Match-winner Huntley on Soccer Sevens success

After scoring the golden goal to win the Main Shield at the Hong Kong Citi Soccer Sevens, James Huntley was delighted for Newcastle United Under-21s to end their 2022/23 campaign with silverware.

The young Magpies’ quest for a third successive Main Cup, after winning the title in 2018 and 2019, came to an end on Sunday, losing 2-0 against Aston Villa in the quarter-final stages following Tommi O’Reilly’s brace.

However, Newcastle were placed in the Main Shield semi-finals and secured a final showdown with Leicester City, who beat Newcastle in Group C a day prior, as strikes from Michael Ndiweni and James Huntley sealed a 2-1 win against Queens Park Rangers.

In the final, Amadou Diallo’s deflected free-kick sent United ahead before the Foxes forced extra-time with a late equaliser, resulting in an additional four minutes during a 4v4 clash but Huntley, who was placed in goal, netted the golden goal with a composed low finish.

The 19-year-old midfielder, who joined the Magpies’ Academy at the age of eight, told nufc.co.uk: “It’s a bit of a bittersweet moment because we came here to win the Main Cup but we got put in the Shield and then, from there, we had to do what we needed to do so to win the Shield in the end is really good for the lads.

“It was a tough one to take for us (losing the quarter-final) but the coaches were pleased with how we played, saying it was our best performance yet in the tournament but we just couldn’t convert our chances and they did, which was the difference on the day.

“I started on the bench in the semi-final so to come on and make the difference was massive. That’s what I had to do and I was glad to score and get the team through to the final.

“Going to 4v4 in the final was a tough one because you have to win the ball and be on the ball to start with (at kick-off). When we won the ball, it was massive and we carried on keeping the ball before scoring at the end, which was great.

“During the whole trip, me and the lads have joking around about myself going in net because I’ve just wanted to go in. To finally go in and get the final goal to win the trophy for the lads and staff was unbelievable.”

Huntley, a key figure in the young Magpies’ passage to lifting the Main Shield, admitted he was pleased to end the season on a high, lifting a trophy amongst his team-mates and coaches.

Backed by a strong continent of Magpies supporters at the Happy Valley, Huntley also stressed the importance of the Hong Kong Supporters Club’s support throughout the tournament and was delighted to repay it with a piece of silverware.

The Ashington-born teenager added: “The group of lads we’ve had this season have been great. We’ve got a good bond going and to win that and share that moment with them is amazing!

“The support from the Newcastle fans here in Hong Kong has been massive for the team all weekend. It was mad and I didn’t really expect it! It just shows the size of the club worldwide and how much it means to them to be able to come out and watch us. You can’t really put it into words!”