Ben Sayer

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Ben Sayer believes the camaraderie within the Newcastle United Academy dressing room has helped the Magpies progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup.

On Monday evening (kick-off 7pm), Sayer and his team-mates take on Blackburn at the Sports Direct Arena with a place in the last four of the country's most prestigious youth football tournament at stake.

The winner must be decided on the night, with extra-time and penalties if required, and Dave Watson's youngsters saw off Queens Park Rangers in the last stage thanks to JJ Hooper's extra-time header.

Newcastle had been trailing until Adam Campbell's late penalty, while United provided another example of their character when they came from 2-0 down in their last league match against Sunderland to force a draw, despite having midfielder Dennis Knight sent off.

And former Walbottle Campus Technology College pupil Sayer told nufc.co.uk: "We all enjoy talking to each other and get on well, so we've got a good spirit.

"Against QPR, it was the kind of match where a lot of teams just don't score and QPR would have seen it out 1-0.

"But we all stuck together and it showed towards the end of the game when everyone was encouraging each other, and we're all a bunch of friends really.

"There's nobody who doesn't get on, everyone likes each other, and that helps us to do well."

Sayer missed the start of the season with a knee injury, but has re-established himself in the centre of midfield in recent weeks with his range of passing integral to the way United play.

He explained: "I was out for a couple of months so it knocked me quite a bit and I've never really got back to the form I would like.

"It was on our pre-season trip to Scotland, the last game there, so when we came back I missed about eight games at the start of the season which was really disappointing because I was looking forward to the season, I really was.

"But I'm starting to get match fit again now with playing a few games, and I'm starting to play a bit better now than what I was.

"I was struggling to find some form but it's been coming back over the last few weeks. I'm enjoying it because we're playing really good football.

"We're getting the ball and passing it, and that's how we're beating teams - passing through them.

"We've played really well as a team and we've got a great squad; there's not many squads that are going to be better than us."

Sayer admitted that getting through to the business end of the competition is a real thrill for the Magpies youngsters, but is expecting a tough test yet against Rovers, who play in the Premier Academy League Group C.

"The first couple of games, you're just thinking about winning and winning and you don't want to think about the next games, but it does get you excited for the games, especially with it being at the stadium," he said.

"We've played against Blackburn a couple of times - we played against them last year (a 1-1 draw at Little Benton) and then at under-16s as well, and there's quite a lot of the same players.

"They'll be the same sort of team as us, with a similar set-up, and we can't wait." 

 And the 18-year-old is hoping for another great FA Youth Cup moment to match his experiences of last season, when he scored a dramatic extra-time lobbed winner in the fourth round victory over Grimsby - something which remains one of the proudest moments of his young career.

"It's really up there - it's probably the best," he said.

"But I'm just hoping we can get another win and hopefully I can do it again on Monday!"

Monday's match at the Sports Direct Arena kicks off at 7pm. Admission to the East Stand is by paying at the turnstiles on the night and season ticket holders and Club Members are not entitled to free admission for this tie. Prices are £3 for adults and £1 concessions.

Louis Storey's Youth Cup pen pics