2016/2017 stats (for Newcastle United U23s & Hartlepool United in all competitions): 1,064 minutes, 12 starts, 6 sub appearances; 7 goals, 0 assists.
Another poorly kept secret of recent weeks is the protracted pursuit of target man Tom Heardman on a season-long loan from Newcastle United’s development squad. He joins a forward line with a burgeoning number of different roles that could either complement one of James Vaughan and Jermaine Beckford well or give the team a totally different tactical outlook if neither of the preferred pair are available for selection.
The lack of true senior action afforded to the Gosforth-born striker in previous loan spells at Gateshead and Hartlepool United would normally be a cause for concern (and an indictment of larger clubs hoarding promising players, but that’s an issue I’ll cover in a different blogpost). However, he has had an endorsement from current U23s manager and playing legend Peter Beardsley backed up by a one-year extension to his current contract on Tyneside.
Described somewhat unhelpfully by Lee Clark as being reminiscent of “a young Andy Carroll”, his outings in the glorified reserves when not blighted by injury have been fruitful as his goal tally attests to above. He is mobile, unafraid of (and fairly accurate with) taking a chance and shooting with his weaker left foot. He will also look to play in teammates with his strength and ability to shield the ball from defenders. Most crucially of all, his mobility allows him to work the channels to good effect and could be the perfect foil for the likes of Jay O’Shea and Zeli Ismail to make runs in behind the backline.
How many opportunities he’ll receive is up for debate. With five senior strikers currently on the books (six if you count the retained registration of Ryan Lowe), much like George Miller did last season, he’ll need to make an impression from the bench at least at for the opening league matches of 2017/2018 but the EFL Trophy could see him take centre stage.
Perhaps more significant is under Clark’s tenure that friendly overtures have been put out in his native north-east. If Rafa Benítez, Beardsley and the rest of the important backroom staff at St. James’ Park can see that their assets are being used effectively, then it can only augur well for Bury. Whilst near neighbours Manchester City and United normally opting to send their fringe players to continental sister clubs, the Toon Army have no such formal ties. Heardman could be the first of several in the coming year.