Newcastle United: 6 Young Players Who Could Break out Next Season
Having had a fantastic season in 2011-12, next season will provide a lot of new challenges for Newcastle United.
In particular, the Toon will have to cope with the possibility of newly-established stars leaving the club, and with a much longer schedule considering their qualification for the Europa League.
The emergence of some highly-touted youth prospects could help to counter both problems, adding depth and taking the weight off of the shoulders of some of the starters when the schedule starts to get cramped.
Let's take a look at some of the young players who could break out and contribute for the Magpies next season.
Despite remaining on Tyneside, the Slovenian has made only six appearances for the club, but as he'll be turning 20 to start next season, 2012-13 could be his time to break out.
Just a few months ago, Vuckic made his first appearance for the Slovenian national team, after impressing in only four appearances for the U21 team.
Vuckic is as exciting an attacking prospect as there is out there today, so much so that former club NK Domzala were prepared to take a fine from the Slovenian free agent to get him to help out the first team at the age of only 15.
Let's hear what former Newcastle academy director Richard Money had to say to The Mirror about the midfielder:
He's got everything really; great size, good athlete, change of pace and he's very clever and creative with the ball. I think that given the right environment and the right development then he's got a big future ahead of him.
This season, Vuckic had a month-long loan at Cardiff, scoring his first professional goal and even starting for the club within his first five appearances.
Vuckic will face very tough competition for playing time from Newcastle's current crop of attacking midfielders in Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa, but when they inevitably miss games through injury and fatigue, he should finally be ready to step up.
After finally putting together a string of first-team appearances under Alan Pardew, Sammy Ameobi's promising debut season was unfortunately cut short by injury last time round.
Though used mainly on the left wing, Ameobi can, like his brother, play as an out-and-out striker, and he'll be called upon to do so often next season with Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands likely both leaving the club in the summer.
Ameobi's most impressive traits so far have been his mixture of speed and height, as you wouldn't normally expect someone standing at 6'4" to run the way he does.
But the forward isn't just a physical prospect. As his reserve performances will show you, he has a long scoring range and the taste for goals that all good strikers need.
Making appearances on both the left of defence and the left of midfield, Shane Ferguson was left with Sammy Ameobi's place on the bench when he went down.
Making seven appearances for the Magpies, the Northern Ireland international showed off his versatility to manager Alan Pardew, who certainly seems to favour players who can play multiple positions.
With a multitude of impressive young midfielders around him, including Vuckic, Ameobi, Gosling and Abeid, Ferguson may well be asked to revert to his original left-back position in cup competitions.
As of right now, Ferguson has probably been the most impressive of Newcastle's young stars so far, even if he wasn't considered the most talented last season.
Ferguson is also one of the only players on this list with full international experience, which could really help him when it comes to earning starts in the Europa League.
Dan Gosling was really supposed to be ready for first team football right after being signed from Everton, but so far he has done little to earn playing time.
To be fair to him, he did miss all but one game of his first campaign with the club in 2010-11 due to injury, and tentativeness as a result of this may have led to his unimpressive performances this season.
Gosling is certainly talented, having played for England from the U17 right up to the U21 level, but for him its just about translating that talent to the Premier League level.
Fellow midfielder Danny Guthrie appears to be leaving the club this summer, so Gosling may be required by Alan Pardew to step into his role as the primary backup midfielder off the bench.
The pair have very similar skill sets, with the ability to play in the centre or right of midfield, and to also provide a genuine scoring threat from there.
Signed last summer along with a number of other French-speaking players, Mehdi Abeid didn't really get his chance to shine during his first season on Tyneside.
Abeid made only one appearance in each of the domestic cup competitions, and didn't see the field a single time in the league.
Aged only 19, it was a pretty tough ask for him to earn a place amongst the ranks of Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote in the centre of midfield, but maybe in his second season Abeid will find a role with the first team.
Having had international experience playing for France up through the youth ranks, and most recently the Algeria U23 team, Abeid certainly seems skilled enough to possibly face the challenge of Europa League football, and this may end up being a better bet than rushing him to get used to the pace of the Premier League so soon.
Though he's yet to make a name for himself on the pitch, Nile Ranger has certainly earned a bad reputation off of it so early in his career.
But as questionable as his behaviour has been at times, he's still a very talented striker.
Ranger has surprisingly already made 58 appearances for the club, and in those appearances—though he's scored only three times—he's certainly caused some trouble for the opposition.
He has the strength of an old-fashioned forward and a solid finishing touch, and given a run of starts I'm sure he could get amongst the goals.
This was the case for him during his most recent loan stint with Sheffield Wednesday, in which he scored twice in eight appearances, including the goal that sealed their promotion from League One to the Championship earlier this month.
But time is running out for Ranger to impress in a Newcastle shirt, and considering all of his problems, you'd have to say that next season will be his one last chance to prove himself worthy of a regular place in the first-team squad.