Academy. 'A massive opportunity' - Parkinson relishing UEFA Youth League debut

17 Sep 23

Ben Parkinson believes the UEFA Youth League will be a "great experience" as Newcastle United's Under-19 side face AC Milan in their opening Group F fixture on Tuesday afternoon.

Following Newcastle United’s UEFA Champions League draw, with the Magpies set to face AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund, the young Magpies begin their Youth League campaign with an away clash against the Italian club at the Centro Sportivo Vismara (kick-off 1pm BST).

Parkinson, who made his first-team debut for his boyhood club during a 3-2 pre-season friendly win against Gateshead in July before featuring for Eddie Howe’s side in their Premier League Summer Series fixtures in the United States, is hopeful the teenage squad can begin in bright fashion against I Rossoneri ahead of their maiden fixture in the competition.

The 18-year-old forward, who signed his first professional contract last summer, told "It’s a massive game that we’re all looking forward to. Many of us haven’t been involved in a game like this before. Cathal (Heffernan) was involved in it with Milan last year but he’s just as excited as much as everyone else is. It’s a massive opportunity.

“To be the best, you’ve got to face the best. That’s the way I look at it. At the end of the day, you’ve got to show up against these teams and put up a fight, showing what you’re about. We’ve seen a bit of Milan on the clips and the way their first-team play. We’re trying to prepare ourselves for that.

“It’s a new experience for the majority of the squad, something we haven’t really had to do before. Last year, we had an international cup (Al Abtal Friendly Games) where we flew for a few of the games but it’s nothing quite like the Youth League. It’ll be a great experience that we’re all looking forward to.

"I was just excited when I saw the teams we’d be facing, both being a Newcastle fan and seeing the teams the first-team got but also a Newcastle player and having the chance to play against some of the big teams you wouldn’t otherwise play.”

Tuesday's Youth League encounter against Milan will be the first of six group stage fixtures for Newcastle’s youngsters, playing each team in Group F both home and away as the group winners progress into the last-16 stage while the eight runners-up will go into the play-offs against the winners from the domestic champions path, who will emerge after two knockout rounds featuring 32 initial entrants.

As the Toon teenagers prepare for the highly-anticipated clash in Italy, Parkinson highlighted the importance of playing the game rather than the occasion.

“It’s quite surreal,” the Durham-born youngster added. "If you asked me a year or two ago if I had a chance of playing in the Youth League, I probably would have said no.

"The way the club is going at the minute, hopefully there’s a few more opportunities but I’m looking forward to it and it makes it more special that I have the chance to do it with Newcastle, a team I grew up supporting since I was a young lad.

“Sometimes, it is tough to separate the game from the occasion. Even against Wrexham in front of eight thousand fans in a big stadium against their first-team, you have to be able to grind out a result.

"It’s really important to separate the occasion from the game because if you get caught up in the occasion, the game becomes a lot more emotional and rash things can happen."

Related Content