Tom McNamee

McNamee's play-off preview

by Ashley Houghton

Defender relishing chance to face Villa.

Sunderland defender Tom McNamee believes the Black Cats’ under-18 side have the ability to beat Aston Villa in the Barclays U18 Premier League play-offs this Sunday.

The youngsters have been anticipating the news of their opponents all week as both Newcastle United and the Villans were in contention.

However, Villa hammered Norwich 6-1 on Thursday to confirm their place as winners of Group Two.

And McNamee is looking to extend a good recent record against the Villans having already beaten them 3-2 in Birmingham earlier in the campaign, whilst a Mikael Mandron double sent the young Black Cats on their way to a 3-1 win at the Academy of Light in November.

“We’ve played them twice before, they’re a very good team, they’ve got good wingers and they like to get it out wide and move the ball well,” McNamee explained.

“We beat them before and we can do it again.

“It’s really good [to have an extended season], you think it’s just the league and you’re done, so we’re able to go into this as another challenge – but obviously we want to win.”

McNamee echoed the statements of teammate Liam Agnew when he spoke to on Friday saying that the togetherness of the team has been a huge factor in their improved performances.

“It’s been a really hard season, we’ve come together in the second half of the season and put in some really good performances to get where we are and we deserve it,” he added.

“In the second half of the season a lot of the young lads have come through and started performing and stepping up to the plate, so we’ve bonded well - obviously winning the league has brought us a lot closer together.”

On a personal note, McNamee has featured in more Academy games in 2013 than any other player; he’s been a regular in both the U18 side and the development squad.

And McNamee says the amount of football he’s played has taken his game to the next level.

“It’s been a busy year for me really and I’ve enjoyed it,” he said.

“I’m getting an opportunity in the reserves but also playing in the U18’s – its best of both worlds really.

“It’s improved me already; being able to step up to the next level and trying to rise to the challenge helps a lot.”