By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
As easily the most experienced player in the Newcastle under-21 back four for Monday night's 5-1 win over Stoke, it's easy to forget that James Tavernier is still only 20 years old.
The Bradford-born youngster has made a total of four first-team appearances for United this season - two in the Europa League, one in the Capital One Cup and one in the Barclays Premier League but his goal against the Potters' second-string this week was his first at Reserve team level.
He marshalled a defence also made up of 16-year-old Lubomir Satka, 19-year-old Curtis Good and 18-year-old Alex Nicholson, who was replaced by fellow 18-year-old Michael Riley after a first-half injury, and headed the Magpies in front before Xisco went on to steal the show with a hat-trick and Mehdi Abeid added the fifth.
And with the likes of 17-year-old Adam Campbell also involved for Willie Donachie and Peter Beardsley's team at Whitley Park, Tavernier admits that it's an exciting time for the Club's current crop of emerging talent.
"It's really good to see the young boys come through and to see the ones that really take a shine to it straight away," he told nufc.co.uk.
"Obviously Adam's came through, came on in the Europa game (in Atromitos) and made an impact and he's been a good presence when he's trained with the first-team.
"It gives a great incentive for all the lads who try, work hard and do things right. The gaffer gives them opportunities if they deserve it so it's really good."
Tavernier himself has forced his way into the senior squad on a consistent basis this term, although he has featured in each of the last two under-21 matches.
But with assistant manager John Carver and first-team coach Steve Stone watching, he is keeping his fingers crossed that he might be involved in Thursday's night's Europa League clash against Club Brugge.
"I hope that I've done enough - I've just got to see how the week pans out," he said. "If I'm not playing then I'll just watch and wish the boys the best and see how it goes from there.
"My aim's obviously to get more games but I've just got to see what happens in the second half of the season and see if I'm going to stay at Newcastle to try and make it into the team or go out on loan. I've just got to wait and see.
"Every game's a game and it's just about getting match time and keeping myself ticking over, waiting for that chance to come again.
"I'll just take it as it comes and keep my fitness going. Obviously it's a good thing keeping myself going and to trying to impress John Carver and Stoney."
And as well as his overall performance the goal - a towering header from Campbell's cross - will have helped him to catch the eye.
"I was pleased how it came off for me," he smiled. "I thought it was a really good header, right in the corner, and a really good ball from Adam.
"It was a good goal to get us off the mark and we progressed from there. We knew it was important after half-time, when we were 2-0 up, to get the next goal and we did so that made things easier."