By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Newcastle United's victorious youngsters returned home from Hong Kong on Tuesday morning with an extra piece of luggage: the Citibank Hong Kong Football Club International Soccer Sevens trophy.
The Magpies were competing in the annual tournament for the very first time but won the cup in the Happy Valley after winning all six of their matches - including the final against Aston Villa.
Bradden Inman scored what proved to be the winner with a wonderful individual effort and admitted that the whole tournament was a great experience for Willie Donachie's team, which also included James Tavernier, Paul Dummett, Jak Alnwick and Academy players Adam Campbell, JJ Hooper, Marcus Maddison, Brandon Miele, Steven Logan and Lubo Satka.
And after touching down back in Newcastle, via Heathrow, the Australian midfielder told nufc.co.uk: "Having the trophy made that 12 hour flight well worth it."
United kicked off their group campaign with a 2-0 win over local side HKFA Dragons before an Inman goal was enough to defeat hosts Hong Kong Football Club and JJ Hooper got the only goal against Villa.
On the second day, the Magpies came from behind to beat Celtic 2-1, then overcame Sunderland thanks to a Campbell strike to set-up a final against the Villans.
Campbell opened the scoring before Inman made it 2-0, and despite a late own goal from Dummett, United were the champions.
Games were seven-a-side, with two halves of seven minutes each, and Inman explained: "It was great fun and I enjoyed it a lot. I think this tournament will help a lot of the players because you have to learn a different type of game; times to press the opponents and times to sit back and keep the ball.
"At first, I don't think we got enough respect off the other teams because we did have a young team. But when we won the first game, the lads grew in confidence and it showed with the results: undefeated and only conceding two goals.
"Against Celtic, it was really hot - around 35 degrees - and it took the lads a little while to get going. But in the second half we were brilliant and scored two very good goals (Campbell and Miele on target).
"And it's always good beating Sunderland; even in Hong Kong, it shows that Newcastle are the top team in the North-East!
"It was good to score in the final but the most important thing was winning the game."
Having set off for the Far East last Tuesday, the squad were away for seven days in all. Reserve Team boss Donachie had spoken ahead of the trip about the benefits of sampling a different culture as well as the opportunity for the team to bond, and Inman felt that he and his colleagues had gained a great deal from the experience.
And he revealed that even when they weren't on the pitch, there remained a competitive edge among the players.
"Hong Kong was brilliant," he said. "It was my first time visiting there and I really enjoyed it.
"The weather was very humid most days - about 30 degrees or more - but on Sunday in the final against Aston Villa, we had some bizarre rain come down and hit us, leaving the pitch a bit waterlogged.
"Tav brought the PS3 so we set up a FIFA tournament and all the lads played in it. The banter was good and I think it brought the team together.
"We also went into town a lot to look at some of the shops - but Saturday and Sunday were just football, football, football."
Now, like the first-team, the Reserves can relax until July, when they will return to the club's Benton training ground ahead of the new campaign. And Inman is determined to do all he can to force his way into the senior set-up next term.
"I'm going on holiday next week to Turkey, which will be decent," he said. "Then I'll come back in pre-season, try to impress and hopefully push forward."
Photograph by Victor Fraile / The Power of Sport Images for HKFC