OWNER Mike Ashley’s vision for a self-funding Newcastle United relies heavily on the success of its youth system. Miles Starforth spent the day at the club’s Academy.
BIG-name signings capture the imagination, on Tyneside as elsewhere.
But nothing quite excites fans as much as homegrown talent.
And the North East has produced a fair few of English football’s all-time greats.
Spotting talent is one thing, but moulding young players into footballers capable of playing on the bigger stage is another thing entirely.
At the top level, that’s the task of the Premier League’s Academy system.
A few hundred yards from Newcastle United’s first-team training ground in Benton lies the club’s youth set-up.
It’s an unassuming building from the outside, bordered by a railway line and a housing estate, but the work done on the windswept pitches is central to Mike Ashey’s vision of a self-sufficient club.
It was from these fields that Andy Carroll – whose £35m transfer to Liverpool is a British record – honed his skills, and where South Tynesider Remie Streete, who captain’s United’s Under-18s, is learning his trade day in, day out.
The 17-year-old – whose father Floyd was a professional footballer – is one of a bright crop of young players under the tutelage of Dave Watson, the former Everton defender.
Spotted while having a kickabout, Streete, a powerful centre-half from South Shields, now regularly trains with Alan Pardew’s first-team.
“It’s a good set-up,” Streete told the Gazette. “I was at Boldon, and I played for Harton as well, and I’ve been here three years.
“It’s been good coming in to train with good players and in good facilities.
“We do a lot of college work too. We’ve got some of the best teachers as well as the best coaches.
“Everyone’s here to help us. We’ve just got to keep working hard, and let everyone help us.
“I was at Sunderland when I was nine for two or three months, but I didn’t really enjoy it. I just wanted to play with my mates when I was younger.
“I went back to my boys’ club, and got picked up by Newcastle when I was 13.
“I think I was playing football in a park with my mates. I got told I was going to France with them the day after. I hadn’t been abroad to play football before, and it was a great opportunity, especially with Newcastle.”
Pardew has kept a watchful eye on the Academy since taking charge at the club, and was at St James’s Park to see Streete captain Newcastle to victory in their fifth-round FA Youth Cup tie against Queens Park Rangers earlier this month.
And Steven Taylor – who also came up through the ranks – has been helping Streete adjust to the demands of first-team sessions, along with captain Fabricio Coloccini.
“I trained with the first team quite a bit recently, and that can only improve me,” added Streete.
“I just listen to what the likes of Steven Taylor and Coloccini have to say to me. I take it on board, and hopefully learn from them.
“There are quite a lot of players who have come from the Academy like Shola (Ameobi) and Steven Taylor.
“They know where I’m coming from – they know what it’s like coming from the Academy. They just try and help you.”
And the more local players that follow the path of Ameobi and Taylor, the stronger Newcastle will be going forward, on and off the pitch.