Exclusive: Newcastle United breakthrough star eyeing January loan exit after ‘scary feeling’

The United youngster has opened up on his development, changes in the academy and the example he wants to follow.

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Newcastle United youngster Dylan Stephenson believes his boyhood club have been ‘taken to the next level’ as he prepares for the next step in his own development.

The Blyth-born forward was the subject of interest from several clubs across the EFL, National League and in Scotland during the summer but remained on Tyneside to continue his development in the Magpies Under-21 setup.

However, the interest in Stephenson remains strong and there were several scouts in attendance as he appeared for the young Magpies in a 2-0 home defeat against their Aston Villa counterparts in recent weeks. There is an expectation that Stephenson will be handed a first opportunity to experience first-team football by completing a loan move away from Tyneside before the end of January - and the 20-year-old has one clear example he wants to follow if he is granted an opportunity over the next fortnight.

He told NewcastleWorld: “You see other players that go out and they get the experience, they come back and they are like a totally different player.

“Elliot (Anderson) is an example of that, he went out on loan to Bristol Rovers, he shined there, and he came back a much better player and look where he is now. He’s the one I do look up to because I’ve played with him from under-15s all the way through until he started being up there (with the first-team squad) all of the time.

Elliot Anderson celebrates a scoring a promotion-winning goal for Bristol Rovers.Elliot Anderson celebrates a scoring a promotion-winning goal for Bristol Rovers.
Elliot Anderson celebrates a scoring a promotion-winning goal for Bristol Rovers.

“(I) definitely want to go out on loan to get experience and experience men’s football, see what it’s like. Obviously I had a bit with the Papa John’s Trophy but you want to be surrounded by men’s football and everything that comes with it.”

With seven goals in 13 appearances during the current campaign, Stephenson has continued to build on the momentum he gained during what he described as a ‘breakthrough season’ last year. A return of 13 goals and three assists in 27 games for United’s second string brought him to the attention of Eddie Howe and his coaching staff after they arrived at the club in November 2021.

The young forward was handed a chance to train alongside the likes of Bruno Guimaraes, Callum Wilson and Kieran Tripper throughout the second half of last season and made a first senior appearance in a pre-season friendly against Atalanta earlier this year.

The youngster was part of the Magpies squad that made the trip to Saudi Arabia before Christmas as he found the net against Al-Hilal as Howe’s side rounded off their warm weather training camp with a 5-0 win against the reigning SPL champions before being handed a further cameo in a St James Park friendly with Rayo Vallecano just over a week later.

Reflecting on his time training and playing alongside the first-team squad, Stephenson admitted it was ‘a scary feeling’ walking out at St James Park and revealed the impact it had made on his Newcastle-supporting family.

He said: “It was a breakthrough season last season and I got recognised up there (within the first-team), so that was what got me the opportunity to train with them and to be involved with the pre-season games, so it was a real positive.

“I think every kid growing up in Newcastle will dream of that (running out at St James Park), so it was a scary feeling to do that. It was a massive opportunity for the lads that got picked and for our families. I grew up in Newcastle so they were absolutely chuffed. I’ve always wanted to play for Newcastle, and it was even better to score a goal. It was an indescribable feeling to do that in Saudi, it was a friendly, but it was an opportunity and it was an amazing feeling.”

Improving the Magpies academy and the way in which young players are developed is one of the key aims of the PIF-led consortium that brought an end to Mike Ashley’s 13-year ownership of the club in October 2021. Investment is already underway and sporting director Dan Ashworth is believed to be a regular visitor to the academy and has taken interest in the progression of prospects across all age groups, with some sources suggesting he has asked for updates on the development of specific players during training sessions.

A change in mentality and approach has not gone unnoticed by Stephenson, who revealed his brush with United’s senior men has made him realise just how much the club has been taken to ‘the next level’ over the last year.

“You watch them and they’re good Premier League players, so you see the level you have to get to and it just makes you want to push even more to get to where they are. I think the whole club has been taken to the next level, it’s all gone up a level with investment. That has brought the whole academy up as well. You can feel it, the messages are different, just little things but it’s all added up and I think there will be a huge shift in the next couple of years from now to then.”