Who is Daniel Barlaser?
Written by Dan King
When Daniel Barlaser signed his first professional contract with Newcastle United just a few days after he turned 18, he told NUFC TV: “It’s probably the best birthday present I’ll ever get.”
But two years on, he's been handed an even better gift as the Magpies take on Birmingham City at St. James’ Park on his 20th birthday - a first-team debut for his boyhood club.
With injuries to a handful of key players and others on Africa Cup of Nations duty, the Gateshead-born England under-18 international has been named in Rafa Benitez’s starting XI for the Emirates FA Cup third round replay.
The former Swalwell Swifts player has been with the club since the age of nine and he has been in senior squads before. In December 2014, he travelled with the squad for a Capital One Cup quarter-final tie at Tottenham Hotspur, and although he missed out on a place on the bench that night, the experience left him hungry for more.
“It showed me what it’s like to travel with the first team, and seeing all the fans who had paid that much money to go down there - it was a different level,” he said at the time.
“To play in front of crowds like that, for the team I love, would be a dream come true.”
Last season, he was named among the substitutes for another cup tie - this time against Sheffield Wednesday in the EFL Cup - and then for the first time in the Premier League against West Bromwich Albion in February 2016.
This term, Barlaser has regularly captained Peter Beardsley’s under-23 side, who are currently third in the Premier League 2, and he regards Beardsley and Ben Dawson as big influences in his career alongside his parents and his grandfather.
It was his dad, Sener, who took him to his first match at St. James' Park, against Everton in 2002 when Alan Shearer scored with a fantastic volley.
Before playing for England at under-18 level, Barlaser had represented Turkey - his father’s birthplace - and in recent seasons he has blossomed from a promising winger to a busy central midfielder with an impressive range of passing.
Now he’s hoping to celebrate his 20th birthday in style and help United reach the fourth round.