Newcastle coach reveals key challenge for Callum Roberts ahead of Blackburn Rovers FA Cup clash

Callum Roberts in action for Newcastle United.
Callum Roberts in action for Newcastle United.

Newcastle United Under-23’s coach Ben Dawson believes that Callum Roberts is a much-improved player from the one that made his first-team debut over four years ago.

It was John Carver that handed the young winger his first senior appearance as a substitute in a 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Leicester City in January 2015.

Callum Roberts.

Callum Roberts.

That has been Roberts only chance with United’s senior team so far, but he could add to that tally after travelling with Rafa Benitez’s squad for tonight’s FA Cup Third Round replay at Blackburn Rovers.

The 21-year-old has impressed for the second-string this season, scoring nine goals from fourteen games and has caught the eye of the club’s first-team coaching staff.

Dawson still believes that Roberts has work to do to become a regular feature under the watch of Benitez but insisted that he has progressed throughout the last 12 months.

Speaking after his side’s 4-2 win against their West Brom counterparts, he said “For Callum, it’s been a while,”

“We look back to the Leicester game when he was involved as a 17-year-old.

“He has had to bide his time and he has been with us quite a while.

“It’s similar to Andy Carroll, where he came on at Palmero away and then had to wait two and a half years for his debut.

“Callum has had to work hard, he has had to be patient and persistent.

“Fingers crossed, if he gets on the pitch, then it’s down to him.

“He’s had some great nights and some good performances, the challenge for Callum is to do it consistently and against the more difficult opponents.

“We all know his ability on the ball, and he has improved his work-rate out of possession, understanding of defensive shape and how to help the team that way.

“We hope he is getting one step closer.”

Dawson also confirmed that Under-23’s goalkeeper Nathan Harker had travelled with the squad to Ewood Park, ten days after making his first appearance on a first-team team-sheet in the 1-1 draw between the two sides at St James Park.