‘World as his oyster’ – ‘Quiet’ Newcastle talent has gone under the radar but has wowed Eddie Howe


Elliot Anderson is not the only rising star aiming to impress Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe this summer. The Magpies boss has so far been keen to cast his eye over the academy’s talents despite the options at his disposal in the transfer market. However, the task now facing a youngster bidding to make their black-and-white breakthrough is arguably tougher than ever.

Anderson is considered by many to have the best chance of making the first-team grade, having already made his United debut as well as shining on loan at Bristol Rovers last season. However, there is another promising midfielder who is quietly making a name for himself having ‘hugely impressed’ Howe in recent months.

Lucas De Bolle only signed his first professional contract last summer and is yet to make his senior bow for the Magpies. Within months of Howe’s appointment, the head coach spotted the 19-year-old in a development fixture and called the midfielder up to work with the first-team.

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The boyhood fan had previously trained under Steve Bruce, but loan moves for several youngsters opened the door for a more extended run of sessions since the turn of the year. De Bolle even made his first appearance in a Premier League matchday squad for the home win over Aston Villa in February, and would take his place on the bench for three further fixtures.

Howe singled out the midfielder for praise after the Villa victory, highlighting the teenager’s technical ability and versatility. It was these qualities which also stood out for the Magpies’ former lead player development coach Chris Hogg, who joined the club shortly after De Bolle made his under-23s debut at the age of 17.

Hogg told ChronicleLive: “I always wanted to get Lucas up as part of the under-23s group. Lucas is one who has some real good qualities technically, he’s very able and can do some really good things. He’s such a good character, a really nice kid and one that you really want to do well. Hopefully he can continue to push and develop, and make that step up.

“From the outside, it looks like he has impressed the manager and whatever he is getting now will be valuable for his experience in terms of his own development. Training with the first-team is invaluable, so hopefully he can keep pushing and wanting to get better and get the experiences to make a good career for himself.”

Owen Bailey was the captain of the under-23s when De Bolle joined the ranks, although the midfielder was plagued by injuries before being released last summer. During this lengthy time on the sidelines, the young Magpies made their way to the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals before being thrashed by eventual winners Aston Villa.

De Bolle was one of those to impress during this cup run, and this form led to an initial senior call-up under Bruce just before the takeover was confirmed. Bailey, who is now preparing for his second season at Gateshead FC, praised the versatile midfielder’s character following his introduction to the under-23 setup.

He said: “I think the main thing I saw was him being a nice lad, a quiet lad. He was confident enough to show what he’s got on the ball, but he was never arrogant in any way. It’s good to see him doing well and getting opportunities to train with the first-team as that will benefit him going forward. He deserves it.”

Quiet is the word chosen by many of De Bolle’s team-mates both past and present to describe the talented teenager. Tom Allan was considered one of the academy’s brightest prospects when the Scottish-born midfielder graduated to the under-23 setup.

A rich vein of goalscoring form earned Allan a two-year deal in 2020, and led to loan spells at Accrington Stanley and Greenock Morton. By the time the forward returned after the latest loan stint, De Bolle was almost unrecognisable.

Allan said: “When I first went on loan, he was just one of the young, quiet lads in the changing room. I think he was an under-18 at the time. I came back, he was like a different lad. He was tall and he’d grown into his own body.”

Bailey added: “In terms of the physical side of the game and strength, he doesn’t get exposed in that way because he’s clever in the way he uses his body. I’m sure the more exposure he gets with the first-team and in games, the more he’ll learn in terms of the physical side of the game. He’s got the height advantage, and he’s really agile and silky on the ball.”

De Bolle even earned the training-ground nickname of the ‘the glider’ from Allan and kitman Michael Richardson due to this effortless ability to evade opponents. The United prospect’s skillset means he is most often used in a central role, but is capable of filling in a wide role on either flank.

It is this style of play which has obviously endeared the rising star to Howe, who will look to slowly but surely transform Newcastle from counter-punchers into a team which dominates possession. It is why fans have tipped Anderson and fellow playmaker Joe White, who spend the second-half of last season on loan at Hartlepool United, to potentially have a long-term future under the Magpies boss.

Reflecting on his experience of playing alongside De Bolle, White said: “He’s a good team-mate to have, I like a technical type of player who wants to keep it on the floor who can create and play one-touch.

“He is quite similar to me in terms of that. He’s deserved what he’s had since I’ve been on loan, and I’m happy he’s had his chances on the bench as well.”

It is still early days when it comes to assessing De Bolle’s senior prospects on Tyneside, despite the extended first-team audition and matchday squad cameos. It appears as though the young midfielder is currently ticking all of the right boxes, but the teenager could be handed a difficult and potentially defining decision in the coming weeks.

Lewis Cass enjoyed two productive loan spells with Hartlepool United and Port Vale, before turning down a contract from the Magpies this summer to sign permanently with the League One side. The former academy defender believes De Bolle’s recent progress and bench appearances will have ‘raised eyebrows’ and could lead to interest from clubs willing to offer senior football.

Cass said: “He will have a few options this summer, and he’ll have to decide what’s best for him. If he’s training with the first-team everyday, then really that could be the best thing. He might decide the best thing for him is to try and get into the Premier League matchday squad and train every day with the first-team, which might develop him a lot more. Everyone works differently, and you only know yourself what will work best for you.”

It is a possibility which Howe and loans co-ordinators Shola Ameobi and Peter Ramage will almost certainly discuss this summer regarding De Bolle and a host of academy stars. But regardless of the decision the club and player come to, the midfielder’s former team-mates are convinced the teenager will have a bright future with the Magpies.

Bailey said: “If you look at his trajectory, it’s only been up. He has progressed well through the age groups, he’s going the right way and now he’s getting more and more exposure to the first team, that’s only going to benefit him. He’s an intelligent lad off the field, and he shouldn’t have any bother in terms of being grounded or his focus. He is very determined and focused, the world is his oyster at the minute.

“He’s someone who shows more about what he’s about when he’s on the ball, so playing the way that Howe does, that will definitely help him. If he keeps getting the chances, where he goes from here is only going to go upwards.”

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