Milk Cup squad

By Dan King - Newcastle United Digital Editor

Dave Watson has challenged his Newcastle United youngsters to go one step further than last year and win the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland next week.

Last summer, the Magpies - inspired by player of the tournament Adam Campbell - reached the final before losing to a hugely impressive Desportivo Brazil outfit.

Alan Pardew attended that match as the Academy players' performances captured the imagination of the whole Club and while a repeat run won't be easy, Watson is backing this year's team to produce another strong showing.

"We're hoping we'll do well," under-18s coach Watson told nufc.co.uk ahead of the competition. "Obviously we don't know what we're coming up against, what the opposition's like, but we're going there with great memories of last year.

"The lads learnt a lot from the tournament. It's a tremendous competition - some games are televised and they're placed on decent pitches so it's a great experience for the kids. It really is good and the public over in Northern Ireland really love the tournament so it's well supported.

"It's all about winning. We're at the development stage but there's a cup at stake now and the kids have got to get into that winning mentality. That's what it is when we go to the Milk Cup - it's all about progressing as far as we can and hopefully trying to win the cup."

United kick off their campaign next Monday at the Coleraine Showgrounds (kick-off 3pm), then play at Ballymena Showgrounds the following evening at 8pm before their final group game at the Riada Stadium on Wednesday at 8pm.

They could then face a semi-final and final on consecutive days and Watson admits that such a schedule offers a real physical examination of his players.

"It does - five games in five days, 35 minutes each way, is a big ask," the former England defender said. "Let's hope the weather isn't absolutely red hot.

"We've got O'Higgins, a Chilean team, then a local team in County Armagh before we face Liverpool, so it'll be a tough tournament but we're really looking forward to it."

And, as Campbell proved last year - and the likes of David Beckham, Sergio Busquets, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and Craig Bellamy have shown in the past - the competition can help young players to make a name for themselves.

Watson said: "Adam got player of the tournament last year and Adam Armstrong ran the show last year for us.

"It's done them the world of good - Adam (Campbell)'s been promoted to the first team and Adam (Armstrong) has been called up for the England under-16 squads so it really is a big stage to perform on.

"And we've got good players who can perform in these places."

Follow Newcastle United's progress in the Milk Cup with nufc.co.uk next week