Bailey eager for successful Under-23s campaign
Written by Luke Vinton
Under-23s captain Owen Bailey is hopeful Newcastle United's second-string can replicate last season's form ahead of the young Magpies' pre-season preparations.
The under-23s squad, along with the under-18s, flew out to Spain on Thursday for pre-season training at the Pinatar Arena, where United's senior squad have competed in mid-season friendlies against CSKA Moscow and Royal Antwerp, both ending in 1-1 draws.
Although no friendlies are set to take place in the Murcia region this week, Bailey, an experienced figure for the under-23s, believes the seven days spent at the training camp will benefit the youngsters ahead of their opening pre-season fixture at Hibernian on Monday, 15th July (kick-off 2pm BST).
Bailey told nufc.co.uk: "It's great to be back! Everyone is buzzing to be back at the Academy after having a good break and feeling refreshed. We are looking forward to the new season and hopefully ready for similar challenges to those we faced last year.
"We want to try and get out of the league and hopefully win it but we will take it game by game and see what comes our way but, at the moment, the squad are feeling good.
"Last year, we went to Scotland last year for pre-season so I think the climate will help us when we go to Spain with it being a lot hotter, improving our fitness whilst playing in tougher conditions. It will be a bit of a morale booster going abroad, especially to Spain, which will bring a bit more jazz to it. It will be definitely help the squad bond together a lot better.
"I think we have a tight-knit squad anyway and with a new group of lads coming in to the team, which is really exciting. We will try and make them feel as welcome straight away and to Spain is probably the best thing you can do to get them integrated into the group immediately."
The young Magpies suffered two final losses last term, losing to Everton and Southampton in the Premier League Cup final and Premier League 2 division two play-off final.
However, Newcastle's youngsters retained their HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens title in Hong Kong for a second successive year and Bailey believes that ending last season on a high plays an important factor for the season ahead.
The 20-year-old added: "Hopefully, we can keep most of the squad from last season together and try to build on what we managed to do last year. It was a really good season for us but if we can try to go a step and achieve promotion or win the Premier League Cup, that would be great.
"All the lads were really pleased with winning the tournament in Hong Kong. We had a great time over there and it brought the squad closer together as a group.
"We are looking forward to this year and winning the trophy gives you more of a buzz to come in. If we had come into the new season on the back of two final losses, I think we may have been a bit down in the dumps.
"Obviously, coming in after ending the season on a high, everyone is much more upbeat and ready to go."