Zimbabwean youngstar signs first professional contract with Newcastle United




Michael Ndiweni

NEWCASTLE, UK – United Kingdom-born Zimbabwean teenage striker Michael Ndiweni and seven other teenagers have put pen to paper on their first professional contracts with Newcastle United.

Michael Ndiweni, Jamie Miley, Kyle Crossley, Harry Barclay, James Huntley, Josh Stewart and Ellis Stanton have all agreed full-time deals after progressing through the Magpies’ Little Benton Academy, whilst 18-year-old defender Jordan Hackett has also joined the club following his departure from Tottenham Hotspur last term.

Striker Ndiweni joined United’s youth set-up in 2016 from Newcastle City Juniors and scored 14 times in 19 matches at under-18 level last season, recording three goals during the young Magpies’ FA Youth Cup campaign.

The former St Cuthberts High School pupil told nufc.co.uk: “It’s a proud moment for myself, my family and friends because it’s something I’ve been working for ever since I arrived at the club.

“That was the number one goal – to live my dream in becoming a professional footballer for my boyhood club. My friends and family support Newcastle so it’s a good feeling saying you are a professional footballer at the club all your friends and people in the area support.

“Up until my injury, last season was one of the best I’ve had. I scored regularly for the under-18s, trained with the first-team and was involved with the under-23s so I think I made good progress throughout the year.

“Learning the tricks of the trade from players such as (Callum) Wilson, Woodsy (Chris Wood) and Dwight (Gayle), who are all top level strikers, as well as the gaffer too, helped me improve so much.

“When I’ve had that taste, I’ve been working hard and, with my injury, making sure I come back better to have those tastes more often next season.”

Midfielder Miley, who studied at Tanfield School in Stanley, made his under-23s debut during a Papa John’s Trophy Northern Section Group H clash against League One outfit Sheffield Wednesday at the age of 17.

The Gateshead-born youngster, who captained Newcastle’s under-18 side during their passage to the FA Youth Cup fifth round, is aiming to emulate Sean Longstaff’s path from Little Benton to the Premier League.

The central midfielder said: “It’s a big inspiration for the Academy to see Sean and Matty come through because it gives all young players the belief and confidence that we can get there as they’ve both been in my position.

“My brother, Lewis, has just signed a scholarship too so hopefully we can replicate the same in the future.

“I’m delighted to be signing my first professional contract at Newcastle. It’s a very big achievement and a proud moment for me and my family. It is the club myself and all my family support so it means even more to me.

“I’ve worked very hard since about the age of five of being at Beamish Boys Club then coming to Newcastle at the age of 11.

“It is tough and times you have to roll your sleeves up and just get on with it so to be able to get to this point is something that I have always aspired to be at from a young age.”

Crossley made his under-23s debut at the tender age of 16, scoring on his second-string bow during a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in April 2021.

The 17-year-old winger, who resides in Murton, said: “I’m buzzing to sign my first professional contract but it was a relief as well because of the pressure of the last six months of the season with it being on everyone’s minds. I was over the moon!

“I gained a lot more experience playing at under-21 level which has given me a good understanding for next season. The speed of the games are a lot different to under-18 football but playing with the under-23s at the start of the season helped me a lot.

“I have confidence heading into next season and I am aiming to carry on from where I finished.”

Barclay is a centre-back who joined United’s youth system at the age of eight.

The Ashington-born teenager is aiming to follow in the footsteps of former Newcastle defender Steven Taylor, who progressed through the Magpies’ youth ranks before going on to record over 260 competitive appearances for United’s first-team.

The 18-year-old said: “I’ve been at the club for ten years so it’s a great feeling that all my hard work has paid off. I’ve supported the club and been to watch the first-team matches since I can remember.”

“To sign a professional contract is special but the fact it is with Newcastle, who I support, is a really big thing for me.

“Growing up, I remember watching the likes of Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor. I admired Taylor especially as he came through Newcastle’s Academy and played in the same position as me.”

Huntley is a midfielder who played for Blyth Town and Cramlington Juniors before joining Newcastle’s Academy as an eight-year-old in 2012.

“It’s massive to sign the contract because I’ve been at the club for ten years,” the winger added. “I’ve been working for that my whole life. My family have supported me a lot too, taking me to training and games.

“It makes it extra special to be signing a contract with my boyhood club and I can’t wait to get started.

“I am looking forward to moving into the under-23s. It’ll be a big challenge as it is a step up from under-18 level but I’m excited to get back into it for pre-season.

“I’ve trained with the first-team which was a bit of a shock but then that’s what I’ve been coming into training for and try to achieve. I was a bit starstruck at first but it gives me something to strive for, seeing the quality they produce.”

Stewart, a defender who attended Burnside High School in Wallsend, impressed on a trial with Newcastle before signing a two-year scholarship with the Magpies in July 2020.

The right-back, who lives a stone’s throw away from the club’s Benton-based training ground, admitted he is relishing the prospect of making his competitive debut at under-23 level.

The former Wallsend Boys Club product said: “I’m over the moon as I’ve supported Newcastle all my life! It was probably the best day of my life when I found out I was being offered a contract.

“I can’t wait to make the step up from under-18 to under-23 level. I’ve trained with the under-23s and played a few friendlies before.

“The step up is very noticeable and much more competitive, quicker and physical. I’ve been using my time off to improve my physicality so I’m prepared for when I make my competitive debut with the under-23s.”

Stanton is a central midfielder, born in Wearside, who joined United’s youth set-up at the age of eight and has represented England at under-15 and under-16 level.

The 17-year-old, who cites Steven Gerrard as his favourite player, broke into the Magpies’ under-21 squad during the latter stages of the 2021/22 campaign and aims to build on a progressive season.

The Farringdon-born teenager said: “I’ve been at the club since I was eight so I’m buzzing to sign a professional contract. I’m really looking forward to next season to push on and try to get more opportunities with the under-21 squad.

“I got a bit of a taste of under-21s football towards the end of last season, which was good so I know the level I need to be performing at.

“It’ll be a big step going from under-18s football to under-21s as the pace is much quicker and it’s the closest you can get to mens’ football.”

Hackett is a defender who impressed on a trial for United’s under-23 side last term is a representative of England at under-18 level.

The teenage left-back is swapping the capital for Tyneside but is ready to relocate hundreds of miles north in order to pursue his dream of forging a professional career in the game.

The Hammersmith-born youngster said: “When I was here on trial for the week, I really enjoyed it! The lads have made me feel welcome from the first day I stepped into the building.

“It was a hard decision to move away from London – my mum didn’t like it – but you have to do what you have to do to make a career in the game and I think this is the best decision for myself.

“I like Eddie Howe – he’s a good manager who knows what he’s doing – and he likes younger players. He was a big factor in joining the club because if I do well, he will take a look at me or think about using me.

“I also felt like I needed a change from London. I knew everything in the city and was getting too comfortable. I like being out of the comfort zone in order to push myself.

“It’s a good feeling to sign a contract at such a big, prestigious club. It’s going to be a challenge for me but a one I’m looking forward to.”

Source – nufc