Former Newcastle United youngster draws praise after earning contract at Gateshead
Gateshead assistant manager Ian Watson has praised new signing Kieren Aplin after the former Newcastle United youngster signed a one-year deal at the International Stadium.
Aplin has been under the watch of Watson and Heed player-manager Mike Williamson during a trial period that has seen him make several appearances during pre-season.
The 20-year-old played alongside the likes of Lewis Cass, Matty Longstaff and Kelland Watts during his time in the Magpies academy – but his time with United came to a close when he was released at the end of the 2017/18 season.
Aplin has also appeared for Northern League Division One club North Shields over the last year – but will now return to full-time football after putting pen to paper on a deal with Gateshead.
Watson told the Echo: “Kieren has come in and his attitude had been brilliant to be fair to him.
“He impressed us from the first training session and Mike (Williamson) has boxes that he likes players to tick when they are with us.
“Kieren ticked a lot of those boxes and he just kept getting better, his attitude was good, and he kept showing us that he wanted to learn by asking the right questions.
“We now have to nail down his best position because he has played all over the defence and midfield for us during pre-season.
“That will be a challenge, but it will help him more too.”
Aplin is not the only former Magpies academy player to appear for Gateshead during pre-season.
Striker Lewis McNall is continuing his rehabilitation from an anterior cruciate ligament injury that has kept him out of the game for almost two years.
He is currently training with the Heed and appeared during the latter stages of Saturday’s pre-season friendly win against South Shields.
Watson revealed that the striker is impressing during training sessions – but conceded that there are still a number of barriers to overcome.
“Lewis is an unbelievable lad to have around the place, but he hasn’t played for a long time,” he explained.
“People don’t understand when you’re doing rehabilitation from injury, that’s the easy bit.
“The hard bit is coming back into training, going up against lads that are a level up on you in terms of fitness.
“He’s getting through those barriers; he’s getting better every day.
“He knows where the back of the net is, everyone at the club wants him to do well and get back to where he was.
“He will have to keep working and I am sure he will do that because he is a top-class lad.”