Toon number 9 Phil Airey chasing the dream of every Geordie

By Lee Ryder on Feb 16, 10 09:51 AM

The Newcastle United number 9 shirt may well still remain vacant at St James' Park at first team level which keeps the dreams of a clutch of senior strikers very much alive and kicking.

But beneath the first team stage, perhaps the dreams of success pulling on the legendary number 9 shirt are arguably wilder.

However, as Sir Bobby Robson once said when people questioned Newcastle's chances of breaking into the top four: "There's nothing wrong with having wild dreams."

On a wet Monday night on a heavy pitch at the home of West Allotment Celtic, the foundations for such dreams becoming a reality are perhaps laid - and the latest dream chaser at the moment is Geordie teenager Phil Airey.

Airey's rise to prominence has been nothing short of fairytale stuff at Newcastle so far.

Two goals last night and a near hat-trick were more evidence of such rapid progress.

Indeed while poltical unrest, managerial change and the glare of the national spotlight has been constant for the Magpies, the down to earth Geordie, who hails from Amble, has been quietly knuckling down and working hard at the club's Academy.

No matter who is in charge of Newcastle United, while St James' Park remains standing and the hallowed turf continues to grow - dreams of playing for the black and whites remain alive.

Airey is living evidence of that.

Nobody is getting carried away with the progress of Airey.

After all the 18-year-old was plying his trade as a right-back just 12 months ago in the reserves.

But a switch to striker has suddenly transformed his situation.

Perhaps Academy graduate Andy Carroll is familiar with such a route to first team stardom.

Carroll was once moved from striker to left-back and then almost out the door at the Academy until then youth team chief John Carver blocked the move.

The rest as they say is history in Carroll's case.

For Airey 12 goals in the reserve and youth team is nothing to get carried away.

But like Nile Ranger last season reserve team regulars will have been quick to observe those odd bursts and odd glimpses of raw talent that will need to be nurtured in the next couple of years.

As one loyal and regular watcher of the second string stated last night at Whitley Park, only the test of the first team stage can show if any reserve team young gun is the real deal.

However, with a possible FA Youth Cup medal up for grabs for Airey and Co, and a host of second string league games still to go - Airey and friends can continue to dream for now.


Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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