HAVING made his senior Newcastle United debut in last weekend’s FA Cup third-round win over Luton Town, Freddie Woodman is targeting more first-team action in the second half of the season.

Almost five years after joining Newcastle’s academy set-up, and after loan spells at Hartlepool, Crawley and Kilmarnock, Woodman was finally able to walk out at St James’ Park as a senior player four days ago, and the 20-year-old produced a competent display as Rafael Benitez’s side booked their place in the fourth round of the Cup.

Woodman will expect to keep his place for Newcastle’s fourth-round tie at either Chelsea or Norwich City, but the Under-20 World Cup winner is also hoping to push his claims for an opportunity in the Premier League.

With neither Karl Darlow nor Rob Elliot having been able to make the number one spot their own in the first half of the season, Newcastle’s goalkeeping situation is in a state of flux, and Benitez is keen to sign a new shot-stopper before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

A lack of funds might prevent him from doing so though, and if Benitez is unable to add to his goalkeeping ranks, Woodman will be doing all he can to earn a chance to prove himself in the top-flight.

It remains relatively rare for goalkeepers to play in the Premier League in their early 20s, although Jordan Pickford was only 21 when he made his first league appearance for Sunderland at Tottenham in January 2016.

“I’m ready to play,” said Woodman, who saved a penalty in the final as England’s Under-20s claimed the World title last summer. “I feel like I’ve done the bench role for a long time.

“I’ve been on the bench since I was 17, I’m 20 now, and it’s been a long time. Every Saturday, every game I’m on the bench. I’ve just got to continue doing that.

“I’ve had to keep my head these six months. It’s been tough not playing, but I’ve just kept my head down and got on with things. I’ve got in the gym and done extra sessions, and really pushed myself. I knew I could be called upon any time.

“I’ve got to keep doing that, and keep learning under this manager and hopefully get more opportunities. I’m just taking it day by day. I’m buzzing to be at this club, training every day with a fantastic manager and a great set of players. I feel I’m getting better every day.”

Woodman, who is the son of former Newcastle goalkeeping coach, Andy, stepped up to the substitutes’ bench when Rob Elliot suffered a thigh injury at the end of last month.

The plan had been for him to go back out on loan in the second half of the season, but with Elliot still some way away from full fitness, Benitez might well opt to hold on to him as cover.

The Newcastle boss’ faith in the youngster was illustrated by his willingness to start with him last weekend, with Woodman only finding out he would be playing in the middle of last week.

“The gaffer came to me in midweek and said he wanted me to play,” said Woodman. “He didn’t make a big deal of it, and that was it. I carried on training, but I trained with such a smile on my face all week. I was buzzing.

“I had to get my family up to the game. It was just a really nice moment, and I’m grateful he's the manager that's given me the chance. I feel like I've learnt so much under him.”

Woodman acquitted himself well during the game, and while Danny Hylton’s second-half strike might have deprived him of a clean sheet, he was still satisfied with the way his debut panned out.

“I was delighted to tick it off the list,” he said. “To play in front of nearly a sell-out at St James’ is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. To say I've done that, and played for Newcastle United, is amazing.”

Another of Newcastle’s World Cup winners was heading out of St James’ yesterday as Adam Armstrong joined League One side Blackburn Rovers on loan until the end of the season.

The 20-year-old spent the first half of the season on loan in the Championship with Bolton Wanderers, but struggled to hold down a place in Phil Parkinson's first-choice starting line-up.

He left the Macron Stadium having scored three goals in 23 appearances, and has also spent time at Barnsley and Coventry City, where he worked with current Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray.

“I knew Tony from Coventry,” said Armstrong. “It worked well with him and his backroom staff. I know what he’s all about and know what a good manager he is. I’ve had a chat with him and I can't wait to get started.

“I was only a young kid when I was at Coventry, he really helped me and we were pretty successful together there, with the season going well. After Coventry, I thought I'd go back to Newcastle and maybe not see Tony again. But you know what football's like and it's come round again with the two of us.”