Outside of the controversial end to the game, there were plenty of positives to take from Newcastle’s display and first-team manager Eddie Howe may be excited by the prospect of promoting a few of the players who were on show.
One teen who caught the eye during the game was left-back, and summer signing, Alex Murphy. Magpies journalist Dominic Scurr handed the gem an 8/10 for his performance, writing:
“The highly-rated defender’s first taste of Tyne-Wear derby action saw him lead the side out as captain. The summer signing got stuck in and was a calm head at the back to help keep Sunderland at bay. Despite being one of the youngest members of the squad, Murphy plays with a maturity and composure beyond his years.”
Murphy signed from Galway United in the summer and their chairman, Jack Barrett, previously claimed that the youngster is a “huge talent“.
The 18-year-old has caught the eye since making the move to Newcastle, and is starting to live up to that tag with Daily Mail journalist Craig Hope claiming that he has been “impressed” by the left-back ahead of the clash with Sunderland earlier this week.
He is an international for the Republic of Ireland at youth level and has shown signs of promise against senior sides in the EFL Trophy this season. In two games against Doncaster and Lincoln, Murphy made a combined five tackles and interceptions, created one chance, and won an exceptional 82% of his aerial battles – as per SofaScore.
These statistics show that he has the potential to play professionally as he has proven, at the age of 18, that he can stand up to the physical test of playing against experienced, senior, players. For context, Dan Burn and Matt Targett have won 70% and 56% of their aerial battles respectively in the Premier League.
He did more than hold his own in those matches as he physically dominated the opposition in the air and this suggests that he could handle the step up to first-team level from that perspective, which is backed up by his 32 appearances for Galways’s senior side.
Therefore, Howe could strike gold with Murphy by helping him to develop into a key first-team player for the Magpies in the future.
The youngster, who has two assists in the Premier League 2 this season, has plenty of years left ahead of him to grow and improve as a full-back, and his early form for the U21s suggests that he is a gem worth mining in the months and years to come.