By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Dave Watson has expressed his pride in Newcastle United's run to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup - and has challenged them to go all the way to the final.
The ex-England defender lifted both the FA Cup and the League Cup during his playing career with Everton and Norwich, and hopes to lead his Toon teenagers to success in the most prestigious competition in English youth football.
United - who have beaten Darlington, Watford and QPR, all on Tyneside - have another home tie against Blackburn on Monday night (kick-off 7pm) with the winners facing either Fulham or Burnley in the last four.
And ahead of the big match, Watson told nufc.co.uk: "We're absolutely delighted with the way it's gone up to now.
"To get so far in the competition is fantastic for the football club and along the way we've put in some really good performances.
"The experience has been great for the kids, especially with every game being at the Sports Direct Arena.
"It's great to have got to where we are now, but really it's about getting to the final and winning the final.
"We've done really well to get to this stage and we've got another home tie. We've got a good team spirit going so fingers crossed."
Newcastle came from behind to beat QPR after extra-time in the last round, while they recovered from two goals down in their last match at Sunderland - despite having Dennis Knight sent off.
That extended their unbeaten run to seven games - a record which goes back to the first week of December - and Watson said: "Once or twice now, we've had to chase games but there's definitely a feeling in the team that we're not going to get beat.
"There's a great determination and team spirit about the place and long may that continue."
The first-team coaching staff of Alan Pardew, John Carver, Steve Stone and Andy Woodman were all in attendance against QPR, and Pardew went into the dressing room before the game to offer some words of advice.
And Under-18s Coach Watson said: "They're all really supportive. They obviously want kids to progress into the first-team - that's what we're here for - and the more experience they get on the big occasions, the better players they'll become."
Newcastle are boosted by having midfielder Knight available despite his red card at Sunderland, with his three-match ban kicking in next month, while striker JJ Hooper is set to make his first start of 2012.
"Dennis has been a big player for us all season. He's got tremendous quality, which we need. The more quality we can get in the team, the better, so Dennis being available is a big plus.
"And JJ is back in action after his hernia operation. He's came back and scored one against QPR and looked sharp against Sunderland, so it's great to see him back in action."
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.