NEWCASTLE boss Alan Pardew has tied up the future of one of his most promising prospects as Shane Ferguson signed a new five-year contract.
Just days after it was revealed that key midfielder Joey Barton will not be offered an extension, the 19-year-old Republic of Ireland prospect has committed his future to the club.
Ferguson said: “I’m really happy. I’ve enjoyed this season so much and the new contract has just been the icing on the cake for me.
“It’s a great thrill to play for the club and the support I have had from the fans since making my debut really means a lot so I’m just delighted to be with Newcastle for the next five years now.”
With Barton seemingly on his way out of St James’ Park, either this summer or when his existing deal expires in 12 months’ time, and skipper Kevin Nolan and full-back Jose Enrique yet to agree extended stays, Pardew’s plans for the new campaign remain shrouded in doubt.
In the circumstances, securing Ferguson’s signature will come as a boost with the teenager impressing in his nine senior appearances in the second half of last season.
Ostensibly a left-back — he made his debut there in the Carling Cup second round clash with Accrington Stanley in August — he performed admirably in a wide midfield role in the final two games of the Premier League, and Pardew admits he is yet to decide which is his best role. With Enrique tipped to leave Newcastle this summer, there could well be a vacancy at full-back, although Ferguson’s inexperience and size — he has been put on a milk and steak diet to build him up — mean he is unlikely to be considered as first-choice yet.
Derry-born Ferguson’s talent has been noticed at international level by Northern Ireland with a substitute appearance in a friendly against Italy in Pisa as a 17-year-old. However, he has now declared for the Republic as he has not yet figured in a competitive game for the North.
That has come as no surprise to Pardew, who is confident he has a real prospect on his hands.
“If I were the two national managers, I’d be courting that boy because I think he has a bright future.”
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