Leaving It Late
Newcastle United U19 0-1 Paris Saint-Germain U19 (UEFA Youth League Group Stages)
I’ve got a job interview at Iceland at 10am as I’m looking for a bit of extra cash in the winter whilst the cricket is quiet so fancied a bit of part-time delivery driving to help pay the bills... I’m cramming it in as I’ve also got two football matches in the North East today… The first of which the prequel to the piece du resistance… It’s all of a sudden gone very French.
That’s because PSG are in town… Well actually, not my town but up toon as both first team squad and under 19’s head to Newcastle for a round of UEFA fixtures.
The UEFA Youth League is a Champions League for teens… I’m still not sure how it works but it seems if your men’s first team qualify then the group stages are mirrored for the U19’s so it’s as the main draw suggests… Newcastle, PSG, Borussia Dortmund and Milan… Two groups of death for first team and jnr but two certainly with talent across the ages for all to pit their wits against at the highest comparable level.
The Iceland interviewee is a Notts County fan so we’re off to a good start and he’s happy after a 3-1 win over Swindon last night with the Magpies back top of the League Two table, but I’ve got to say my goodbyes as he wishes me good luck against the other applicants and ahead of my travels, I’m off to see the other Maggies of black and white stripes – I’m leaving Newark before hitting the A1 and heading north minus a quick stop at a Greggs services in Doncaster.
Talk on the radio today is that of VAR… They’re still going on about this bloody Luis Diaz goal as Jurgen Klopp comes out and asks for a replay following Liverpool’s dodgy defeat at Tottenham.
There’s only so much I can take… I’m switching over to Capital Dance from Hawksbee & Jacobs on TalkSport as I finally come off the A1 and onto Rockliffe Way where I spot the Angel of the North in the distance through hazy fields on my way to Gateshead.
I get to Park Road and turn right onto Neilson Road as I see through a gap in the fence the playing surface of the Gateshead International Athletics Stadium. There’s a steward ushering people around the car park but I bang the car on a side street in an industrial area and walk just 100 yards to an entrance with a cardboard placard lent against a chair which says ‘away fans’.
For some reason the ticket on my phone which I paid £5 for is sat in the PSG end. I’m telling the stewards I don’t know how it’s happened but can’t imagine many here so they’ll at least be plenty of seats to choose from.
The Gateshead Stadium is a big old venue and much bigger than I thought it would be. Apparently holding just under 12,000 it feels larger perhaps largely to do with the running track around the pitch but the grandstand I’m sat in, very eighties like in design, goes up not only to row Z but to row ZZ. A good 27 tiers high if my maths are not mistaken.
Inside the arena you get a cracking view half way up the main stand where opposite a Perspex roofed stand banks on to a hill behind, red seats all around as rows of uncovered plastic chairs curve around the back of each goal.. tall metal floodlights straight out of a Subbuteo set, It’s actually very European in style.
Speaking of European, I’m wondering around the concourse looking for the toilet where a pretty young stewardess says to me “I bet it’s colder here than in France”… ‘I wouldn’t know’ is my reply… ‘I’m from Nottingham’… ‘God knows how I got in here’.
I’m sat down ahead of going for a brew and a kit-kat as she says ‘I’ve had a word with the bosses and we can move you if you like. There could be trouble with these crowds so you’re best off in the home end’… I’m wondering ‘what trouble’ as there’s only me and two French dudes in the stand but I agree to move as the stewardess very kindly takes me to a new seat which I choose myself high up (row W) hogging half way.
I’m excited to see this next generation of talent as I trawl through the two sides and notice Kylian Mbappe’s brother is in the starting lineup for PSG. No other names I’m familiar with so it’s all quite new to me, as the two teams enter the field of play to warm applause from a sparse crowd of little over 400 there’s a real difference in personnel aesthetic… PSG with a bit of everything, tall, short, mostly skinny and slight in size, brown skin, black skin, tanned skin, fair skin, long hair, short hair, pony tails, braids, Newcastle are stocky, bigger, white skinned brown haired cut short, ranging on the 6ft height measure, it seems the club knowingly or not, deliberate perhaps, look for a specific type of DNA?
The start is an interesting one… PSG technical, passing out from defence and prepared to take a chance, getting the ball into their midfield who carry forward and pass forward, low into the strikers and wingers paths to run onto. Newcastle in comparison are blood and guts, press hard and tackle, get stuck in and do the basics that bit quicker and more aggressively, they look bigger and bulkier than the Parisians who in return are slightly more technical better and natural footballers.
It’s nil nil at half time and neither goalkeeper has had really much to do. It’s a good game of decent quality and both teams have their moments, the best are mostly for PSG who’s vocal Coach Zoumana Camara can be heard passionately barking his Gaelic sounding orders whilst wearing a big cream club sponsored puffer jacket.
The main outlet is Etienne Michut, with 14 on his back socks around his ankles he draws defenders in with his floppy hair and first touch, out of his feet into big strides he’ll then get taken down or cross in low before Newcastle clear their lines.
In the early second half Oumar Camara is put through but blasts wide before he’s dragged off by the manager, Ilies Ardjani comes on as his replacement and it’s eventually he who finds the winning goal, a minute into injury time after a shot saved by Harris falls into his path to blast back into the net.
That goal sends the PSG players and staff wild celebrating on the pitch in a huge huddle, a deserved winner from the better team but hard luck to Newcastle who were ‘plucky’ against superior technical but ‘smaller’ opponents.
Ethan Mbappe unlike his brother is not a speedster winger or goalscoring forward but instead a true midfielder with guile who can pick the ball up off the back four, drive forward with it and create invention in the final third with neat simple passing ability and intelligence. Mbappe is not dis-similar to his engine room partner Senny Mayulu who I thought was even more impressive, both good on the ball and progressive in trying to get their team on the attack, they both compliment each others game.
In attack, the French side had right sider Michut with guile and panache and had the ponytailed Bensoula drifting in off the left who was mostly on the fringes of the game. A number ten of sorts he didn’t do as much as the similar styled Ardjani did in his short time on the pitch, the player with the most influence on the day however was centre half Joane Gadou who was a huge presence in both boxes and more physically domineering than anyone in the game. He’s a solid centre half with pace and power and could be one to watch of the future stars on show. He did struggle a little against Newcastle sub Trevan Sanusi who’s around 5ft5in and very un-DNA like in demeanour, tricky and skilful himself but not yet having a grasp of the football basics he tried but failed after coming on at left wing, but against those more of Gadou’s size and stature he always seemed to come out on top…. It’s just the little ones he doesn’t like.
For Newcastle, they huffed and puffed and worked in commendable fashion and could all rightly be proud of their efforts, centre halves Heffernan and McArthur were organised and sharp to sniff danger, in midfield captain Jamie Miley and central partner Ellis Stanton put good old fashioned shifts in, whilst I liked the look of winger James Huntley, who had a touch of the James Milner’s about him which is no negative comparable on my behalf.
A late winning goal was the difference on the day and I would say the future is bright for PSG who’s talent stretches deep into that young squad of theirs. Newcastle a little thinner on the ground when it comes to technical differences, they reminded me a bit of that decent public school side you came up against when you reach the latter rounds of the county cup, well organised, thick set and solid but no frills, it’s an interesting comparison to see who how French football promotes technique and skill whereas in England we still seem to believe that above all size matters. Unfortunately on this day, it didn’t… Unless you were Joane Gadou the biggest of all, and most impressive on show for me.
Newcastle United U19: Aidan Harris, Ciaran Thompson, Cathal Heffernan, Charlie McArthur, Dylan Charlton, Ben Parkinson, Jamie Miley, Ellis Stanton (Leo Shahar 60), James Huntley, Josh Donaldson (Trevan Sanusi 8), Johnny Emerson (Sean Neave 90).
Paris Saint-Germain U19: Louis Mouquet, Joane Gadou, Ethan Bagbunon, Nadeel El Hannach, Yoram Zague, Senny Mayulu, Ethan Mbappe, Thomas Cordier, Etienne Michut, Kamil Bensoula (Tony Mendy 77), Oumar Camara (Ilies Ardjani 62).
3:00pm Kick Off. Wednesday 4th October 2023, Gateshead International Stadium, Gateshead (att 467).