they are poor players or should be written off BUT it does make clear just how far away they are from potentially turning out for Newcastle in the Premier League.

Good luck to Mackenzie Heaney if he can get a chance and contract at Norwich and give it a go BUT that doesn’t mean in anyway that Newcastle are necessarily wrong for releasing him.

He is 19 and has only started two reserve league games this season, none last season (2016/17)  or before that.

If you compare to NUFC midfielder Dan Balaser, he is almost exactly two years older (the pair born in January of 1997 and 1999 respectively) than Mackenzie Heaney. Two years ago Barlaser started 18 reserve league games in 2015/16 and indeed started the same number the season (2014/15) before.

Barlaser went out on loan to Crewe nine weeks ago but is yet to start a game, playing only 58 minutes in three brief sub appearances so far. Crewe are fifth bottom of League Two and level on points with Grimsby who are third bottom, yet so far he can’t get a game at that level.

This once again shows the gulf between the Newcastle youth set-up now…and what is really needed in the future. We haven’t got a host of Premier League hopefuls waiting in the wings, instead we have a host of young players that we hope might make it in the lower leagues. The likes of Woodman an exception and maybe Adam Armstrong, although he has found it difficult to make the jump from League One to Championship so far.

Bottom line is that Newcastle reserves are second bottom of division two of the reserve league at the minute.

Rafa Benitez clearly knows just what is needed and must be given the facilities, time and resources needed to make that happen over time.

When Newcastle have something like half a dozen young prospects all starring for the better clubs in the Championship (or equivalent clubs abroad), or other clubs in the lower reaches of the Premier League, we will know that the club are in a healthy position moving forward.

Reality is that NUFC are a long long way away from that but as somebody once said, every journey starts with a single step.
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