It is official. The first signings of the Steve McClaren have been made and the ink is dry. It has been frequently suggested that "once signings start, they'll come in bunches" and this is perhaps the first evidence that this could very well be the case. Four players are newly contracted to Newcastle United and we're meant to be over the moon excited, I suppose.
The players, as you may know – initial reports of these signings were made in March – are all from the Academy. Lost in the overall unsettled feeling about the club's summer activities is a very small bit of positive news that four players have turned professional... but in the forefront of Newcastle supporters' minds will be the fact that there is absolutely no guarantee that signing these contracts assures future success or even current strengthening of the squad. They could well be the next to move on 2 or 3 years down the road to leave the club for League One. But for now, exciting!
Congratulations to Jamie Sterry – who saw some time on the First Team subs' bench late in the season when first team players were busy scheduling their own vacations – who is a right back and will hopefully get to spend a lot of time with Daryl Janmaat and learn much from him. RIght back is a position that is rather thin in the squad currently and depending on Steve McClaren's attitude toward playing young players (he could well be concerned about the occasion being bigger than a young player a la John Carver) he may see some time in relief of the Dutchman.
Congratulations to Macauley Gillesphey. In a positional sense, he is the anti-Paul Dummet. A CB who can also play at LB (Alan Pardew's DREAM!) Gillesphey is a lifelong fan of the club born in Ashington, Gillesphey has been one of the youngsters that has been tipped for success long-term for a while. If the club were to reinforce at CB during this transfer window, he should have some time to develop before he needs to make an impact with the first team. If not, and things go like last year, we'll be seeing him sooner than later.
Congratulations to Liam Smith. Another local product (from South Shields), Smith has had a bit of an injury history. Described as a "creative midfielder", he has shown flashes with the U21s and has that mythical "upside" that we love to hear about. Central Midfield has been a bit of a cloudy position for the First Team and it's hard to know where any of the senior players stand, so it's hard to speculate where Smith's short-tern prospects lie in those regards. It is doubtful that he'll see any meaningful action very soon.
Congratulations to Tom Heardman. The Gosforth-born striker is a big, target-style striker who spent last year taking it in turns with Adam Armstrong as the form striker for the U21s. It could be assumed that Armstrong will get advanced to a role bigger than his 7-minute cameos under John Carver which would open a role for Heardman. Realistically, if Heardman is able to continue his development and Steve McClaren doesn't represent a departure tactically from where we've been, at 6'4" with target skills, Tom Heardman may have the clearest route to making an impact at senior level.
Ultimately, all of these players are 19 and are prospects to be the future of the club. Hopefully for everyone's sake they will build on the moderate success stories coming from the Academy. Good luck, lads!