Alex Gilliead

By Dan King - Newcastle United Digital Editor

It was almost a dream debut for Alex Gilliead on Wednesday night as the England under-18 international came within inches of scoring in Newcastle's pre-season victory over Sheffield Wednesday.

But the Shotley Bridge-born forward still had plenty to smile about after replacing fellow teenager Adam Armstrong for the final few minutes at Hillsborough.

Having seen the likes of Rolando Aarons and Lubo Satka make their Magpies bows this summer, last season's FA Youth Cup captain was drafted into Alan Pardew's squad for the trip to South Yorkshire along with Jonathyn Quinn, who was an unused substitute.

Within moments of his introduction, Gilliead had sent a dipping effort just over the bar while he also managed to make a couple of important blocks as United won 1-0 against the Owls.

The 18-year-old only joined Newcastle in 2011, having been spotted while playing for Swalwell Juniors, but his first taste of senior involvement highlighted just how far he's come in a short space of time.

"It was unreal," he told "I was told on Tuesday that I was in the squad. I got home and I told my mam, and she said 'keep yourself grounded, keep your head down and work hard if you get on.'

"When I got on I thought I did reasonably well, so I'm happy with what I did even if it was for ten minutes.

"I just got told to go on for Arma and JC (John Carver) said 'make sure you work hard and make sure you head the ball if needed - if you don't head the ball, I'll kill you for it.'

"Just as I was about to go on, the manager said 'I know you can work hard, just show me a bit of your ability' and I thought when I went on I did alright. I cut inside and had a shot, but unfortunately it didn't go in.

"I thought it was going in - I was about to set off running into the crowd - but unfortunately it didn't.

"But it was an unreal experience. Even if I hadn't got on I would have been more than happy but getting on was an even bigger bonus."

Some of the youngster's family flew out to support him at the Hong Kong Football Club Citibank Soccer Sevens in May; Hillsborough is a little closer, so it was no surprise that he was again backed by the Gilliead clan on Wednesday.

"My mam, my grandad, my grandma and my sister's boyfriend were here and I saw them at the end and gave them a wave," he smiled.

"They'll probably be as proud as I am - I just wish that shot had gone in because I'd have probably ran up and celebrated with them!

"My grandma and grandad follow me everywhere and I couldn't ask for more supportive people behind me.

"Tonight makes me proud and makes them proud, so it was just class to do it for them."

Unsurprisingly, Gilliead now has a taste for more.

He said: "They go to Germany on Friday and I'm not really too sure if I'll be going there but when they come back I'll definitely be trying to come away again, maybe for a couple more friendlies before the season starts - hopefully the St. James' one (against Real Sociedad) and then hopefully get my Premier League debut.

"That's the main thing this season."