Linfield’s latest signing Michael Newberry, who joins on an 18 month contract, is a central defender but can play anywhere across the back four and is known to be comfortable in possession.
He is a native of Newcastle upon Tyne. He joined the Reds House Farm junior club in Newcastle at a young age and played there until he was scouted to join the Newcastle United academy when he was eleven and he played there for nine years before his release in 2018.
Interestingly, Michael is a former winner of an award which has Linfield links – the ‘Wor Jackie Trophy’ - named after the great Jackie Milburn. Jackie is undoubtedly one of the best players to ever play for Newcastle United where the prolific frontman banged 238 goals in 492 appearances for the Magpies. Such is the esteem Jackie is held in on Tyneside, he has a statue outside St. James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United. Jackie of course also wore the Linfield jersey and is one of The Blues’ greatest ever players, too. It came as a shock when Linfield pulled off the signing of the England international forward who remains one of the most high-profile players to grace the Irish League. At the age of 33, ‘Wor Jackie’ became Linfield player-manager after a £10,000 transfer from Newcastle United in 1957. He guided the Blues to a league title in 1959 and to a League and Cup double in 1960 and he scored in Linfield’s first ever European Cup fixture as Linfield defeated IFK Gothenburg 2-1. In 54 appearances for Linfield, Jackie scored 68 goals and was named the Ulster Footballer of the Year in 1957-58. The ‘Wor Jackie Trophy’ is handed out by Newcastle United every year to the club’s brightest academy talent, and in 2016 Michael was singled out as one to watch after a strong season where he made 14 appearances in Premier League 2 – the Premier League’s reserve league – under Peter Beardsley. He beat the likes of Sean Longstaff – who has since established himself as a Newcastle United first team regular – to the award, joining the likes of Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi as a past winner of the prestigious trophy.
Unfortunately for Michael, just as things were looking positive after winning the ‘Wor Jackie Trophy’, he was dealt with successive long-term injury blows and was subsequently released by his boyhood club Newcastle United two years later in 2018. Some have said that Newberry’s dedication to self-improvement at Newcastle by committing to extra training or gym work actually proved costly as it led to a “small crack” in his back. Michael said in an interview at the time that he considered quitting the game after suffering the setbacks, but thankfully, an unlikely move got his career back up and running.
Newberry was on trial with Motherwell when a call came offering the possibility of a move to play in Iceland, but he would have had to leave the following day. And so he packed his bags and within 24 hours he was off to Olafsvik – a small town on the western coast of Iceland with a population of just around 1,000. Michael had to adapt to astroturf pitches and a summer league format when he signed for Vikingur Olafsvik who had just been relegated to the second tier in Iceland before he arrived. In his first season he missed just two league matches, making 26 appearances in all competitions as Vikingur missed out on promotion back to the top flight by six points.
In Michael’s second season they finished fourth again, missing out on promotion. In his third and last season with Vikingur, they were disappointed to finish ninth, but Michael didn’t let his performances drop and picked up the ‘Player of the Season’ award. He leaves Iceland with the benefits of having more than 70 professional first team appearances under his belt and after opting not to extend his contract with Vikingur, it was reported than he was interesting a number of teams in the Icelandic premier division before making his way to Windsor Park. Although he’s a defender, he did play some games in midfield during his time in Iceland where he was a full-time professional.
Michael has represented Northern Ireland at under-19 and under-21 level, qualifying to represent the country through his father who is a native of Belfast and he has extended family living in Northern Ireland. He scored for the under-19s in a 2-1 win against Norway in European Qualifiers in 2015. Newberry also made two appearances in the Super Cup NI - previously known as the Milk Cup - and his Newcastle United team reached the semi-finals.