It’s been a truly bizarre, indeed almost nightmarish, season for Matty Longstaff at Newcastle United.
Described as “talented” by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp, the 21-year-old showed in that stunning goalscoring performance against Manchester United in October 2019 that he has the ability to be a top-drawer player for the Magpies.
Speaking after that game, Arsenal icon Martin Keown declared: “The young lad should be knocking on Steve Bruce’s door and saying ‘Why didn’t you play me sooner?’ It was almost to say to the boss, ‘Hey, look at me, you have overlooked me for too long.’
“It was like a Paul Scholes…I know that’s big praise and they are big boots for him to copy, but him and his brother – Carrick, Scholes…you know, they did very well. And this is an important ingredient now in this Newcastle team, yes they were more disciplined but those two definitely won them the game.”
However, after putting pen to paper on a new deal last summer, things have gone horribly south for the younger Longstaff, playing just five games in the Premier League all season and not featuring at all since mid-January.
It has raised a few eyebrows to put it mildly, not least from the rest of the Newcastle squad apparently. The Athletic’s Chris Waugh revealed: “Steve Bruce, the head coach, has simply opted to exclude the academy graduate, much to the bemusement of team-mates and the player himself.
“There have been some suggestions that his naivety at Premier League level is part of the reason, yet that does not tally with the decision to field Longstaff against three of the very best sides in the division over the Christmas period.
“This season really needed to be one during which Longstaff was given opportunities. The club, Bruce and the player all recognised that. So, if those chances were not going to arrive on Tyneside, then surely a loan deal would have been in the player’s best interests.”
However, with the final day of the Premier League season now here, surely Bruce has no excuse but to give the £4.5m-rated Longstaff the chance to shine.
After being promised genuine first-team opportunities this term, there’s no questioning that the 21-year-old will be frustrated, maybe even livid, at being cast aside for the majority of the season – not least considering how badly the Magpies were struggling prior to the March international break.
The clash against Fulham later this afternoon should offer him an overdue chance to taste first team football.