Ryan McKinnon


By Dan King - Newcastle United Digital Editor
In Hong Kong

For Ryan McKinnon, Newcastle's first game of the Hong Kong Football Club Citibank Soccer Sevens can't come quickly enough.

Peter Beardsley's young Magpies kick off their Far Eastern campaign against the hosts, Hong Kong Football Club, at 4.31pm local time (9.31am British time) on Saturday, then have further 14-minute matches against the Hong Kong FA's under-23 side and Asian Champions Guangzhou Evergrande as they bid for a place in Sunday's knockout stages.

United arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday and trained on Thursday, while the players have also enjoyed a night at the races, a trip to a theme park and attended the tournament's annual curtain-raising sportsman's dinner, where Ron Atkinson was the guest speaker.

But now, Hexham-born defender McKinnon is chomping at the bit to pull on his boots.

He told nufc.co.uk: "I'm looking forward to the games and getting into the tournament now because we've been here for two or three days and I just want to play football now.

"You just want to be getting out and getting underway. We trained yesterday, which got us used to it a little bit, and that's given us a taste for it.

"We've trained for the last few weeks with this tournament and the seven-a-side format in mind, although the heat is obviously something we couldn't really prepare for and the humidity will probably be a factor when we're playing three games in one day."

Only two of this year's ten-man squad have played in the competition before and they have a hard act to follow, for Newcastle have reached the final in each of the last two years.

Last summer, they finished as runners-up to Leicester while in 2012, James Tavernier was the captain as United beat Aston Villa to lift the trophy.

The likes of Villa, Leicester, Manchester City, Rangers, Sunderland and Chelsea - who won the FA Youth Cup after beating the Magpies in the quarter-finals - stand in the way of this year's side and another final.

McKinnon said: "The team which won it was a lot more experienced than us but hopefully we can do the job.

"We're younger but we're still a lively bunch and I think we showed in the FA Youth Cup that we're a good side.

"I watched Chelsea's Youth Cup games and we were probably the team that challenged them the most and on another night we could have beaten them."

But Newcastle must qualify from Group A first, and McKinnon knows that all three local sides will offer a stern test.

"They'll be used to the conditions and they'll be wanting to impress their own fans," he said.

"They'll be more than up for it so we've got to match that."

For unrivalled coverage of the Hong Kong Football Club Citibank Soccer Sevens, stay logged on to nufc.co.uk. Meanwhile nufcTV will be bringing subscribers exclusive interviews and extended highlights from the tournament