Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Paul Survives a Horror Injury and Baptism of Fire

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Paul Survives a Horror Injury and Baptism of Fire

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

A little over 12 months ago, Paul Huntington came close to losing his head on a football pitch. There were some who feared that it might happen again in West London this week.

Their concerns proved to be unfounded as a 19-year-old awarded a full Newcastle debut in unenviable circumstances came through a baptism of fire in a commendable fashion. Young shoulders he might have, yet what sits on them seems somewhat older.

He almost had no head at all, as Glenn Roeder recalled yesterday at the club's training ground. Just yards from where the United boss stood to discuss this afternoon's Premiership encounter with Watford was where Huntington sustained an horrific facial injury that led to him being hospitalised. The manner in which the teenager recovered was what led his approving manager to first realise that this was an emerging player made of the sternest stuff.

"It was about this time last year that he spilt what the physio estimated was about two pints of blood playing for me in an academy game," said Roeder of an injury that still causes him to wince. "It was just over there. Tim Krul almost took his head clean off as he tried to clear a ball and Paul was chasing back. He was in hospital overnight and he had to have around 40 stitches put in around his eye. When that happened to him, he was in a hell of a state and it was horrible to see."

As Roeder remembered an incident that caused considerable concern amongst the club's medical staff, Krul was being put through his paces on an adjacent training pitch; that the Dutch goalkeeper packs power in his boots was underlined by the fearsome manner in which he was striking the ball.

"Football can change very quickly," said Roeder who, like Huntington, has progressed from the academy to the first team set-up over the course of the last 12 months. "It was awful when he suffered that injury but, within a year, he is in the first team and making an excellent debut at Stamford Bridge. Things have happened very fast for him but he has taken it in his stride."

Having first been bloodied, Huntington has now been blooded and, considering the manner in which the latest youth team defender to graduate into the club's Premiership side has handled himself since joining Newcastle from Carlisle's Trinity School almost 18 months ago, that he handled it without fuss is perhaps no surprise.

But the size of the daunting task he faced on Wednesday evening should not be underestimated. Having previously played just four minutes of first-team football, Huntington was asked to play out of position, in a severely-weakened side, at the home of the double Premiership champions. Just in case that was not a big enough challenge, he was also detailed to mark Arjen Robben ( a pounds 12m Dutch international with World Cup and Champions League experience. …

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