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Character will be key during crucial week, says Bartlett

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Tyrique Bartlett believes that character will be key as Newcastle United Under-23s gear up for a significant six-day period.

The Magpies’ youngsters take on Sheffield United at Stocksbridge Park Steels’ Bracken Moor on Friday night, with a place in the last four of the Premier League Cup at stake.

After travelling to Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League 2 Division Two on Monday, United then host FC Porto on Thursday evening looking to progress to the final of another competition, the Premier League International Cup.

Newcastle make the trip to South Yorkshire having won ten games on the spin in cup competitions – one after a penalty shootout – though they have lost their last six in succession in the league, the latest a 1-0 reverse against Middlesbrough at Whitley Park three days ago.

Bartlett was handed a starting berth as United failed to make their early pressure count against Boro, but – ahead of a potentially season-defining week – the frontman has called for the Magpies to stick to their guns for a whole 90 minutes in the first of two crucial cup clashes.

“I think we need to stick together as a team, keeping the work ethic high. I think we played the best we could (against Middlesbrough) but we need to show character throughout and keep our consistency for the full 90 minutes – not just the first half,” he told nufc.co.uk. “We did dominate the first half but we didn’t have anything to show for it.

“As the coaches here keep saying, it’s not often we get this far in cup tournaments. If we win the six games we have left in the cups, we’ll win three trophies, and that will be a big achievement for everyone at the club. The atmosphere hasn’t died around here. Everyone’s still buzzing to finish off the season strong. We’re aiming for the win on Friday night and it’s going to be a very big game for us.”

The son of former South African international Shaun, Bartlett has been tasked with leading the line for Newcastle’s Under-23s on a string of occasions since the start of the New Year.

The teenager’s early years were spent in Kent, with his father a regular for Londoners Charlton Athletic – then of the Premier League – between 2000 and 2006.

The family then returned to South Africa – initially Johannesburg, then Bloemfontein – before the younger Bartlett moved back to England in the summer of 2016, when he was offered a contract at United’s Little Benton Academy after impressing during a trial.

Having had 18 months to find his feet, he is starting to create an identity of his own for the Magpies’ second string, and – last summer – he was capped by Bafana Bafana at youth level. But, unsurprisingly, Shaun – now 45, and coaching at the University of Pretoria – remains a central figure in his life.

“He was the one who introduced me to football. I used to watch him growing up, but I didn’t really understand at the time what he has done as a South African playing football overseas,” said Bartlett. “Growing older, he was an inspiration to me, and I saw how he was an inspiration to other people and to the nation of South Africa. It is something I wish to live up to.

“He has always inspired me to do more, but he has never put pressure on me to do anything. My love for football came just from me – it’s not like he put it on to me and said, ‘You’re going to play football.’ He wanted me to choose what I wanted to do, but he was there to support me. It’s great to have someone there to give you advice on how to deal with certain things, and how to focus. I’m very fortunate to have my father, and my mother as well – because she had to deal with my father being a footballer! They were both very nurturing.

“When I was called up by South Africa, it was a surprise, as I didn’t think anyone was noticing me as I’m out of the country. I called my parents and the excitement was overflowing – I was just really happy and proud of myself to get to that moment. Hopefully there are more like that to come.”

"If we win the six games we have left in the cups, we’ll win three trophies, and that will be a big achievement for everyone at the club."

Tyrique Bartlett

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