Regular readers will know I visited Sunderland’s superb training base at the Academy of Light recently so it seemed right to check out Newcastle United’s similar base at Little Benton.
My good friend and former work-mate Stewart joined me for this trip to the north east, and the early morning train got us to Newcastle with plenty of time to spare.
The match was due to kick off at 11am originally and this would have fitted our plans to double up with another game perfectly. Alas, kick off was moved to 12.30pm and that meant we’d have to settle for a game and a half.
Pre-match beers were enjoyed on the train, in the city centre Mile Castle ‘Spoons and in the Black Bull in Benton Front Street before we wandered down Coach Lane in the general direction of the Newcastle United Academy.
It’s a decent part of Newcastle and walking down we were struck by the sheer number of open spaces we saw, and football pitches in particular.
Visible from the East Coast train line as it approaches Newcastle from the north, Little Benton is within a long throw of two previous venues for my football travels – Team Northumbria’s Coach Lane ground, and Whitley Park, where I’ve seen West Allotment Celtic on a couple of occasions.
Conspicuous in a housing estate by it’s substantial gates, the NUFC Academy is a few hundred yards up a private road, and by the time we got to the end of it our game was already underway.
On the occasions I’ve seen Under 18 Premier League games in the past at Middlesbrough and Sunderland, there’s been an Under 16 game on an adjacent pitch.
This time, the two games were a couple of yards apart, with the other visible in the distance through some trees from where we stood to see the Under 18 teams in action. Or so we thought…
Our game took place on an unrailed 3G artificial pitch which looked like it had been down for a while; insofar as there are more up-to-date versions out there.
That said, it plays relatively well and is certainly in much better nick than most grass parks in this part of the world are after the relentlessly wet winter.
Like the game at Sunderland, I was a wee bit disappointed with the standard of play on show. In theory, the players at this level are at Newcastle and Everton in the expectation that they have the potential to develop into players who are capable of playing in the self styled ‘best league in the world’.
There weren’t too many outstanding players on display, though Stewart and I agreed that Everton’s No 6, playing mainly in a holding midfield role, had a lot of potential.
Some of his team-mates looked below par, especially one of the centre backs who struggled in every aspect of the game for the forty-five minutes we saw.
Newcastle were energetic and played at a high tempo – they were well in command of the game at the halfway point after notching two goals within a couple of minutes of each other.
At least, that’s what we think happened…
After checking out the match reports from both Everton and Newcastle’s official websites later, it seems that Everton got a goal back before half time.
Neither me or Stewart can recall seeing an Everton goal, though it’s possible that our exposure to Cullercoats Brewery‘s finest produce earlier in the day might have dulled our senses.
The only other explanation we’ve got is that we were watching the Under 16 game all along, and the Under 18s were contesting the match away in the distance. Answers on a postcard…
If it was the Under 18s, Everton managed a terrific second half turn around to win 5-2 – something that looked quite unlikely based on what we saw.
Anyhow, as that all unfolded – or maybe didn’t (!) – we were already on our way to the afternoon’s main event in nearby High Heaton – my third visit to see Northern League newcomers Heaton Stannington in action at Grounsell Park.
Scoring: 1-0 Smith, 2-0 Kerridge, 2-1 (?) Davies
Attendance: approx 50
Match Report Links