Rafa Benitez wants the standards of every age group improved at Newcastle, and the U23 team had a tremendous 5-0 win against Sunderland at St. James’ Park on Monday night.
With Sunderland now in League One that’s the highest level of the Tyne-Wear derby we will have for at least two years, although there’s always a chance we could draw the Black Cats in one of the cups.
Since Ben Dawson replaced the suspended Peter Beardsley as the U23 coach in early January, he has done quite well and fitted in nicely to the job.
It turns out that Dawson had prepared the players well before the U23 Premier League Division Two fixture and the youngsters went out and were simply superb.
Steve Harper and Ben Dawson in the dugout on Monday night
This is what Ben has said on the Newcastle website:
“We had probably a five-minute blip at the end of the first half, which I wasn’t best pleased with, but for 85 minutes of the game I thought we were terrific.”
“Everything that we’d asked of them pre-match – focus, intensity, enthusiasm – and then the quality on top of that, I thought was evident for really large spells of the game.”
“It was a perfect night for it in terms of the atmosphere, the pitch, everything about the night – and then the performance just made it extra special.”
“It’s important that you have passion and you compete, but at the same time you have to have game intelligence and I thought we got a good balance of that tonight.
“I thought it was the best I’ve seen Luke Charman for a long time. I thought Sean Longstaff worked his socks off.”
“We asked him and Luke to play a little bit closer than they did on Monday in the 1-1 draw at West Brom and I thought they combined well.
“The wide lads – Callum Roberts, Tommy Allan, Adam Wilson made a difference when he came on – were backed up solidly by the two lads in the middle, the two centre-backs and the full-backs joining in when they were needed.”
“We have got good competition for places, a good honest group, and they all seem to have a desire and a hunger to improve and be better.”
“Steve (Harper) will be a great addition to the coaching staff.”
“He’s got good experience from having played the game for a long time.”
“But also he’s spent time learning his trade, a little bit away from here and more recently back at the club, so he will add something else to the coaching staff.”
Luke Charman scored a brace, and Callum Roberts, Owen Bailey, and Elias Sorensen all scored a goal.
We seem to have some (very) good young players coming through in the U23 squad, and it’s possible that Sean Longstaff has a decent chance to play some first-team games this season.
And talking about Ben Dawson, we wonder when Lee Charnley will make a decision on the appropriate action to take with former U23 manager Peter Beardsley.
This thing has dragged on since January, and that’s plenty of time for Charnley to make a decision, difficult though it may be.