Newcastle youngsters: Step up or move on

Posted by Marc Duffy

Gael Bigirimana watches his stunning effort head towards the Wigan netGettyImagesGael Bigirimana has been labelled the best of the younger generation.

Youth development is a key part of Mike Ashley's plans for Newcastle United and so far the club have failed to make this work. A fundamental part of the clubs transfer policy is the development of young players, hoping that a number of them will progress into the first team.

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In the season that has just ended, ten players aged 21 or under took the field for the first team. Another four of the lads played elsewhere on loan. There are 16 players aged 21 or under in the first team squad today, but between them all they have only made 52 starts in all competitions.

Several of these players are now at, or approaching, an age that makes it time to deliver or go - below I consider those who I believe are most likely to succeed and the players who will end up playing their football elsewhere. I will work my way down the list in order of age:

Shane Ferguson: Winger, DOB 12/07/91, Age 21, 13 starts (19 sub appearances)

Little Fergie has enjoyed a stop-start Newcastle career to date. He has put in some great performances on the left wing and looked like a real prospect, whilst at other times he looked completely lost. This inconsistency is part of the reason that Alan Pardew sent him out on loan to Birmingham City for the second half of last season, and the move was a good one. Ferguson was very good for the Blues and should see some first team action at Newcastle this year (hopefully not at left back though!). He turns 22 next month so it is a case of 'now or never' for the Ulsterman. STAY.

Paul Dummett: Left Back, DOB 26/09/91, Age 21, 0 starts (1 sub appearance)

Dummett's only appearance to date was in the very poor FA Cup defeat at Brighton in January. Dummett spent the second half of the season on loan at St Mirren in the SPL, winning a League Cup in his time there. I can't see Dummett making any impact at Newcastle. GO.

Conor Newton: Midfield, DOB 17/10/91, Age 21, 0 appearances

Conor has yet to feature for his parent club despite being almost 22. He impressed on loan at St Mirren last season and will probably find himself out on loan again this year. Another player I don't think will make the grade at Newcastle. GO.

James Tavernier: Right Back, DOB 31/10/91, Age 21, 7 starts (2 sub appearances)

Tavernier is a player that Pardew held a lot of hope for although his reputation took a hit last season with some very poor performances. The fact that Danny Simpson has moved on means that James is now probably the second right back at the club. Other younger full backs have made a far bigger impact than Tavernier elsewhere in the league, and for that reason I think he will be moved on. GO.

Brad Inman: Midfield, DOB 10/12/91, Age 21, 0 appearances

Another of the 'older' Academy players who has yet to make an appearance for the first team. Inman went out to Crewe on loan last season and played very well, winning a Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley whilst he was there. If he's not involved in the first team from early on in the coming season, then he never will be. GO.

Michael Richardson: Midfield, DOB 17/03/92, Age 21, 0 appearances

I would have loved Richardson to make the grade after being picked up playing weekend football, but a couple of underwhelming loan spells and no first team action at Newcastle doesn't leave me optimistic. GO.

Sammy Ameobi: Winger, DOB 01/05/92, Age 21, 7 starts (2 sub appearances)

Unlike many of you, I haven't quite given up on Sammy just yet! He's not Shola! He couldn't be more different in terms of energy and playing style. He showed some glimpses of brilliance in the Europa League with some phenomenal skills and did OK whilst on loan at Middlesbrough scoring a wonder goal in the process. It is definitely now or never for this Ameobi. STAY.

Mehdi Abeid:: Midfield, DOB 06/08/92, Age 20, 4 starts (1 sub appearance)

When I watched Abeid against Blackburn in the FA Cup back in January 2011, I was convinced he would be a first team regular by now. Not so. Mehdi was loaned out to St Johnstone in the SPL last season and won their Young Player of the Year award. He might be good enough to play more in the first team but when Vurnon Anita doesn't get a look in, what chance does he have? STAY.

Haris Vuckic: Midfield, DOB 21/08/92, Age 20, 8 starts (6 sub appearances)

Despite having been around the fringes of the first team for so long, Haris is still only 20, but his injury record will be what stops him from progressing into the player he could have been. Huge talent, this latest long term injury might be the one that ends his hopes at Newcastle. Such a shame. GO.

Massadio Haidara: Left Back, DOB 02/12/92, Age 20, 2 starts (2 sub appearances)

I wonder how much of a mental barrier Callum McManaman's horror tackle will be to Haidara's progress? He's looked OK in his few appearances but has Davide Santon ahead of him in the first team. STAY.

Curtis Good: Centre Back, DOB 23/03/93, Age 20, 0 appearances

Curtis is a real prospect and as a central defender he has more time to develop before first team duty will call. His spell at Bradford City last season will have helped him a lot and he will probably be loaned out again in the coming season. STAY.

Jak Alnwick: Goalkeeper, DOB 17/06/93, Age 19 (for a few more days), 0 appearances

With Steve Harper leaving the club last month, Jak is now elevated to third choice keeper and with both 'senior' keepers currently injured, Jak might find himself on the pitch sooner rather than later. I've seen Jak a few times for the U21's and other youth sides - he's been brilliant on occasion and terrible at other times so I am not sure what will become of him! STAY.

Gael Bigirimana: Midfield, DOB 22/10/93, Age 19, 11 starts (13 sub appearances)

'Bigi' is the biggest prospect of them all. He was consistently solid when he played regularly at the start of last season and one of his last contributions was a great goal in the 3-0 home win against Wigan. He was handled strangely - involved regularly and then suddenly withdrawn altogether - but we will see more of him in 2013/14. He still has a lot to learn, but he has everything he needs to help him succeed. He is currently with the England U20 squad for their upcoming World Cup - Stuart Pearce should have taken him to Israel with the U21's. STAY.

Remie Streete: Centre Back, DOB 02/11/94, Age 18, 0 appearances

One of the great hopes from the Academy system. Streete has also suffered from injury but at 18 years of age he has a long time to develop before the first team will call. Would benefit from a loan if there are any takers. STAY.

Adam Campbell: Forward, DOB 01/01/95, Age 18, 0 starts (5 sub appearances)

The tiny Geordie became involved in the first team late last season, and although time was limited, he showed glimpses of what he can do - helping to set up Papiss Cisse's injury time winner at home to Stoke on his Premier League debut. An England youth international through several age groups I would have expected Campbell to be loaned out next season, but only last week Pardew said that the North Shields lad will have a lot of first team action - and good luck to him! STAY.

The likely lads:
Gael Bigirimana
Massadio Haidara
Adam Campbell

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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