Michael Hoganson

Soon Newcastle United will announce their annual retained list with several players - including a handful of youngsters - set to learn that their future lies elsewhere.
Just over 12 months ago, Academy player Michael Hoganson was among those shown the door at St. James' Park and as a lifelong Magpies supporter it was a devastating blow. But a year on, he has broken into the first team at Championship side Derby and tells DAN KING why others can follow in his footsteps...

The last of the Magpies' second-year scholars to learn their fate had waited patiently as some of his friends, youngsters who he had grown up with, were awarded professional contracts and others were told they had not made the grade. Michael Hoganson had been a regular in a title-winning under-18s team and had broken into the Reserve side just a couple of months earlier but did the Academy coaches think he could become a first-team player for Newcastle United?

"It's kind of someone debating on your life," says the former Cowgate Boys Club player who had dreamed of making it with his boyhood team and pulling on the black and white shirt in the Barclays Premier League ever since joining the Club as a 14-year-old. "I was the last one to be told and obviously you worry; you're scared that if you get released, you might have to go and play non-league and never play at a high level.

"The waiting was the hardest bit, the scariest bit. I think they didn't know what to do with me, really, so it was one of those things where I didn't know what was going on and what was happening to me." And so he waited until, eventually, a decision was made.

Academy Manager Joe Joyce called the versatile left-footer into his office and tactfully and sympathetically told him that there was no contract for him. He wished the youngster all the best and promised that the Club would help him in any way that they could, but Hoganson had to deal with the news that he was no longer a part of Newcastle United.

"There were no tears but it is hard to take at first," he admits. "You're never going to have that dream job of playing for the Club you love.

"It's probably every Geordie kid's dream when they're growing up to be playing in front of all the fans, in front of your friends and family at the Club that they've always loved as well. It was a dream for me and all of the team there at the Academy because most of the team were from Newcastle. It was my dream. It's still my dream."

But the dream was over, or at least on hold, and as he attempted to find a new club Hoganson managed to fix up a trial with League Two outfit Northampton Town. He impressed enough to book a place on their pre-season trip to Croatia and then to earn the offer of a one-year deal with the Cobblers - but by then his performances had caught the eye elsewhere.

Ever since Hoganson had shone in the Premier Academy League for Newcastle against Derby, he had been on the Rams' radar but it was still somewhat out of the blue that a call came from Craig Short asking him to play in a pre-season friendly against Burton Albion.

"I started, played the full game and after that the gaffer (Nigel Clough) offered me a deal there and then," he explains. "He said 'I want you to be here, to be part of a young team and be what I know you can be.'"

And while Clough brought in Hoganson as one for the future, he ended up playing four times in the Championship last term. He admits: "I was a first year pro so I didn't really expect anything. People my age are still floating about in development squads and maybe not even playing in development squads but for me to play in those games in front of 23,000 for home matches, it has been the best year of my life.

"Coming on for my debut against Middlesbrough and playing against a team that, as a Newcastle fan, you're born to not really like, was amazing. I still speak to Adam Campbell nearly every other day and when I made my debut we were on the phone for about three hours. I'm so proud of what he's done - he's achieved his dream - and he's the same with me.

Michael Hoganson

"A few weeks later I made my full debut against Wolves. You're up against the likes of Kevin Doyle and Bakary Sako and you're thinking 'oh my God' but once you get your first touch out of the way you take it from there. I ended up in the Championship team of the week."

Last month, Hoganson signed a new contract at Pride Park while long-serving left-back Gareth Roberts has now departed, so the former Magpies youngster could find himself even more involved next term. "We'll see how pre-season goes but you never know," he says. "The gaffer's shown belief in me so I'll get into pre-season as fit as I can and fight for that starting XI. You don't know who he's going to bring in or anything but there's nothing to say I can't challenge and have a go at it."

In less than a year, he has gone from the scrapheap to eyeing a regular place in English football's second tier and so he is better placed than most to offer a word of advice to those teenagers who - unlike his close friend Campbell - are deemed surplus to requirements at St. James' Park this summer.

"It's not the end of the world, it really isn't," he says, drawing on 12 months of experience and hindsight. "You've played for a Premier League club - not the first team but who's to say you're not going to get in the first team at another club?

"Somebody might see something that somebody else hasn't so it's never the end of the road. For me, one window closed but another opened straight away and to be honest it was probably the best move of my life.

"What happened was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm not saying that's going to happen for everybody but never, ever give up, that's the bottom line."

This summer, nufc.co.uk will be first with the news of every player to come and go at St. James' Park so keep logging on to the Club's official website