The Despite the North East being the birthplace of some of the best players to have graced the game (think Shearer, Gazza Beardsley Carrick – nevermind the world Cup winning brothers from Ashington) NUFC has certainly in recent years not been known for with producing quality from its academies. Yes Andy Carroll stepped out of the shadows when so called superstars like Owen lead us to relegation and became a talisman for the club. Besides Steven Taylor who was up & down but at times looked an England CB in the making (mind you his curly haired partner may have made him look better?) and the ever steady nowt fancy Paul Dummet, there’s not much to crow about is there?
Cut to Rafa Benitez (remember him!) playing Sean Longstaff in a twoman midfield with Issac Hayden last season. We were all sceptical but what we saw was a player with incredible potential and ability. Tall, agile, a great engine, good on the ball with a calmness way beyond his years. We had a proper player on our hands! This prompted the hysterical media as they often do with young British players to throw out the “He’s the next…” line. In this instance the comparison for Sean was non other the “pass master” Michael Carrick! No pressure eh? However Sean seemed to have the maturity to ignore it & with Rafa behind him we weren’t worried but then we all know what happened next right?
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So what’s happened to Sean this season? Why has he gone backwards? It’s a combination of struggling to recover from his injury – was perhaps rushed back too soon? The main issue for me is what’s happened on the touchline. He’s gone from having a coach who was able mould Xavi Alonso in to the best ‘DM’ on the planet to good old “Brucey” trying to suddenly make him a no.10! This is a crucial time in Sean’s development and I fear this sudden downgrade in manager has largely contributed to his form this season.
As much as I’ve stuck the boot in to Bruce there is one thing he did I and many of us were in huge favour of was introducing Matty Longstaff to the side. What an impact the kid had! A lad of 18 strutting round the park making Pogba look like a pub team player with a game different to his brother but a real eye for goal and the ability to strike ball. We all beamed with pride watching the brothers smiling there way through the interview with Sky & I’m sure many of us thought that we could have our very own version of the Neville brothers at NUFC. Matty showed after the Man United game that it wasn’t just a one off and the lad gave us something to be excited about.
So that brings us to now and we couldn’t be further from those ‘Carrick’ type displays from Sean & Matty (the new Scholes) smashing in clean driven strikes from 20 yards past top 4 keepers could we? We have a club in limbo regarding who will own it moving forward and a championship manager at the helm. So whats next for the Newcastle brilliant brotherly duo? We hope that Sean can rediscover his form and get back to where he was and despite his dip in form. However Matty seems depressingly to be away. How has good old Brucey handled it? He’s continually thrown the young lad under the bus by telling supporters “We’ve made him a great offer & it’s up to the lad” and whilst many fans see through this bullshit by our yes man manager sadly many have turned on Matty and thrown the “greedy” tag at him. Put yourself in his shoes for a bit? He’s been head and shoulders better than the likes of Joelinton (£70k per week) and he’s seen likes of Rob Eliot (£35k per week) who’s not actually played for 3 years! Surely wanting a comparable wage isn’t that much of a crime? Or has he simply just had enough of this circus and the fact the manager has played a pub team player in Bentelab ahead of the lad in recent weeks. It would appear he has made his mind up to take the Sancho route and go abroad to develop his game.
I can’t help but think if we’d had the previous manager at the helm both the Longstaffs would be in a better place at NUFC right now but we’ll never know eh? As we’re all wiping tears from our eyes at the collapse of the takeover we need these lads more than ever, not just for their ability as footballers but what having them on the pitch means to the fanbase.
So let’s hope they can convince Matty his future is in Newcastle alongside his brother who gets back as close as possible to that hidden gem Rafa polished.
By Chris Currie