Academy. "We deserved it" - Heffernan commends UEFA Youth League triumph

13 Dec 23

Cathal Heffernan believed Newcastle United Under-19s' UEFA Youth League Group F win against AC Milan was justified following a 3-1 comeback victory against the Italian outfit on Wednesday afternoon.

The Toon teenagers fell behind inside eight minutes of their Group F encounter at Whitley Park following Mattia Liberali’s opener before United’s youngsters completed a spirited second-half fightback, with quick-fire strikes from Travis Hernes and Heffernan sending the hosts ahead within ten minutes of a frantic restart.

Ben Parkinson, who made his Premier League bow for his boyhood club away at AFC Bournemouth last month, extended Newcastle’s advantage further following a close-range tap-in as the young Magpies rounded off their UEFA Youth League campaign with back-to-back victories following a 2-1 away triumph at Paris Saint-Germain last month.

Heffernan, who joined the Magpies last summer following his departure from AC Milan, told “I think we deserved it. If you look back at the first game against Milan, losing 4-0, I don’t think we gave a good account of ourselves. To come back and win 3-1 today after winning against PSG in our previous match is just what we deserved because I feel the work we’ve put in behind the scenes has paid off.

“If you look at our recent games, we always come out stronger in the second half and I think, although we started well in the first half today, I think our second half performance always makes us better in the games.

“We needed to sharpen us a few things defensively and in midfield and I thought we did that in the second half as everything changed. I didn’t feel there were many clear-cut chances in the game but when you get them, you just have to take them which we did.

“It’s been brilliant to play in this competition. These are the games you want to play in against the best teams and goals are a bonus for me. As long as I get to play in these fixtures, that’s all that matters to me.”

After losing their opening three UEFA Youth League fixtures in a group involving Milan, PSG and Borussia Dortmund, Newcastle’s youngsters ended their campaign in unbeaten fashion, recording two wins as well as scoring seven goals in the process.

Heffernan, who made his senior debut at the age of 16 for hometown club Cork City in October 2021, believes the young squad have improved in abundance throughout the competition’s group stages and is hopeful to take their positive showing into league action.

The Republic of Ireland Under-19 international added: “Everyone is so happy because if you look at the way we started the tournament and then how we ended it, it just shows how much we’ve grown as a team.

“We deserved that result today as well as the win against PSG and it’s brilliant for us to pick up these kind of victories. This is the best competition in Europe for players of our age so it’s an amazing experience to take part in these matches.

"It’s important that we transfer our performances that we’ve done in the (UEFA) Youth League, back into our league matches in England."

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