NEWCASTLE United are the latest Premiership club to cast their eye over York City goalkeeper Russ Howarth.

The Evening Press can reveal the City starlet trained with the Geordie giants earlier this week with United boss Sir Bobby Robson monitoring the highly-rated youngster at first hand.

City manager Terry Dolan confirmed Howarth did spend a couple of days in the north-east and said the 20-year-old could return to St James' Park for further trials.

If he does, Howarth, who is on week-to-week terms with City, will remain available for selection by the Minstermen and was expected to be on the bench for City during this afternoon's Division Three clash with Oxford United.

Howarth, who trained alongside Newcastle's Republic of Ireland shot-stopper Shay Given, will also continue to play for City reserves if his trial spell with United is extended.

The young England shot-stopper has only just mended his bridges with City after refusing to play in a pre-season friendly against Sunderland.

However, City boss Dolan has always insisted he would not stand in Howarth's way should a big club come up with an acceptable cash offer.

Howarth, who refused to play in the Black Cats game because he feared an injury could scupper a proposed move to Wolves, later saw his dreams of joining the Midlands' outfit scuppered.

Wolves offered just £60,000 for the youngster - a fee labelled as 'insulting' by City chairman John Batchelor.

A move to Newcastle's Premiership rivals Tottenham Hotspur also floundered, while Howarth has previously had unsuccessful trial spells with top-flight trio Leeds, Sunderland and Everton.

However, he remains one of the country's top goalkeeping prospects.

Just last month he was called-up by David Platt for the England Under-21 squad.

And having been capped by his country at every level from U16s to U20s he is now on standby for the England U20s squad that tackles Germany in Dessau on October 24.

Despite his U21s call-up, Riccall-based Howarth remains eligible for the U20s, who next year are to compete in the World Youth Championship, to be staged in the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, City's third-choice goalkeeper John Collinson, was making his FA Cup debut this afternoon.

City and Collinson have sprung to the aid of non-league Billingham Town, who were hit by a goalkeeping crisis ahead of their Cup clash with Accrington Stanley.

City chief Dolan said Collinson, 19, had joined Billingham just for today's game initially.

Billingham were given special dispensation by the FA to field Collinson in this afternoon's encounter.

Teams normally have to register a player for a cup game at least seven days prior to kick-off.

Updated: 11:03 Saturday, September 28, 2002