Newcastle United: 9 Young Guns to Fire the Club to Glory
Newcastle’s chief scout Graham Carr recently signed an unprecedented eight-year contract, keeping the player whisperer at the club until his 75th birthday.
In case anyone doesn’t know who he is, he’s UK comedian Alan Carr’s father, yet what is no laughing matter is his eye for a player, and a bargain buy at that. Ben Arfa, Tiote, Cabaye and Cisse were all snapped up for a total of less than £20 million and are now valued at around £20 million each.
The next generation of stars to roll off The Graham Carr Factory production line includes both new signings and existing youngsters on the books who survived the club cull in the summer.
Gone are the days (for now) of Newcastle splashing the megabucks on transfer fees, the modern Magpies are more likely to break the transfer record for receiving transfer fees as they did with Andy Carroll to Liverpool for £35 million.
Yet as Pardew looks to build a quality, young squad capable of competing on all four fronts, these are the future stars who will take the Newcastle United revolution to the next level.
Sammy Ameobi, 20: I Predict a Riot
My tip for stardom among the current youngsters is a local lad with a surname familiar to Newcastle fans everywhere: cult hero Shola’s brother, Sammy Ameobi.
“If Sammy scores we’re on the pitch” sang the Newcastle fans in a 2011/2 preseason friendly vs. Darlington, and sure enough, a mini-riot broke out minutes later as he scored his first-ever senior goal for the club, delaying the game 10 minutes as order was restored.
A hat trick against Gateshead for an NUFC XI followed before he scored his first competitive goal a fortnight later against Scunthorpe in the League Cup to put The Magpies through to the next round.
Starting his first League game at The Etihad away to eventual Champions Man City, he looked very much at home in The Premier League deep end. Sadly injured before his fledgling season could really take off, now he’s back fit and ready to kick on.
A natural athlete possessing pace and a sleight of foot that makes it look as if he’s gliding over the pitch as he effortlessly beats players, he can cross, shoot and score with either foot.
Already an England U21 international, the rest of the Premier League and footballing world will be very aware soon that there’s two Ameobis.
Shane Ferguson, 20: Pluck of the Irish
Combining real skill and technique with a combative nature, 21-year-old Ferguson has forced himself into the first-team reckoning at both Newcastle and national side Northern Ireland.
Before he could ask "Who are they?" on his NUFC debut vs. Accrington Stanley, he was playing in front of 40,000 fans at Stamford Bridge in the next round of the League Cup in a 4-3 win over Chelsea.
Glimpses of his pace and ability to beat a man were instantly in evidence, and he soon enjoyed his Premier League debut as a sub in a 5-0 win vs. West Ham before a first full start against Wolves.
Injury has held his progress back somewhat after opening his goalscoring account for his country in August, but this exciting young prospect will be looking to add to his 14 appearances for The Magpies and stake his claim for regular football.
Adam Campbell, 17: The Next Great Geordie Hope?
Geordie goal machine Campbell became the youngest player ever to represent Newcastle in Europe when he made his debut away to Greek side Atromitos in The Europa League.
Lightning-quick, the diminutive 5'7" predator is the latest red-hot talent to emerge from the famous Wallsend Boys Club, following in the footsteps of Tyneside legends Peter Beardsley and Alan Shearer.
In 2010, he was named Most Valuable Player at the Manchester United Premier Cup World Finals to join an illustrious list of past winners that includes Carlos Tevez, Fernando Torres, Andres Iniesta and Daniel Sturridge.
Likened to former teen sensations Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen, at his current rate of progress, Newcastle's new AC looks a very special prospect indeed.
Wary of great expectations turning to dust, Toon fans everywhere will be hoping and praying he lives up to this early promise and goes on to wear the No. 9 shirt and gain full England honours like Andy Carroll and Alan Shearer.
Haris Vuckic, 21: Hands off the Merchandise, Barca
It’s a big season for the newly capped Slovenian international with Newcastle’s involvement in The Europa League and one in which he’ll get plenty of opportunity to impress.
He certainly has a whizz-bang of a shot: his 25-yard effort memorably rattling the stanchion at St James’ against West Brom last season would have been the Premier League’s 20,000th goal, and a fitting one at that.
Quite what his best position is—striker, off the striker, attacking midfield—is still to be decided, yet he recently opened his Newcastle account netting the winner against Atromitos in the Europa League and seems to have a shoot-on-sight policy. The goals that come with it have interested Man U, AC Milan and Real Madrid.
As he told The Chronicle, “It is good to know when you work hard and you get results as a young player that Man United or Real Madrid might be watching you. (It) tells you, you are doing the right things. However, it will not disturb me. I am only thinking about Newcastle in the future.”
At 6'3" and powerfully built, he has the physical stature to live up to this billing, yet the shelf life of any young prodigy is limited, so he must make the step up and deliver the goods for the first team whenever opportunity knocks to realize his potential.
Gael Bigirimana, 18: In God We Trust
A religious 18-year-old hailing from Burundi who believes he’s living God’s plan, “Biggie” as he’s been nicknamed by the Newcastle players, was first sent to Coventry then to the big time with Newcastle after asking for a trial at the then-Championship club.
After impressing in preseason in midfield with some smart, energetic displays, this mini-Tiote showed a great defensive efficiency and passing range on the pitch.
He made a seamless transition to the first team at home against Aston Villa when the pack was reshuffled following injury to Danny Simpson and a great block prevented Darren Bent from grabbing a late winner.
His physical likeness to Cheick Tiote has already endeared him to the Geordie public, and he is yet to put a foot wrong in the black and white colours.
A great future lies ahead of him and another bargain Carr buy at under £1 million.
Romain Amalfitano, 23: Je Ne Sais Quoi
The French 23-year-old attacking midfielder is the younger brother of recently capped France international Morgan and rated just as big a prospect in the game.
A scorer of spectacular goals and possessing vision and a great passing range, the classy Amalfitano has that "Je ne sais quoi" that makes him a natural part of Newcastle’s French revolution and a future fan favourite.
With Newcastle’s style evolving by the season into a more fluid, continental passing game, expect him to feature with flair and creativity, especially in Europe.
Davide Santon, 21: “The Phenomenon”
It's easy to forget Davide Santon is only 21 years old, as he has already made the Newcastle left-back spot his own since transferring from Inter Milan for around £5 million in 2011.
It took him a little while to adapt to life in the Premier League last year, yet he has started this season in imperious form.
With roving forward runs down the left flank and assured defending—and equally comfortable on the right—Jose Mourinho compared him to Paolo Maldini and dubbed him "a phenomenon," and the former U21 Italy Captain is destined to add to his seven Italy Caps as he goes from strength to strength with Newcastle.
Vurnon Anita, 23: Total Footballer
When the current Newcastle United regime shell out £6.7 million for a player, you’re virtually assured of his quality, and this versatile Dutchman seems the real deal.
Preferring to play midfield, he has looked more comfortable at right-back, having made an inauspicious start to life in the Premier League giving a penalty away to Chelsea on his first start after a brief cameo vs. Spurs.
Pacy, very adept on the ball and with a good football brain, he dovetailed well with Ben Arfa on the Newcastle right against Norwich City and looks to be growing in confidence.
Anita is already a full Netherlands international, and a move to Premier League giants Newcastle will see him fulfill all his ambitions.
Curtis Good, 19: Ayer’s Rock at the Back
There have been some great Australian imports to the Premier League over the years, the best known being Harry Kewell, yet running a close second and third were former Newcastle players Mark Viduka and Craig Moore.
Following in his countryman’s footsteps is 19-year-old Curtis Good, and the fact that Pardew paid nearly £400,000 for him at such a tender age and handed him a six-year deal suggests the Newcastle United hierarchy rate him as a very, very good prospect. As Pardew told The Chronicle:
“He’s a naturally left footed center-half and that’s unusual, and that’s why we paid that money for him. He’s a young player and has a lot to learn but he can also play at left-back."
“He showed he’s very very tidy with the ball, and all he’s got to do now is get used to the physical side of this game which I think he’s going to grasp, and fingers crossed for that."
With that skill-set, a long-term successor to Collocini is in the making.