Mini-Almiron, a Neuer-like passer & three midfield gems – Newcastle United's FIVE players to watch in 2021

Newcastle United’s academy has its critics, but it’s produced the odd smattering of Premier League talent over the last few years – if all too rarely for many managers’ liking.

Friday, 1st January 2021, 12:30 pm
BOLTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: Elliot Anderson of Newcastle United U21's celebrates his second goal with teammates during the EFL Trophy match between Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United U21 at University of Bolton Stadium on November 17, 2020 in Bolton, England.

Roll back the clock far enough and the likes of Shola Ameobi, Steven Taylor, Tim Krul, Fraser Forster and others came through at Benton. Of the first-team squad now Sean Longstaff is the stand out, with brother Matty Longstaff and injured Paul Dummett also very much in Steve Bruce’s thoughts.

But, as we today welcome in the new year, who are the ones to watch for 2021? Liam Kennedy takes a look at the FIVE players who could start knocking down Bruce’s door for an opportunity, including a player whose goals have drawn Hatem Ben Arfa-like comparisons, a Miguel Almiron mk2 and a towering shot stopper who has modelled his game on German legend Manuel Neuer.

The jinking winger who scores Ben Arfa-like goals

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Stan Flaherty. 19. Wide forward.

Speaking to those who have watched him regularly, this former Arsenal academy graduate has all the potential to make the next step.

A wide forward, who can play wide but is not an out-and-out winger, Flaherty often works off the right for the club’s under-23 side, mostly cutting in on to unleash his wand of a left peg on goal. Some of his goals this season, including a cracker at St James’s Park against Fulham, have been reminiscent of maverick Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa. Like Ben Arfa, Flaherty is a dead ball specialist and has pace to burn.

Full of goals and assists, Flaherty – who has just turned 19 – stands head and shoulders above his peers at under-23 level. But can he make the jump to first-team football?

Mini-Almiron – the ‘ace the pack’ No10

Rodrigo Vilca. 21. No10.

It may be his South American roots that see Rodrigo Vilca compared to Miguel Almiron in academy circles – it could just as easily be his small frame, pace and playing style, which ties together the more experienced Paraguayan – who cost Newcastle United £16million – and recent £200,000 acquisition Vilca.

At 21, Peruvian Vilca has experience from his homeland’s top flight but is taking time to adapt to life in English football. The physicality is something he is getting used to – and some further work is required on the strength and conditioning front this year. But, so far, the early signs are good. Vilca has already shown glimpses of brilliance and is improving by the week.

Has a four-year contract so is a player United clearly believe in.

A towering Manuel Neuer-like passer

Dan Langley. 20. Goalkeeper.

At 6ft 7ins, Langley is towering even by goalkeeping standards.

Already called in as first-team cover during the club’s COVIS-19 crisis, Langley sat on the bench in the Magpies’ 2-1 home win over West Brom in early December, 2020.

His size is an asset, so too is his ability at ball with feet – something which is largely seen as a ‘must’ for goalies in the modern game. Where some take a touch, and then another, Langley is calm and composed with the ball, able to take quick passes and offload just as swiftly with left and right to both full-back positions, much like the style Germany and Bayern Munich legend Manuel Neuer.

Has this season established himself as Newcastle United under-23s regular No1.

The next cab off the rank – goals, skills and assists

Elliot Anderson. 18. Central/attacking midfielder.

Anderson has been making the headlines recently having taken to first-team training like a duck to water, not long after celebrating his 18th birthday.

Brought into first-team training before the COVID outbreak, a lack of movement between the under-23 and main bubbles saw Anderson remain with Steve Bruce’s squad longer term than had originally been expected. And it was an environment in which the North Tyneside lad, who also qualifies for Scotland internationally, thrived.

Anderson is described by those who watch him regularly as a player unlike anything already within the United ranks, something ‘special’.

Can play centrally or at home further forward, Anderson not only scores goals and creates, he can also beat a man at ease and look like he has all the time in the world when presented with the ball. Doesn’t mind a tackle, too.

Regular academy watchers have the teenager down as the the most likely to break into Bruce’s squad on a regular basis – and many are backing him to do it sooner, rather than later.

A wildcard under-18 earning rave reviews

Joe White. 18. Central midfielder.

White may have to wait his turn – and may take a little more time than the above mentioned – but watchers think this Sean Longstaff-like player has as good a chance as any of pulling on the black and white jersey at first-team level.

Having not long turned 18, White signed his his first professional contract with the club on turning 17, back in November 2019.

A good passer, with a really expansive range, White is most at home in a central midfield position. When stepping up to under-23 level, despite his age, has looked every bit at home. Has played most of his football so far with the under-18s.

Has an eye for goal, too, which is no bad thing for a midfielder.

Definitely one to watch, but will 2021 come too soon for the player – who knows when the opportunity will arise?