The iconic number nine shirt means a lot to the supporters of Newcastle and whoever wears the prestigious number upon their back carries a great weight on their shoulders. Andy Cole, Les Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Obafemi Martins and Andy Carroll have all donned the shirt since 1993 and between them they have scored over 300 goals in the Black and White stripes. The number nine shirt is currently uninhabited, as a result of Carroll’s departure to Liverpool, but another young Geordie is waiting in the wings to realise his dream of being the proud owner of that shirt. While he is unlikely to be the next recipient of the famous jersey, nineteen year old Phil Airey is going the right way about staking his claim for the future.
Airey doesn’t carry the same physical presence as his predecessors Shearer and Carroll, he is more of the ilk of a striker who will poach goals in the penalty box and make nippy runs in and out of defenders. A player profile on the BBC website has described him as “Feisty, powerful and stocky, in the mould of Craig Bellamy.”
Airey wasn’t destined to be a future number nine when he started out his career in the Newcastle Academy. The Northumberland born lad initially started out as a right back, but he eventually discovered he had a knack for goals and moved into a forward role within the U18’s. Airey was soon given his chance in Peter Beardsley’s reserve side and the young striker took his chance with both hands and smashed home an impressive eight goals in nine games in the 2009-10 season. Airey has carried on where he left off this term. He is the top scorer with eleven goals in Premier Reserve League North Group A. Airey’s only appearance for the first team was thirteen minutes of F.A Cup football in the third round defeat to Stevenage in January.
From the early promise Airey has shown in the Youth and Reserve team set up, he has the potential to make the step up to the first team in the coming years. Newcastle have £35 million at their disposal this summer, therefore a new striker is most definitely on the cards. This leaves Airey some way down the current pecking order, so I would suggest the next step towards Airey’s development would be a loan move to a Football League side next season. This way he can gain invaluable experience and it will give him a real taster of being involved in a first team set up. With Newcastle’s season edging towards its climax Airey will no doubt be desperate for the opportunity of a run out for the first team in one of Newcastle’s four remaining fixtures.
For now Airey will remain primed in the background of the Newcastle squad, but I for one am looking forward to what the future holds for this young sharpshooter. Whether he will go on to wear the legendary number nine shirt remains a mystery. However, you can rest assured that being a local boy there will be nothing he wants more than to spend his football career celebrating goals in front of a packed St James’ Park with 9 Airey on his back.
Written by Tom MacGregor