Academy. "We had belief" - Emerson's verdict on UEFA Youth League comeback

08 Nov 23

Johnny Emerson admitted the Newcastle United Under-19s' UEFA Youth League campaign has strengthened the squad's unity following a 2-2 comeback draw against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday afternoon.

The Toon teenagers conceded twice in the opening 45 minutes at the BVB Training Ground following strikes from Cole Campbell and Julian Rijkhoff but Newcastle’s youngsters completed a spirited second-half fightback courtesy of goals from Cathal Heffernan and James Huntley in the closing stages, with Emerson recording an assist for the latter's late equaliser.

Emerson, who has represented Scotland at both under-18 and under-19 level, took plenty of positives from his side’s encouraging display in the latter stages of the Group F encounter.

The Scotland Under-19 international, capable of playing on either wing, told “We’ve improved in every one of the first three games so it was good to finally show what we’re about and what we can do. It’s about putting it into a full game now instead of one half, which we’ve been doing. The next step is playing a full game like we did in the second half and hopefully winning from there.

“We’ve got closer as a group as it’s two age groups formed together. We’re getting used to each other and everybody’s styles of play and feeling more connected and comfortable with each other and building on each performance and improving from there.

“We’d attacked well and it was just about doing the little things well. We didn’t perform badly in the first half but we made simple mistakes and little tweaks were needed to be made to go out in the second half and bounce back from there. We had belief throughout the game but, once the first goal went in, there was definitely more of it to try and get a positive result."

Despite United's elimination from the competition with two games to spare, Emerson has relished his involvement in this season’s star-studded youth tournament having already provided an assist in the reverse fixture against their Dortmund counterparts - a narrow 2-1 defeat at the Gateshead International Stadium.

The 17-year-old forward, who signed a two-year full-time scholarship at the Magpies’ Academy in the summer of 2022, is hopeful the experiences gained from the European fixtures can stand himself and the squad in good stead both on and off the pitch.

“It’s always good (to get an assist),” the Carlisle-born youngster added. "That’s what my game is about. I like to entertain but, as a winger, you need to contribute with goals and assists in order to win games. You can play well and beat your defender but, at the end of the day, you need to be producing.

“We felt the first game was more about experience but, as we’ve playing more in the tournament, it’s an actual competition we want to do well in. We had to change our mentality from firstly experiencing something new to a competition that we want to win games in.

“These are the games you want to play in. It’s what you dream of and it’s preparing us for, hopefully, even more in the future. It’s a good experience to help us improve as players and people, helping with confidence and improving yourself in going up against better players."

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