The last 18 months have certainly been disappointing as Newcastle fans in the main, with a mediocre manager lucking his way from jammy result to jammy result, displaying little to no tactical nous. It’s had us pining for a certain bespectacled Spaniard on more than one occasion, that’s for sure, but what about the players?

I’m looking at two in particular. Yes, it’s the North Shields dynamic duo of Sean and Matty Longstaff. Both brothers have seemingly gone through a strange 18 months at the club, with highs and lows for both. From breakthroughs to breakdowns, composed finishes against top 4 clubs to complex contract wranglings, we’ve had it all.

Starting with Sean, once the jewel in our youth development crown, he has seemingly been affected more than not just younger bro Matty but any other player in the squad by Rafa’s departure. Under Benitez, and alongside Issac Hayden, he forged his spot in our midfield, delivering composed performances and looking every bit the player to build our midfield around. This additional praise brought not just added pressure, but also admirers in the shape of Manchester Utd who were reportedly looking to lodge a £30m bid to take the player the media dubbed the “Next Carrick” to Old Trafford.

A knee ligament injury and change of manager later, and we’d be lucky to get £3m for Sean at present. I really rate this lad, but facts are facts: his Nufc career has gone backwards quicker than a Michael Jackson moonwalk. Now I’ve looked into this in detail on previous articles for TF so I won’t repeat myself – this is more of an overview. We have an undoubtedly talented young player here, a player who’s suffered in his key developing years by being at a basket case of a club. At the end of the window, if the rumours are to be believed, he had the chance to go out on loan, a move that may have helped him rediscover the previous form that made him stand out, and return to Barrack Road at his best. A move he knocked back, this in spite of a rumoured fall out with Bruce. After seeing his press conferences I can’t blame him.

Turning our gaze towards the younger of the brothers now in Matty. Now I actually think Matty had a more justified reason to stick around this window than perhaps big bro did. Allow me to explain. Despite Matty’s blistering debut vs Man Utd being one of the only good things Bruce had done during his reign at the club, he found himself in the shadows again for a sustained period of time. A combination of contract stalls (I bet he questions signing that at times) led to Matty being dropped completely from squads until the matter was resolved. It was and he signed on the dotted line and was a Nufc player for another two years, even taking the number 4 shirt. We could be forgiven for thinking we’d see more of Matty than we have. Sadly all this also coincided with a niggling injury that made us forget about the ginger midfield maestro for a while.

In true Bruce style, he brought Matty back for a couple of small games against average opposition in City & Liverpool. Matty put in 2 very good shifts and reminded us what a decent little player he is. Now, this is where I understand why he hasn’t moved on. Matty’s experiencing the “fickle” side of the game – 1.5 games of Shelvey bothering to show up has made many suggest Matty should’ve gone out on loan to progress, and whilst I understand that viewpoint, one swallow doesn’t make a swan for me.

Shelvey will revert to type and very soon, I’m confident of that. So having Matty in the squad is, to my mind, better, as, let’s face it, Ashley wouldn’t have brought in a player to have replaced him. So, as and when Jonjo puts his slippers back on, Matty will be there to step back in, and I for one would be excited to see him with Hayden or Willock in the middle of the park. The reality is though, as it stands, the lads have become 5th & 6th choice midfielders behind the likes of Hayden, Shelvey, Hendrick (I can’t believe I actually typed that) and the new boy Willock now.

So it’s up to them to work hard on the training pitch with the manager, and Steve Bruce…, to try and force their way further up that pecking order. You’ve noticed I left out Eliot Anderson who arguably may have leap frogged them too now. I’m sure as fans we all want to see these two local lads rediscover the form over the coming months that made us all big fans of theirs. There have been some interesting questions by the fanbase on social media, as to whether staying was the right thing for the lads, and whether their agents and advisors are doing their jobs well enough?

Good questions that only Sean & Matty can answer now, by knuckling down in training, taking their opportunities when they come and showing us all that they’re the players we know they can be and hope they are.

CHRIS CURRIE –  @wig82