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Flippin' brilliant Kazenga is new Gazza!

 

Feb 18 2007

 

 

 

 

By Neil Farrington, The Sunday Sun

 

 

Kenny Wharton admits he was scared stiff by the star of Newcastle's last FA Youth Cup-winning side.

 

But he is far from fearful for the future of the lads he has helped steer to the brink of this year's final, 22 years later.

 

And one in particular reminds him of the wayward genius who guaranteed United's kids of `85 were more than all right.

 

When Paul Gascoigne made his full first-team debut on the left side of the Magpies' midfield at Southampton in August that year, Wharton was the left-back who had to cover for the teenager's wandering instinct.

 

"He frightened the life out of me because he kept on going all over to get the ball and run with it," recalls Wharton, then 24, and a homegrown hero himself.

 

 

"But that was just the way it was with Gazza, because he was so, so special on the ball. Special full stop."

 

 

That was beyond dispute at St James's Park even before Gascoigne had led Newcastle to their Youth Cup triumph three months earlier.

 

 

During his subsequent years as a player and a youth coaching career - at Middlesbrough as well as Newcastle - spanning well over a decade, Wharton has seen a few would-be "new Gazzas" emerge.

 

 

But few have made the grade.

 

 

And, as explained by Gascoigne's fellow star graduate of the class of `85 - striker Joe Allon - in a BBC documentary last week, the once deep well of North East talent has recently run dry, or drained elsewhere.

 

 

Yet Wharton believes that, from the roots laid down at their Academy, United have produced a crop of youngsters to compare with their best ever.

 

 

And one youngster in particular to compare with Gazza.

 

 

"Kazenga LuaLua is our Gazza", says Wharton. "He's a very special talent, but crackers as well."

 

 

Quite a tribute to a boy who only turned 16 in December, and is therefore yet to commit his long-term future to Newcastle.

 

 

But Wharton adds: "I've no problem talking about Kazenga, because he wants to play in our first team, he sees a chance for himself here and he's already been involved with the senior squad.

 

 

"He plays anywhere. A bit like Gazza, he's such a talent that if you tell him `this is your position, you've got to stay there', you won't get the best out of him."

 

 

LuaLua is the cousin of United old boy Lomana, and enjoys matching his relative's somersaulting goal celebrations.

 

 

"He's a lively lad," adds Wharton. "When he went up into the first team I imagine he was quite quiet, but with us, he is our dressing room."

 

 

But LuaLua is a veteran next to 15-year-old striker Ryan Donaldson in a side whose youth is perhaps its greatest asset.

 

 

"We've always given lads a chance in the Under-18s at a younger age," says Wharton. "I think it's vital for their progression.

 

 

"Ryan was involved even last year, when he hadn't long been 15, even though it's a massive jump for a schoolboy to play with full-timers who are doing weights and strength work."

 

 

Not as great a jump, however, as that between youth team and first team.

 

 

And it's that chasm which instils caution in Wharton's otherwise upbeat message.

 

 

"The 1985 boys were the strongest crop of players the club has had in the time I've been here, and I think they almost all went on to play league football.

 

 

"We just hope that we can get some of these lads through, but the standards they have to reach are higher now.

 

 

"And it's always difficult to talk about percentage targets because lads who are really good youth players can often freeze on the big stage.

 

 

"It's a psychological as well as a physical challenge that these lads face.

 

 

"But Kazenga is mentally strong, as is Andy Carroll. I'm confident they can move on and make it.

 

 

"And there are others - our defenders, for example, have got to take a lot of credit for what's been going on this season - who I'm also very hopeful about."

 

 

A club reliant for too long on big-money signings will trust that Wharton's instincts are correct.

 

 

Kenny on the kids of '07..

 

 

Kazenga LuaLua

 

 

"To an extent, we allow him to roam and do what he wants really.

 

 

"He does do his defending though, he's not a luxury player - not a Laurent Robert type that will go forward but not come back for you."

 

 

Andy Carrol

 

 

"A big player for us in every sense, he gives us something different to what a lot of other teams at this level have.

 

 

"Oustanding in the air but good on the ground, works really hard and is a fantastic character in the dressing room."

 

 

Johnny Godsmark

 

 

"In Godsmark, LuaLua, Frank Danquah, Glenn Reay and James Marwood, what we have this year over past years is a lot of players who can run with the ball and take people on.

 

 

"Jonny's small, but he's the quickest player we've got."

 

 

Ryan Donaldson

 

 

"A kid with great pace and a real eye for goal - he'll score plenty for us.

 

 

"And even at 15, he can match anyone physically.

 

 

"Him and Andy Carroll up front together are a real handful.

 

 

Academy chief proud to play the system!

 

 

While Sir Alex Ferguson loudly lambasts English football's "failing" academies, Joe Joyce has reason to be quietly proud.

 

 

But even the head of Newcastle's thriving youth set-up admits our game needs a change of emphasis to unearth more stars of tomorrow.

 

 

Fergie blames "countless flaws" in the eight-year-old academy system for England's underachievement on the international stage.

 

 

Restrictions like the "traveling time" rule - which allows clubs to train only youngsters living within a 90-minute drive of them - are forcing Premiership managers to import foreign kids, argues Ferguson.

 

 

But Joyce, who has seen Newcastle reach the FA Youth Cup semi-final only seven months after he became their academy director last summer, insists the system is working.

 

 

It's just that it could be working better, admits the Consett-born former Barnsley and Carlisle full-back.

 

 

"What people forget to look at are the good things the academy structure has and what young players themselves have," says Joyce. "We now have facilities around the country that would have been unheard of 20 years ago.

 

 

"So there's a structure in place to start producing and developing the best talent. What we now need to assess are the frameworks within that structure.

 

 

"We have to ask whether they are set up to allow us to get the best players - and to get the best out of players. And I think we do need to readjust certain things."

 

 

Chief among them, the increasing imbalance between homegrown and overseas talent in the Premiership.

 

 

An imbalance which exists even at youth level at several clubs. Newcastle not included.

 

 

And although Joyce argues that the problem is being addressed, he believes its roots can be traced back to before the academies were even built.

 

 

"I know there are discussions among groups at the moment looking at how to make the system more efficient and more productive in terms of producing young British players," adds Joyce.

 

 

"People talk about the French academy system being better than ours, but there has been a difference here. Much more money suddenly came into the English game in the 90s to enable clubs to go out and buy the best foreign players.

 

 

"But the league in France is not as financially strong, so the onus there has been on developing French players who then get the opportunity to play first-team football.

 

 

"We have to try to develop a balance in which we don't dismiss good young players in this country so easily in favour of buying players from abroad.

 

 

"Whether that's by having a more developed reserve team structure or whether it's by getting more young players to go out on loan to Football League clubs to get competitive experience, we'll have to see.

 

 

"The introduction of more foreign players to this country has raised standards greatly, but it has also put something of a blockage on our players coming through into first-team football.

 

 

"The pressure on clubs to stay in the Premiership means it can be very difficult for them to feel they can risk giving young lads time in their first teams."

 

 

But none of that dilutes his pride at seeing Kenny Wharton and his Under-18 side move within sight of Newcastle's first FA Youth Cup triumph in 22 years.

 

 

"It's due to an awful lot of people at the club, but most of all testament to the hard work done over several years by the players themselves," Joyce added.

 

 

"I'm just fortunate enough to be overseeing that now, and trying to help them reach the next stage.

 

 

"The nucleus of the side was there last year, but we've had new lads come into the ranks, and to see their spirit and character develop from July onwards has been good to watch.

 

 

"Lads who came in as schoolboys are starting to mature into young men. Lads who were first years last year have become great role models and given themselves the chance to become professionals - at this club or elsewhere."

 

 

And therein lies perhaps Joyce's biggest task.

 

 

"There is a big moral responsibility upon us as academy staff," he says.

 

 

"Yes, players are here first and foremost for their football, but to achieve anything in life, they need to learn to be disciplined young men.

 

 

"Whether they make it into the first team here, enjoy success at another football club or do something else entirely, I would like to think they will look back and think that being here benefited them."

 

 

FA Youth Cup

 

 

Newcastle's youngsters' march to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup has stirred memories of the club's triumph in the competition in 1985.

 

 

But the Magpies' success has come against a backdrop of controversy over the state of the English game's academy system.

 

 

Here, Newcastle's Under-18 coach and former player Kenny Wharton reflects on the current kids' success and his memories of the class of `85.

 

 

And while the Magpies' academy director Joe Joyce gives his views on the health of youth football in England, we catch up with what United's Youth Cup heroes of yesteryear are doing now.

 

 

Colin Suggett (coach): Went on to take caretaker charge of Newcastle's first team between Willie McFaul's sacking and Jim Smith's arrival. Chief scout at Ipswich until taking up the same post at Carlisle last summer.

 

 

Brian Kilford: Released by Newcastle and never played league football. Now believed to be living in Sunderland and a keen amateur runner.

 

 

Jeff Wrightson: Made three first-team starts for Newcastle and more than 160 for Preston North End before returning to the North East to play for Gateshead. Now a housing officer in Walker and coach of Walker Central's Under-16 team.

 

 

Brian Tinnion: After three years on the fringes of the Newcastle first team, Tinnion left for Bradford in 1989, making 137 league starts for the Bantams before a 12-year spell as first player then manager at Bristol City. Sacked by the Robins in 2005, he is now player-coach of Southern League club Team Bath.

 

 

Joe Allon: Made nine first-team appearances for United before joining Swansea and then Hartlepool, where his goalscoring exploits prompted a dream move to Chelsea in 1991. Went on to play for Port Vale, Brentford, Southend and Lincoln before finishing his career back at Pools. Now an after-dinner speaker, radio summariser and matchday chat show host. Lives in Washington.

 

 

Gary Kelly: Left United for Bury in 1989 after 53 first-team outings. Spent six years at Gigg Lane and two seasons at Oldham. Now coaching football at a college in Preston.

 

 

Stephen Forster: Released by United without playing for the first team. Now coaches a Sunday League side in North Shields and teaches IT at a local secondary school.

 

 

Kevin Scott: Centre-half experienced relegation and promotion during eight years in the United first team before an £800,000 move to Tottenham in 2004. Later played for Port Vale, Charlton and Norwich before returning to the North East and non-league football. Still a squad member at Northern League club Crook Town, he now coaches with Middlesbrough's Football In The Community scheme and is believed to have recently qualified as a driving instructor.

 

 

Jimmy Nelson (coach): Alan Shearer's former schoolteacher is now Manager of Administration and Education at United's academy.

 

 

Paul Stephenson: Made 58 starts as a winger for Newcastle before moving to Millwall in 1988, on to Gillingham, Brentford and York before returning to the region with Hartlepool in 1998. Retired in 2003 and took up a youth coaching post at Pools, then assisted Martin Scott as manager before taking caretaker charge of the first team following Scott's sacking. Now youth team coach once more.

 

 

Tony Hayton: Released by United after suffering a bad knee injury. Now lives in Northumberland, and coaches Blyth Spartans Under-11s. Plays for an over-40s team in Cramlington and works at the Alcan power station in Lynmouth.

 

 

Peter Harbach: Made 87 league appearances for Carlisle after being released by United in 1987. Also played for Workington and Barrow, then Carlisle City. Now an IT consultant in his native Carlisle.

 

 

Stuart Dickinson: Believed to have returned to his native Teesside after being released by United. Current whereabouts unknown.

 

 

Paul Gascoigne: Quickly became a star of Newcastle's first team before a £2 million move to Tottenham in 1988. Won his first England cap later that year and famously cried after the 1990 World Cup semi-final defeat by Germany. Saw a move to Serie A giants Lazio delayed by a year by a serious knee injury before returning to Britain with Rangers in 1995. Moved on to Middlesbrough, Everton and Burnley before briefly playing in China and then becoming player-coach at Boston United. Managed Portuguese side Algarve United and then Kettering Town before dropping out of football. Splits his time between homes in London and his native Gateshead.

 

 

Ian Bogie: Unlucky to be overshadowed by Gazza at Newcastle, midfielder Bogie carved out a popular career after leaving for Preston in 1989, also playing for Millwall, Leyton Orient and Port Vale before ending his career at Kidderminster. Now a football coach at Tyne Met College in Wallsend and assistant manager at UniBond League club Gateshead.

 

 

Tony Nesbit: The midfielder made three appearances for the United first team before going into North East non-league football and a career in the police in Sunderland.

 

 

Ian McKenzie: The left-back played once for Barnsley following his release by United in 1985 before making 51 league starts for Stockport. Now believed to be back living and working in his native Wallsend.

 

 

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Play him on Thursday :)

I'm not too sure that would be a good idea. As much as I would love to see him for the first team and think he could be an amazing talent we must not rush him or we could risk ruining him. I mean he was only 16 in December so there is no rush for him.

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He is young but young talented players have shownt hey can take their chance when offerd to them and the game on Thursday night is perfect for blooding a youngster.

Not a start but if we are ahead and comfortable with about 30 mins to go then why not give him a shot?

start with

Milner---Butt---Dyer----Duff

 

--------Martins----Sib

 

Change to

 

Milner----Butt------Kez-----Duff

 

----------Dyer---Martins

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Play him on Thursday :)

I'm not too sure that would be a good idea. As much as I would love to see him for the first team and think he could be an amazing talent we must not rush him or we could risk ruining him. I mean he was only 16 in December so there is no rush for him.

 

If your good enough, your old enough.

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He is young but young talented players have shownt hey can take their chance when offerd to them and the game on Thursday night is perfect for blooding a youngster.

Not a start but if we are ahead and comfortable with about 30 mins to go then why not give him a shot?

start with

Milner---Butt---Dyer----Duff

 

--------Martins----Sib

 

Change to

 

Milner----Butt------Kez-----Duff

 

----------Dyer---Martins

With young players it's alll about confidence. If he comes on on Thursday and has an absolute shocker then it could hamper his development, especially seen as he would be unlikely to get another first team oppurtunity until next season.

 

He's not been playing for the Reserves that long so I think it would be far more beneficial to just let him play for the Reserves and U18's then have him train occasionly with the first team. Then next season give him a couple of games in preseason where it doesn't matter if he is poor.

 

Young talented players have shown they can take there chance but this kid is 16 years and 3 months old, that is VERY young, I may be wrong but I don't think Rooney had even made his debut when he was this young.

 

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Play him on Thursday :)

I'm not too sure that would be a good idea. As much as I would love to see him for the first team and think he could be an amazing talent we must not rush him or we could risk ruining him. I mean he was only 16 in December so there is no rush for him.

 

If your good enough, your old enough.

Is he good enough though? There is a BIG difference between playing in the U18's and Reserves to playing in the first team at any level. Not to mention he has only started in the Reserves twice.

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Play him on Thursday :)

I'm not too sure that would be a good idea. As much as I would love to see him for the first team and think he could be an amazing talent we must not rush him or we could risk ruining him. I mean he was only 16 in December so there is no rush for him.

 

If your good enough, your old enough.

Is he good enough though? There is a BIG difference between playing in the U18's and Reserves to playing in the first team at any level. Not to mention he has only started in the Reserves twice.

 

He is very young but if Roeder plays him for 10-15min the boy's confidence will rise tremendously O0

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Play him on Thursday :)

I'm not too sure that would be a good idea. As much as I would love to see him for the first team and think he could be an amazing talent we must not rush him or we could risk ruining him. I mean he was only 16 in December so there is no rush for him.

 

If your good enough, your old enough.

Is he good enough though? There is a BIG difference between playing in the U18's and Reserves to playing in the first team at any level. Not to mention he has only started in the Reserves twice.

 

He is very young but if Roeder plays him for 10-15min the boy's confidence will rise tremendously O0

Will it though. If he has a decent 15 mins confidence will rise but if he has a terrible 15 mins it would do him absolutely no good.

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Play him on Thursday :)

I'm not too sure that would be a good idea. As much as I would love to see him for the first team and think he could be an amazing talent we must not rush him or we could risk ruining him. I mean he was only 16 in December so there is no rush for him.

 

If your good enough, your old enough.

Is he good enough though? There is a BIG difference between playing in the U18's and Reserves to playing in the first team at any level. Not to mention he has only started in the Reserves twice.

 

He is very young but if Roeder plays him for 10-15min the boy's confidence will rise tremendously O0

Will it though. If he has a decent 15 mins confidence will rise but if he has a terrible 15 mins it would do him absolutely no good.

 

Well you never know with young players but you have to start from somewhere.I also think its too early for him although it would be great to see Kazenga becoming our youngest ever player O0

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Play him on Thursday :)

I'm not too sure that would be a good idea. As much as I would love to see him for the first team and think he could be an amazing talent we must not rush him or we could risk ruining him. I mean he was only 16 in December so there is no rush for him.

 

If your good enough, your old enough.

Is he good enough though? There is a BIG difference between playing in the U18's and Reserves to playing in the first team at any level. Not to mention he has only started in the Reserves twice.

 

He must be doing something right to make the bench ahead of lot or older more experienced acadamy and reserve youngsters. If he progresses and improves the way he is should be very very good player.

 

If we are winning 3-0 with 15 mins left I see no harm whatsoever in blooding him in the first team.

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Will Kazenga be good enough?

 

Simple question, I want to get excited about our youth prospects but I worry they'll be a bit of a letdown if/when they get a chance in the first team.

 

Why do you think that?

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Shouldnt be played this season, he is far too young. Not to mention Troisi, fatty patty, OB and Carroll are ahead of him should we wish to use any of the younguns this thursday.

 

If anyone Troisi and Carroll should be given some time before lua lua. plenty of time for him in the future, give him the hunger to work harder for another year or so. Will be easier for his ego to grow if he gets played now.

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