Newton to swap Westleigh Park for Estadio Azteca

Hawks fedender Jake Newton   Picture: Dave Haines
Hawks fedender Jake Newton Picture: Dave Haines
Ryan Pennery netted for Moneyfields. Picture: Neil Marshall (171026-11)

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Hawks defender Jake Newton will swap Westleigh Park for one of the most historic stadiums in world football next month.

Just weeks after helping the Hawks ensure their Blue Square Bet South safety on the final day of the season, the full-back will line up for World Cup-hopefuls Guyana at the Estadio Azteca.

There, the Golden Jaguars will take on hosts Mexico in the penultimate stage of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying rounds on June 8, before returning home to face Costa Rica in their second group match.

Newton, who helped Guyana knock out Trinidad & Tobago in the last qualifying round, could see himself come face to face with two of Mexico’s star performers – Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos of Spurs.

That prospect will be daunting enough for the Hawks player.

As will the thought of stepping out into the 104,000-capacity stadium in Mexico City – the venue for two World Cup finals and Maradona’s infamous Hand of God goal against England in 1986.

‘It will be unreal and I wouldn’t swap it for anything,’ Newton said.

‘Just to walk on to a pitch which has hosted some of the greats in world football will be tremendous.

‘Mexico have only ever lost one World Cup qualifier in the stadium and we will be playing in front of a large crowd.

‘It will be an occasion to remember.

‘We know that we will be up against it because they have world class players like Hernandez, Dos Santos and Marquez (previously with Barcelona and Monaco) but we are all looking forward to it.

‘Our aim is to go out there, compete and see how far we can go.

‘No-one ever thought we would get this far, so we have nothing to lose.’

Before arriving in Mexico, Newton will face another new experience.

With the Estadio Azteca 2,240m above sea level, the Guyana squad will travel to Colombia for some high-altitude training.

They will also face the Columbia national side in order to fine tune their preparations for the Mexico game.

‘The team have never played at high altitude before so these two weeks will be an important part of our preparations,’ Newton added.

‘We will play the Colombian national side as well as a first division outfit.

‘It is a fantastic adventure for all of us and we can’t wait.’

Newton has 11 caps for Guyana, who are currently 99th in the world ranking after making his international debut against Cuba in 2008.

Guyana will qualify for the CONCACAF’s final qualifying round of the 2014 World Cup if they finish in the top two of their current qualifying group, which also includes El Salvador.