Matty and Sean Longstaff predict their Newcastle United success as academy youngsters almost four years before win over Manchester United
If you want to know the definition of a dream debut, look no further than Matty Longstaff’s match-winning display against Manchester United.
A local teenager making his Premier League debut for the club he supports, playing alongside his older brother and netting a stunning winner against arguably one of the biggest clubs in the world in Manchester United – what more could you want?
The Longstaff brothers, Matty and Sean, are proving to something of a beacon in otherwise dark times for Newcastle United Football Club.
And for the first time, the North Shields pair started a competitive senior match for the Magpies on Sunday afternoon.
It comes just over three years after they started their first game together as Newcastle United academy players.
Aged just 15, Matty made his full debut for The Magpies’ under-18s side alongside Sean, then 18, in a match that the younger Longstaff described at the time as his ‘proudest moment’ in football. It’s safe to say that has since changed.
The contrast of 50,000 Geordies chanting their name at St. James’s Park on Sunday couldn’t have been more striking from the day they played in front of just over 100 people at the academy’s Little Benton base back in 2016.
Newcastle's under-18 side were beaten 2-0 by Manchester City’s development squad in a forgettable game that will arguably be best remembered for the introduction of the Longstaff brothers as part of the same side.
After that game, the duo sat down to discuss their start to life as Newcastle United players in one of their first ever interviews together at the club.
“Today, getting my first start for the 18s and playing alongside Sean is probably my best achievement and my proudest moment here,” a 15-year-old Matty admitted.
Sean added: “It’s a dream come true playing for Newcastle. My best moment has just been getting my scholarship and recently being moved up to the 21s and getting to be around the first team every so often.
“But especially playing at St. James’ Park, you get there and you’re like ahh, the size of the stadium is just pretty amazing.
“Obviously Matty hasn’t been lucky enough to play there yet but I’m sure he will, haha!”
It was a boldly accurate prediction from the oldest Longstaff brother, who made his Premier League debut last December before scoring on his fourth start at St. James’s Park against Burnley in February.
Three years ago, not too many people had heard of the Longstaff brothers.
And in an attempt to describe himself as a player, Matty’s response was a typically Geordie: “I divent kna, I just play and see what people think.”
Sean’s reply was slightly more informative.
“I’m creative, box to box sort of midfield player who will score the odd goal,” he said.
“We’re similar in the way that we’re both good on the ball but I’m more attacking and Matty is more defensive.
“Matty is more of a holding midfield player but he can get forward and pick out a pass or score a goal himself.”
“Aye,” Matty interjected. “I probably like to play in a more sitting role, intercept stuff and start attacks off for the team.
“We’re both different players.”
The North Shields natives joined Newcastle from Shields’ junior side and they haven’t forgotten their roots.
“We both played for Shields, we played together with Owen Bailey who also plays with us here, what age would we of been?” Matty asked Sean, who replied. “Yous were about five-years old.
“Me, Matty and Owen have played together for ages. I came here at under-9s, Owen came in when he was nine I think and Matty came in when he was 11 or 12.
“We basically played football at all ages together so it’s great that we’re playing at Newcastle together now, especially on the same pitch today.
“We’re both from North Shields and we go to watch their Northern League team and we’re heading there straight after to watch the derby against Whitley Bay.
“Being Geordies, we found football naturally because you grow up around it anyway. We played a bit of ice hockey and football when we were younger.”
Sean and Matty spent a year of their childhood in Sweden due to their dad – British ice hockey legend David Longstaff – playing for Djurgårdens in the early 2000s.
Despite their ice hockey heritage, the pair always preferred following in the footsteps of their dad's cousin, former Newcastle and England midfielder Alan Thompson.
“We lived in Sweden for a bit but we moved back with Sean starting school and football is so big around here that’s how we got into it more,” Matty revealed.
“Personally, Simon Brown got us down to Soccer Skills down at North Shields and that was our pathway and we just sort of went from there.”
Sean laughed: “I don’t think our dad would let us choose ice hockey, never! Especially when we were both much better at football anyway.”
“Aye, it was an easy decision really,” Matty agreed.
Before they lived the dream of playing for Newcastle’s first team, the Longstaff’s weren’t much more than young members of the Toon Army.
“We’re both big Newcastle fans,” Matty smiled.
“I remember one of my first games, I went with my uncle. It was the FA Cup against Blackburn Rovers and Hatem Ben Arfa picked the ball up and ran through from the side, cut in and put one in the stanchion.
“That was the moment I realised I wanted to play on that pitch at St. James’ Park. The roar of the crowd was just unbelievable.”
For Sean, the moment that inspired him was from the club’s memorable Europa League campaign in 2013.
“We got to be ball boys for the night we played Anzhi [Makhachkala] in the Europa League,” he said.
“Papiss Cissé scored in the last second and it’s the loudest I’ve ever heard a football stadium. He ran straight up in front of me and at that age I was just in awe thinking ‘wow, that’s amazing, I want to do that’.”
Three years ago, when discussing their main ambition for the future, Sean’s reply was incredibly fitting given recent events.
“I think for both of us, our dream is to do what we did today,” he said.
“We want to play together for the first team at St. James’s. If we did that I think we’d both be really happy but it’s obviously a massive ask.”
“Aye, it’s a big ask that,” added Sunday’s goal-scoring hero Matty.
“But it’s something we both really want and we’re both going to help each other as much as we can to achieve it,” Sean continued.
And as he glanced over at his older brother, Matty confirmed: “Aye, we will.”