Michael Carrick reveals his view on those Sean Longstaff comparisons
Two proud products of Wallsend Boys Club. Two very different reactions to one goal.
There were contrasting emotions for Geordies Alan Shearer and Michael Carrick when Matty Longstaff scored Newcastle United’s goal in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Manchester United.
Shearer celebrated Matty Longstaff’s goal for Newcastle United at St James’s Park from the Match of the Day studio.
“I was jumping around in the studio – what a story,” said Shearer, who yesterday opened a new floodlit 3G pitch at the legendary Wallsend Boys Club with Carrick.
The story was made even better by the fact that the teenager had been playing alongside his elder sibling Sean on his Premier League debut.
“When I saw both on the team sheet, I automatically thought about his parents, knowing what mine went through when I made my debut,” said Shearer. “They must have been petrified and excited in one, and then relieved. A proud moment for the boys and the family.
“Their interview was so refreshing. Maybe Newcastle have been missing that energy and vibrancy.”
Carrick, Man United’s first-team coach, was in the visiting dugout, where he had an entirely different emotion when 19-year-old Longstaff drilled a low second-half shot into David de Gea’s goal.
However, Carrick does like to see young players get a chance.
The challenge for the Longstaffs – who started at North Shields Juniors – and others is to “keep pushing and pushing”, according to Carrick.
“Young lads in general, I just love to see them get a chance – I really do,” said Carrick, one of 85 professional players, among them Steve Bruce, to have come through Wallsend Boys Club.
“I really do. I’d much rather give a young lad a chance and see what they’ve got than not. Being on the receiving end wasn’t that nice, but, from their point of view, terrific.
“As a young kid you get your chance, and then it’s your decision whether that’s enough for you – or how hungry are you to want more and keep pushing and pushing and pushing and never be satisfied. A big part of it is the mentality to keep pushing for more.”
Matty, a phenomenal athlete who gave Bruce’s midfield the legs he felt it lacked, is following in the footsteps of 21-year-old Sean, who made his first-team breakthrough last season and was a transfer target for Man United in the summer.
The older sibling, a technically-gifted player with a superb range of passing, has been compared to Carrick, one of the most gifted English midfielders of the Premier League era.
“I don't like comparisons – it’s not fair on Sean,” said Carrick. “He’s carving his own career out. He has his own traits and strengths. He’s a fantastic talent, and doing well at the moment.
“He’s still young in terms of Premier league games. He hasn't played an awful lot of games yet, but the future is bright for him.”
Asked if Matty had now joined his brother on Man United’s shortlist, Carrick joked: “What list?”
Shearer does see a basis for a comparison between Carrick and Longstaff senior, who has recovered from ankle and knee injuries.
“Yes, definitely traits,” he said. “He has had a good start. His injury was unfortunate. Newcastle are a better team with him in it, because of his energy and legs he gives the team – and his ability to receive the ball. His passing ability is fantastic. He was back to what we saw when he first came into the team.”
Shearer, Newcastle’s all-time leading goalscorer, still feels pride each time he sees another Geordie break through at his boyhood club.
“Absolutely,” said Shearer. “We’ve been there. We’ve been through that development of the hard work that goes in and the hard work that has to start now, basically, because Matty’s now announced himself to the footballing world.
“This is where the hard work begins. Do you sit and relax and enjoy what’s gone on? Or do you say ‘I love what happened yesterday – give me more than that. I want that every week’. That’s up to him.”
Carrick firmly believes that the talent is there on Tyneside – and elsewhere.
“I think it’s hard, but I think if you’re good enough, you’ll find a way through,” said Carrick. “I genuinely believe that. The game’s changed an awful lot from when we were growing up in terms of how far the net is cast to find talent, but, at the same time, I do think you’ll get local lads coming through if they’re good enough.
“It’s about the coaching, dedication and producing the players. Numbers-wise, it’s not as many, but I think the quality’s still there.”
Carrick will always be grateful for the part Wallsend Boys Cub, which was founded in 1904 with the aim of using sport to improve the lives of apprentices at the nearby Swan Hunter shipyard, played in his development – both on and off the field.
“The Boys Club was such a big part of my life,” he said. “It wasn't just about my football, it was the environment, being with my mates, and making me a better person. The football was a byproduct of that.
“Everyone loves this place for the football and all the players who have come through, but it’s probably more about the ones that were not footballers, who speak about the place with great memories.”
The new artificial pitch, made possible thanks to a £564,799 grant from the Premier League, Football Association and Football Foundation, will mean the club can help more young footballers.
And that can only be good for Newcastle – and English football.