Ward Hoping To Continue Fairytale Journey
Written by Newcastle Utd
Dan Ward could go from Sunday League to the Stadium of Light on Wednesday night and the teenager is eager to help Newcastle go all the way in the FA Youth Cup
By Dan King - Newcastle United Digital Editor
A year ago, Dan Ward could never have imagined for a moment that he would be preparing to represent Newcastle United in a Tyne-Wear derby at the Stadium of Light.
The 18-year-old was turning out on a Sunday morning for South Shields - and occasionally for Northern League Seaham Red Star - when he was spotted by the Magpies towards the end of last season.
While only six miles seperate them geographically, Sunderland's 49,000-seater stadium is a world away from South Shields' Harton and Westoe Miners' Welfare pitch - but having started both of Newcastle's FA Youth Cup ties so far, Ward is likely to line up for the Magpies in Wednesday night's fifth round tie on Wearside.
"The Stadium of Light is a great ground and I think there'll be quite a few people there," the intelligent and hard-working midfielder told nufc.co.uk. "A lot of people are talking about it and it should be a good atmosphere and a good experience.
"I'm buzzing - not just me, all the lads are really geed up for it and we're going to give it a good go.
"We've played them twice this season in the league and we know they like to get the ball out wide, but we'll be ready for them on the night.
"Last year, we beat Sunderland 4-0 in the fourth round and the lads who played in that game have told us 'we beat them - now it's your turn.'"
While most of Newcastle's Youth Cup squad have progressed through the ranks over a period of several years, Ward is a relative latecomer having only signed a scholarship last summer following a successful trial, but he has looked very much at home in the black and white shirt of his boyhood club.
"I was playing Sunday League when I was scouted," he said. "I came on trial towards the end of last season, played two games against Arsenal and Chelsea - just two easy games to settle in - then got offered a scholarship. I said yes straight away.
"It was a bg surprise - I knew they'd been watching but I thought it was too late in the season to get asked to come in on trial. But I did, took my chance and here I am now.
"At the start of the season I wasn't really in the team but I just kept going, got my break in the team and I've had a good run of games. I'm enjoying my football at the minute so that's the main thing."
A stoppage-time Sean Longstaff goal gave Newcastle a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough in the last round and Ward admitted: "It was a great result and a great game.
"It looked as though we were down and out with ten minutes to go but we came back and it was a great feeling when Sean scored the winner.
"Ten of my mates got a minibus down to Middlesbrough, so they'll be there on Wednesday and loads of people have mentioned it to my mam and dad so they'll be there too."
It's 30 years since Paul Gascoigne inspired Newcastle's Class of '85 to lift the FA Youth Cup while last year's squad included Adam Armstrong, Rolando Aarons and Lubo Satka, who have all progressed to the first-team set-up.
"It's a great example set by them and I'm sure all of the lads will want to follow in their footsteps and do what they've done," said Ward.
"It just goes to show what a good Youth Cup run can do for you and your career. A good Youth Cup run for us would be great for the lads, to see where it can take us."
Admission at the Stadium of Light is £3 for adults and £1 for under-16s and over-65s. Entry for Newcastle supporters is through turnstiles 57-58 from 6pm.