McEntee relishing Tyne-Tees test
Oisín McEntee is hopeful Newcastle United Under-23s can achieve a winning start to 2021 ahead of Friday's Premier League 2 trip to Middlesbrough.
The young Magpies travel to Heritage Park for their first game of the new year (kick-off 2pm GMT) and can move to within one point of their Boro counterparts, currently sitting in third place of Division Two, with a victory.
The two sides have already met this term during a 2-2 draw at United's Academy in September and McEntee, who represented Republic of Ireland at the European Under-19 Championships in 2019, is determined to come out on top against their North east neighbours.
"Everyone's buzzing and raring to go," the Irish centre-back told nufc.co.uk. "We had a break which was good for everyone and now we're all ready to get back into action.
"It's a derby game so it's going to be really competitive. Everyone needs to be on top form and hopefully we can get the win. I know they are a bit ahead of us in terms of positions in the table but it's only four points between us and them.
"It's crazy how the table is going this season. There's not a lot of points in between the teams so if we can get a win, it will put us in a great position as we're not too far from the top spots.
"Everyone is training well at the minute and we have people coming back from injuries and returning from loan so hopefully the squad will be fighting for places and we can have a great start to the year.
"I think we have a strong chance of getting promoted if we can get a few wins in a row but we need to keep training hard to make sure we can get up there."
The 20-year-old recently ended a spell on the sidelines through illness after featuring in United's recent league fixture at Crystal Palace in December.
Although United's second-string suffered a 3-0 defeat to the Eagles in South London, McEntee expressed his delight in returning to competitive action following a lengthy absence.
He added: "I was out for three months with an illness and I wasn't allowed to do a lot of exercise so it was great for me to get back into training. It was a tough time being out for that long so it's good to be back.
"I've never been out for that long before so it was very challenging. I think I reacted well and worked hard to get back to full fitness so I'm happy and proud of myself.
"Initially, for the first eleven weeks, I wasn't allowed to do any exercise because it was testing on my heart. Being an active lad, that was tough but when I came back, I had light work in the gym and some running before really getting into the hard work.
"I got 70 minutes under my belt against Crystal Palace and it was a good first game back. It was a really good test because I came up against the likes of James Tomkins and James McCarthy.
"The result didn't go our way but, in this league, you want to come up against first-team players. You want to challenge yourself against the best and, playing against professionals like Tomkins, you also want to see what they do and try to emulate it yourself."