And Matty Longstaff’s first words to his older brother Sean in the away dressing room after Newcastle United’s 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday spoke volumes.
The elder Longstaff knows he’s not been at his best this season – yet.
Sean’s campaign has been interrupted by injury and suspension. It’s been more stop than start, and there’s been criticism of a player who could seemingly do no wrong in the second half of last season.
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Longstaff, however, didn’t do much wrong at Molineux, where an early goal from Miguel Almiron was cancelled out by a strike from Leander Dendoncker.
The 22-year-old tackled, ran and passed the ball alongside Matty for 90 minutes.
After the game, head coach Steve Bruce said the pair had run a “million miles” along with Almiron.
Longstaff – who broke into the team a year ago amid a midfield injury crisis – has started the year as he means to go on.
And 19-year-old Matty’s post-match verdict was telling.
“You cannot change what’s happened in the past,” Longstaff told the Gazette. “The only way for me to look at it is to be positive and look forward and look at it as an opportunity to prove myself again.
“I don’t listen to what people say on the outside, but I know the people close to me are pretty honest with us, and luckily I’ve got my brother next to me, who’s one of the most honest of them all.
“Even he walked in today and said ‘woah, you’re a bit different today!’. He started laughing. It’s honesty that you need, and that’s probably why we’re so close.”
Longstaff will most likely be in the starting XI at St James’s Park tomorrow night for the club’s a third-round FA Cup replay against Rochdale.
The competition catapulted Longstaff into the team last season. He scored in a third-round replay against Blackburn Rovers almost 12 months ago – and didn’t look back until March, when a knee injury brought his campaign to an abrupt end.
The frustration for Longstaff – who was still recovering from the injury when the players reported back for pre-season last summer – is that, up to now, he’s never had a long run in the team this season.
“Obviously, the first half of the year (season) was a bit disappointing from my point of view in terms of not getting a good run together, to be hones,” said Longstaff, who was the subject of interest from Manchester United last summer.
“Being in, getting sent off, getting injured, it’s been really stop-start. Hopefully, I’ve turned the corner.
“It was at this point last year where I came into the team and did pretty well. Last weekend at Rochdale, I said to myself ‘this is where it all started last year – you’ve got to do the same again in the second half of the season’.
“It was a start (against Wolves). I felt pretty decent out there in terms of passing and a bit more quality. Hopefully, it’s something to build on for me.”
Longstaff was finding his form when he sent off against Wolves at St James’s Park in October. When he had served a three-game ban, he couldn’t get back into the team because of the form of Jonjo Shelvey, who had taken his place.
Asked if the dismissal had had a bigger impact than he thought it would at the time, Longstaff said: “I think it did. Even in the game against Wolves, I was starting to feel a bit better, and obviously got sent off and didn’t end up playing a game for probably eight, nine weeks.
“It’s a long, long time. It’s something else I was disappointed about. Hopefully, that’s all in the past now, and I’m looking forward to that.”
The team, applauded off the pitch by the club's 3,000 travelling fans, was better against Wolves.
Bruce’s side had to be resilient at Molineux after losing Dwight Gayle and Paul Dummett to injuries. Joelinton had to play on with a groin problem.
“We were resilient, tough to beat,” said Longstaff. “For the first 25 minutes, I thought we were really good as well. The injuries disrupted the flow a little bit. It’s a really tough place to come and a really good point in the end.”
The club’s injured list runs into double figures – and Bruce is down to the bare bones.
“We’re been pretty unfortunate,” said Longstaff. “You couldn’t write it, really, in terms of Leicester, then Rochdale, a couple in training and a few today. That’s what you’ve got a squad for, and it’s great for the young lads as well. Hopefully, there’s a chance for them round the corner.”
Bruce was pleased with the way the Longstaff took their chance at Molineux.
United's head coach said: “We’ve got two young kids in the middle of the park – and they were both excellent. They ran a million miles, the pair of them.
“Somebody else will take a chance, a bit like when Sean was forced into the team last year and took off. It might be the same for somebody else. We’ve had two young ones on the bench (Kelland Watts and Tom Allan), so we’ll see what we’ve got for Tuesday.”