What price some of Newcastle United‘s newest stars shining in Saturday’s friendly match against Rayo Vallecano in the wake of their midseason trip to Saudi Arabia, even if their World Cup leading lights were absent?
In contrast to Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson, who has only recently arrived in Tyneside from Qatar, Bruno Guimaraes, Nick Pope, and Fabian Schar will definitely miss the match against Vallecano.
Having shown his willingness to feature young talent and heavily rotate his squad in this summer’s pre-season fixtures, Eddie Howe was at it again on tour in Riyadh, where a number of United Under-21 players enjoyed game-time in the 5-0 defeat of Al-Hilal alongside Elliot Anderson, who has already picked up first-team minutes.
Anderson has proved that if you are good enough then you are old enough for Howe. So who are the youngsters who will be most hopeful of making a real senior impact on home soil for the first time on Saturday – and maybe beyond, given that the Magpies remain involved in all domestic competitions?
Off the back of scoring the fifth goal in Newcastle’s Diriyah Season Cup victory over Al-Hilal, striker Stephenson may even be hoping for a start on Saturday, with Callum Wilson only just back from Qatar.
Stephenson signed his first professional deal with United in July 2021 after being at the club since the age of 14. Now, at 20, the Blyth-born forward is pushing for his first-team bow proper at his boyhood club after scoring five goals in 10 games in Premier League 2 this season.
The England U17 international attracted attention during Newcastle’s trip to Riyadh, impressively defeating members of the senior team in training drills before making his first-team debut in the 88th minute against Al-Hilal, still five months before his 17th birthday.
Young Irish left-back Murphy, who had only recently moved from Galway in the summer, received considerable exposure during Newcastle’s mid-season tour of Riyadh. Murphy replaced Jamal Lewis for the final 13 minutes of the team’s triumph over Al-Hilal.
The 18-year-old has experience playing at the senior level, having made his Irish First Division debut with Galway United at the age of 16 and appearing in 32 games for them before his summer transfer. He has also captained his nation at the U18 level before moving on to the U19 team.