Manchester City almost lure Geordie whizkid, Shola Shoretire away before he made the move to Manchester United.
David Ballantyne, a former coach at Newcastle’s academy, saw Shoretire first hand before then running him through extra training sessions with his own venture Feet4Football.
“There’s always one or two you just think ‘Wow, yeah – he’s got a real chance of being a player’ and Shola was one of them,” Ballantyne told Chronicle Live.
“I can count on one hand how many I’ve said that about. To me, Shola was like a young Micah Richards at seven and eight, he was athletic, so quick, and just so strong.
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“He was like a ready-made athlete. He was phenomenal and just so quick. That stood out – he just had that natural speed. But no one could get him off the ball as well, he had that strength, and he was light, quickness of feet, light on his feet.”
Even at such a young age, there was a determination in Shoretire that not every aspiring youngster had.
“He was extremely hard-working,” Ballantyne added, “and really tough on himself.
“If he couldn’t get something right straight away or hit every pass – he would get really frustrated with himself because he was a perfectionist.”
Ballantyne saw Shoretire’s development over two years before the youngster moved to Manchester City and then to Old Trafford at the age of 10.
“I knew he would make it somewhere – I was hoping it would be Newcastle but that disappointingly didn’t happen – but there’s one or two where you think ‘he’ll make it’ and it was like that with him.
“From a Newcastle point of view though – it’s frustrating to see the best players leaving the club.
“It’s another one who got away but back then we just couldn’t compete with Man City.”