Steve Bruce must unleash Matty Longstaff against Aston Villa on Friday night amid claims of a potential recall for the outcast Newcastle United midfielder.
That’s according to Football Insider, who suggest the 20-year-old is set to be re-introduced to the Toon first-team fold after a welcome run out in the academy side on Monday.
Longstaff had not featured for either the Magpies senior team or Under 23s since playing a majority of January 18th’s Premier League defeat to Arsenal, with his previous junior outing coming back in October when beaten at West Bromwich Albion.
Longstaff was given a full 90-minute showcase away to Sunderland as the north east rivals drew 1-1 in the PL2 on Monday in a bid to rebuild his match fitness, with Bruce seemingly set to recall the frozen-out prospect.
January’s defeat at the Emirates Stadium marked only Longstaff’s fourth first-team start of the season in all competitions so far, having enjoyed a mini run in the side after Christmas before being shunned back to the fringes.
The youngster was named on the bench for five of the Toon’s following six top-flight games but has been left out entirely from Bruce’s last three matchday squads, much to the apparent anguish of his teammates.
It is noted that Bruce’s refusal to field Longstaff or his elder brother, Sean, has angered members of the dressing room, as resentment continues to grow towards the head coach who ‘disgusted’ his players with the handling of Karl Darlow being dropped.
The mood at Darsley Park could swing back in Bruce’s favour if Longstaff is now recalled, with the academy graduate thought to be earmarked for minutes – and a potential start – at home to Villa.
Bruce stated that he had been “desperate” to retain Longstaff last summer when his junior contract was due to expire, but the Newcastle boss’ faith in the midfielder has been very questionable since he penned a new deal.
Admittedly, Longstaff’s start to the season was hindered by a “very problematic” thigh injury after suffering a recurrence of the soft-tissue issue that he picked up at the end of last term.
But the 20-year-old had built his fitness with four starts in five games from Boxing Day’s defeat at Manchester City to January’s loss at Arsenal, and kept battling throughout the Etihad Stadium affair despite United clearly being second-best.
He earned a nine out of 10 match rating from Chronicle Live for his performance against Liverpool, too, having been ‘ice cool in the middle of the park’ while dictating how the Toon played on route to a 0-0 draw.
Longstaff again held his own against Leicester City and was solid in north London, yet was benched and booted into the wilderness after that, so he is surely itching for another chance.
And Bruce must hand him one against Aston Villa. Longstaff will be expected to offer far more against Dean Smith’s side than a player like Jeff Hendrick, who was once again one of United’s worst players in Sunday’s draw with relegation-rivals West Brom.
Hendrick has offered nothing of real value in any of his recent outings, while Longstaff stood out – often amongst a sorry bunch – for Newcastle at the turn of the year.
It is surely now time that Longstaff, who almost scored a winner for the U23s on Monday, is given another shot, as Bruce can ill-afford to have any passengers with relegation such a distinct threat.
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