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Patrick Nzuzi - Newcastle Utd

Youth Cup Jitters

11/12/09 |

With the FA Youth Cup game approaching on Wednesday we had a light session to start the week – which I think was designed to ensure that we could peak physically for Wednesday’s match against Doncaster Rovers.

Training consisted of a small sided possession game – which involved transferring the ball after six consecutive passes into the keepers hand in the opposite square, and a little bit of work on our shape.

Tuesday followed a similar pattern in terms of the importance of keeping possession of the ball. The session was then broken down to allow defenders to concentrate on playing out from the back while our attackers worked on set plays and finishing.

I think without being over confident a lot of our lads were really looking forward to the Youth Cup match which of course for some players can be the pinnacle of their Apprenticeship – the opportunity to be playing on a league ground, on a good pitch in front of a semi decent crowd.

Others use it as a springboard on to better things and that is what I hope to do – alongside my other performances in the Youth team and hopefully the Reserves. I suppose that it is all about being able to control your nerves and reproduce your best football under a bit of pressure. It’s fair to say that if you can do this you’ll make good decisions more often than bad ones on the pitch and that’s what being a professional is all about.

The Big Match
FA Youth Cup Match: Doncaster Rovers v Newcastle United
I was nervous before this game and it’s probably the first time I’ve felt nerves since I made my Reserve team debut.

Playing at the Keepmoat Stadium with the Gaffer, Chris Houghton, amongst the crowd obviously affected how I felt – although I must admit it was a bit of a tonic to have him come in the dressing room before the match and give us all some words of encouragement.

So out on to the pitch with the floodlights beaming down and you almost feel like you’re taking your first steps in the big time – so this is what it’s like – you could imagine a bigger crowd and even TV camera’s but in reality there are a few hundred people and an opposition who are aiming to knock you down a peg or two and show that they two have what it takes to become seasoned professionals.

The first thing that hit me was the pitch and conditions were perfect so immediately you think well if we can’t play on this well… really…

We kicked off but they were straight on us, battling and competing for every ball and all of a sudden, if you hadn’t done already, there is a major reality check. That said, we knew that to win the match we’d have to knuckle down.

For a home side they actually played quite a defensive style of football so were hard to break down and yet at the same time they were good at breaking quickly which nearly caught us out on more than one occasion. The first half was quite cagey but after the half time break the sparring was over.

We seemed more relaxed and really started enjoying being on the ball and reached to a point where their two forwards couldn’t close down our centre halves anymore.

We had a few chances but couldn’t convert and with time running out we found ourselves really pushing for the break through – in contract they looked like they were happy to settle for extra time and maybe penalties.

Thankfully we made a blistering start to extra time (must have been the adrenalin kicking!) and Tay picked up Bards’ run and we made it 1-0!

I think everyone in our party both on and off the pitch went wild with delight and it was such a relief to actually score. Macca made it two within the first period of extra time, and to be honest, even though we got a third it was pretty much over from the moment we scored!

We got Thursday off and we were in on Friday to, amongst other things, participate on the Soccer AM Skill Skool item.

It was a good laugh and we all had fun but it is questionable as to whether there was more banter than skill on show! I guess you’ll have to watch the clip to work that one out!

We finished off the morning with a little 5-a-side game and some preparation for the weekends game against local rivals Sunderland.

Derby Day
Academy Match: Newcastle United v Sunderland
I know the term Champions League blues is often referred to in the professional game as when a team returning from a midweek match struggles in their Saturday fixture but I’ll slightly amend that to call this performance a Youth Cup affected result.

I was still tired come Saturday from Wednesday’s energy sapping visit to the Keepmoat Stadium and I don’t think it would be remiss of me to conclude that this probably applied to a number of my team-mates!

Just kicking off the difference between the freshness of the Sunderland lads and ourselves was noticeable and I’m disappointed to say that they were simply quicker, sharper and more competitive than us. They dominated possession without creating too many chances early doors but they soon got their goal.

Just before half time we were rewarded with penalty andTav converted from the spot. That gave us a lifeline however, a more determined Sunderland went on to score three more goals in the second half.

It was really disappointing as it was a derby game, and they are the team to beat in our league, but we just couldn’t raise our game to the necessary level on the day.