The North East of England has a history of producing top players, Paul Gascoigne and Michael Carrick, to name but two.
But talent from a region obsessed by football has dried up recently as Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough have struggled.
But their next star is about to burst onto the scene in Elliot Anderson.
The 19-year-old has just penned a long-term contract at St James’ Park as the Toon have identified him as the most talented player to emerge from the academy in years.
It hasn’t always looked good for Anderson, though, as his career at Newcastle has struggled to come to life.
He made his senior and Premier League debut at 18 under Steve Bruce and with Newcastle struggling for results and form, he didn’t play again that season.
This is despite the fact Bruce was impressed by Anderson.
He told reporters in January 2021: “He never looks rushed. Everything is effortless to him and easy.
“I’m very pleased with his progress and he’s one that we hope can do us a good turn over the season.”
But despite this lack of game time, people within the Toon believed that Anderson was the most technically gifted player from the academy since Gazza.
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He was tearing up youth football and was comfortable in several positions, but he needed some first-team action.
Several young players from the Premier League have failed to perform on loan in either the EFL or National League after excelling against players their age.
So this was a big test for Anderson, and it was crucial to see if he would sink or swim.
Nothing came up for him in the summer of 2021, but earlier this year proved to be his big break.
Former Toon midfielder Joey Barton desperately needed a late addition in the transfer window.
So he contacted former team-mate and Newcastle’s loan coordinator Shola Ameobi to see who the Magpies had.
Barton was told about Anderson and a loan to Bristol Rovers was arranged.
It would prove to be an inspired move for the Whitley Bay-born attacker and Barton.
When the Scottish youth international arrived, the Gas were mid-table with promotion to League One looking a long shot.
By the time he left, Barton’s side had gone up, and Anderson was a hero.
In 21 games, he scored eight goals and set up five more, while Rovers only lost three matches he played.
After a 1-0 win over Colchester United, in which he scored the winner, Anderson was compared to legendary Argentine Diego Maradona by Barton: “I’ve been listening to Bill Shankley tapes a lot today.
“He talked a lot about a 19-year-old Diego Maradona and how he slows down in the penalty area, exactly like Elliot Anderson does. (He is) such a talent.
“Elliot has been brilliant for us from the first day we brought him in. I would have paid to watch him tonight – he was that good. He is growing into the shirt and his goal capped an outstanding performance.”
Barton also revealed Anderson earned the nickname ‘Billy’ after fictional North East-based character Billy Elliot because he was like a ‘ballerina’ with the ball.
But his best moment came in his final match for Rovers.
Barton’s men needed to win by seven goals against Scunthorpe United to earn automatic promotion to League One. They were 6-0 up after 80 minutes, and the Geordie boy popped up with the crucial seventh in the 85th minute.
The Gas clung on, and Anderson had done it.
He returned to Tyneside and had half of the Championship chasing his signature during the transfer window.
Eddie Howe gave him a chance in pre-season and he didn’t disappoint. Anderson played against Benfica and Atalanta in the number eight role and never looked out of place.
His displays, and an injury to Jonjo Shelvey, ended EFL clubs’ hopes of signing him and he has impressed in his cameos off the bench so far.
He has been a substitute three times this term and nearly scored a winner against Wolves when he smashed a header off the bar in the dying moments.
Against Crystal Palace, he teased and tormented Joel Ward while creating several chances that his team-mates missed.
He has been capped by Scotland at Under-21 level but is now seriously considering switching to England, with the Three Lions closely monitoring him.
The North East has been a region starved of an outfield player with similar abilities to Gazza, but Anderson is the real deal, and Howe is the perfect man to allow him to flourish.
Certainly, the Newcastle boss is excited by the 19-year-old, and we should all be too because he has everything he needs to reach the top.
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