Young Magpies jet out for Hong Kong tournament
Written by Tom Easterby
Newcastle United Under-23s coach Ben Dawson says the Hong Kong Football Club Citi Soccer Sevens tournament represents a chance for his young squad to gel ahead of the new season.
The Magpies jetted out to Hong Kong this week ahead of Saturday’s opening fixture in the competition, which will bring the curtain down on the 2017/18 campaign.
And Dawson is hoping his youthful team can give a good account of themselves as they look to end the season by picking up some more silverware, after their Techflow Marine Northumberland Senior Cup triumph earlier this month.
“It’s a great tournament, first and foremost. We always look forward to it – it’s a good addition to the games programme,” he told nufc.co.uk.
“The format’s obviously a bit different to what we’re used to – with more or less a full-size pitch, seven-a-side, no offsides, and with heat and humidity playing a big part in how we play – but it’s always good to go.
“It’s an end of season trip for the players who have worked hard and played 41 games this season, the same as the first team, and we’ll also try and use it as a bit of an experience, getting that group of players together for next season and seeing how they gel together.
“Like every other competition we’ve been in this year, we want to win it. We’ll be doing our very best to get to the final and come back with the trophy.”
United will face the hosts, Hong Kong Football Club, as well as Newcastle Jets and Rangers in the group stage of the tournament.
“I think regardless of who we get in the groups, they’re always tough games,” said Dawson. “The heat and humidity plays a big factor in it, as does the quality that the other teams bring.
“You just have to work it out there and then on the day – you don’t know what players are coming, who’s representing who, how they’re going to play, so it’s very much a case of getting out onto the pitch and trying to work out very quickly how you’re going to be beat them in the short space of time you’ve got.”
There are a handful of players in the Magpies’ squad who have experience of the tournament, like Dan Barlaser, Callum Roberts and Luke Charman.
The rest, though, will be Soccer Sevens rookies and Dawson is looking forward to seeing how his young charges fare as attentions begin to turn towards the new campaign.
“It’s a mix of youth and experience. There are some players in there who have been out there before, so they’ll know what it entails, what the tournament looks like and how to play the game,” he said.
“And there is a bit of youth blended in there as well, with one eye on what our squad will look like next season.”