Neil Young keeps nerve in impressive Jets debut

HE has terrorised the world's best goalkeepers for 15 years.

But yesterday North Queensland superstar Robbie Fowler went home from EnergyAustralia Stadium unrewarded, denied by an unknown 30-year-old called up for his A-League debut just a few minutes before kick-off.

Neil Young joined the Newcastle Jets in the pre-season as back-up goalkeeper to Ben Kennedy.

Leaving his wife and two young sons in Perth, he knew there were no guarantees he would come any closer to on-field action than warming the substitutes' bench.

But yesterday, as Kennedy had almost completed his pre-match warm-up, he limped to the sidelines with a groin injury that is expected to sideline him for two to three weeks.

The chance Young had been waiting for all his life had arrived.

With little time to compose himself, he grabbed his unexpected opportunity with both hands literally and put in a rock-solid display in Newcastle's morale-boosting 2-0 win.

It was the first time in 27 A-League games, or more than a year, that the Jets had kept a clean sheet.

Afterwards the former West Australian mineworker, who Newcastle signed from Melbourne Knights, shed light on the sacrifices he had made to chase his dream.

He has not seen his wife, Lauren, and sons Owen (three) and Mitchell (one) for six weeks, and was not even able to notify them yesterday that he was playing, such was the lack of notice.

"My wife's coming over in a couple of days for a few days, but I won't see my kids until Christmas," Young said.

"It is very tough, to be honest with you. I do miss them.

"It gets very lonely at night with nobody to keep you company."

Young said Lauren supported his move to Newcastle with one proviso.

"My wife said, 'This is your last chance,' " he said.

"I think I've made the most of it."

Jets coach Branko Culina was delighted with Young's performance, especially considering the circumstances, and declared afterwards that he was now a genuine challenger for Kennedy's position.

"It's up to them to decide who wants it more," Culina said.

Young said he was "always nervous before a game" but "it was probably a good thing" the butterflies did not get a chance to settle in his stomach.

"I was warming up as per normal, and then I looked over and BK was getting looked after," Young said.

"Next thing Branko was having a word to me and I was out on the field. It was out of the blue.

"The senior players Michael Bridges, Angelo Costanzo they helped us out and calmed us down.

"I'm always nervous anyway, but some kind words from those boys helped me out."

Aided by a watertight display from central defenders Ljubo Milicevic and Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Young kept his goal intact.

In the process, Newcastle were able to shut down Fowler, the Liverpool legend known as "God" around Merseyside.

The 34-year-old striker's only real chances were a curling free kick that landed on the top of the net and a goalmouth scramble that left him on the seat of his pants.

Even in the twilight of his career, Fowler can create a goal out of nothing, but yesterday the Jets bustled him from kick-off until the full-time whistle.

Satisfied with his first-up contribution, Young hopes it will not be a one-off.

"If I play next week, it makes it all worthwhile," he said.

"I'd like to keep playing now. That's what I came here to do."