Former Newcastle United academy No.9 finding his feet at North East club after injury nightmare
The striker is starting to make an impression at one of non-league football’s most well-known clubs.
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Former Newcastle United academy striker Lewis McNall has endured something of a challenging career so far.
Still only 23, the Gateshead-born frontman was viewed as one of the brightest prospects to come through the Magpies academy not so long ago.
A former team-mate of Matty Longstaff and Kelland Watts, McNall impressed during United’s run to the FA Youth Cup quarter-final in 2017, scoring a late winner in a dramatic 4-3 win win at Sunderland in the fifth round.
The striker progressed into the Under-23s setup and spent time out on loan at Gateshead, only to suffer the first of two cruciate ligament injuries.
McNall was officially released by the Magpies in May 2019 and he suffered the second of those long-term injuries within the first few minutes of a trial at Championship club Stoke City.
After a painstaking recovery process, McNall spent time with Ebac Northern League club Whickham before joining Blyth Spartans last summer.
An underwhelming return of one goal in 22 appearances during his first season at Croft Park was something of a disappointment for the striker.
But now, after being handed the number nine shirt, he has made a far more promising start to the new season with four goals from his opening eight games of the campaign.
McNall, by his own admission, has found a home with the Croft Park club.
He told NewcastleWorld: “On a personal note, I think I’ve started the season well and I feel like I’m finding a home for myself here.
“It’s all about confidence and the game-time is massive, especially as a young lad and a young striker coming back after two or three years out with serious injuries and things like that.
“It’s what I’ve been craving being here for the last year. I probably didn’t get as much game-time as I would have liked last season but I kept plugging away under Terry (Mitchell, former manager) initially and now under the new manager (Graham Fenton).
“I’ve been given an opportunity, I’m really grateful for that, and it’s now up to me to keep proving I deserve to be the main striker at the club.
“It’s only mid-September, I need to carry on that form for the rest of the season and help the team kick on.”
McNall finds himself in the strange position of working under two different managers within the first month of the season.
The departure of former boss Terry Mitchell came just days after a narrow home defeat to Kidderminster Harriers on the first day of the campaign.
Former Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City forward Graham Fenton was chosen as his replacement and he has placed his faith in McNall during the opening six games of his reign.
But Fenton will look to put his own stamp on the Spartans squad and that could mean further competition for McNall.
“It wouldn’t be football - and it wouldn’t be National League North football - if there wasn’t competition for places,” he explained.
“I had that during my time at Newcastle, it’s something I am used to and it’s something I know will happen.
“It’s up to me to keep the shirt, to keep performing because I will be out of the team if I don’t do that.
“That’s how football works, I know that by now and it’s something I am ready for.”
McNall’s latest strike came in Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Farsley Celtic.
The striker fired home a last-gasp equaliser to snatch a point for his side after their visitors had edged themselves in front with just ten minutes remaining.
A hardworking display earned McNall a number of plaudits, including from his new manager during his post-match media duties.
And the 23-year-old revealed he has been equally impressed with the impression Fenton has made since his appointment last month.
“He’s been brilliant for me,” he said.
“As a striker himself, he’s got that knowhow, he’s played at the top level and I am learning from him.
“Looking at last season, when I did play, I didn’t score too many goals - but I think I was trying to hard and trying to impress too much.
“The manager wants me to be more selfish, to stay in and around the box, rather than dropping off and trying to get involved more.
“I just need to keep listening to him, take on his advice and look to improve with every week.”
McNall will hope to grab the first FA Cup goal of his career when Spartans host Northern Premier League club Guiseley at Croft Park on Saturday afternoon.