By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Reserve Team Manager Willie Donachie believes he has the basis of a good second-string side for next season - but expects to lose several of his key players once the campaign gets underway.
A number of fringe players were released in the summer, with only James Tavernier, Paul Dummett, Conor Newton, Bradden Inman and Michael Richardson offered new contracts.
Tavernier is now effectively a first-team squad member, and further enhanced his reputation with a strong showing against Fenerbahce on Saturday, but Donachie knows he could build his Reserve team around the other four.
However, he accepts that they could all be loaned out next term, just like Tavernier was last season, and so he's looking for some of his younger players to step up to the plate.
Several members of Dave Watson's Premier Academy League Group D title-winning side from last year are likely to be regularly involved at second-string level this term, and the likes of Marcus Maddison, JJ Hooper, Brandon Miele and Lubo Satka all figured in last week's 3-1 win over Hamilton.
Inman, Richardson, Dummett and Newton helped to guide them through, and Donachie told nufc.co.uk: "Those four, plus Yven (Moyo), they're the backbone of a good team.
"But to see people like Lubo, JJ, Marcus and all those younger lads looking like they could handle it was a big plus, because those older lads will have to go out on loan soon. They're at that age group where they need to gain league experience."
Maddison scored from the spot against the Scottish First Division side, who fielded several players with senior experience, while several of his young team-mates caught the eye but Donachie knows that there will inevitably be dips of form during the season.
"It's an ongoing thing and it takes time, that's the hardest part," explained the former Scotland international, who will again be joined in the dugout by Football Development Manager Peter Beardsley this term. "We've got to be patient."