Sean Longstaff on Newcastle United's 'crazy' Premier League turnaround – and what went wrong for him before Eddie Howe's arrival
A lot of words have been used to describe the turnaround at Newcastle United.
Speaking to a huddle of journalists at Carrow Road after Saturday’s 3-0 win over Norwich City, the midfielder simply described the change in fortunes as “crazy”.
Newcastle hadn’t won a game before Eddie Howe took charge in early November, and the team was 20th in the Premier League after his first game in charge.
Longstaff said: “It’s been a pretty crazy turnaround, hasn’t it? It’s something that, behind the scenes, the new manager and staff have put hours and hours and hours of work in.”
One criticism of Steve Bruce, Howe’s managerial predecessor, was that the team didn’t have a clear plan or identity. Howe brought a plan with him – and it’s worked.
“They’ve given us a plan – and we’ve stuck to it,” said Longstaff. “You’ve seen the turnaround in terms of individual performances, and it’s all about the staff.
“As a group, we’re so close together at the minute. It’s been a pretty crazy turnaround, but everyone in the dressing room’s absolutely loving it. Considering where we were to where we are now, it’s such a big difference.”
Longstaff has had to watch much of the turnaround from the bench given the competition for places at the club.
Joelinton, Joe Willock and Jonjo Shelvey have performed well in midfield, and the January arrival of Bruno Guimaraes has made it even harder to get a start.
Howe, looking for fresh legs after two games in six days, recalled Longstaff for the Norwich game.
"It was great – I’ve been champing at the bit to get in,” said Longstaff, who is in talks over a new deal. "When the team’s playing well, you have to hold your hands up and accept the people in front of you are playing well and producing.”
While Longstaff, handed his Premier League debut by Rafa Benitez in 2019, has found starts hard to come by in recent months, he still feels he has improved under Howe. Previously, his development had slowed.
Longstaff’s training and playing with more confidence after a challenging 2021 which saw him left out of the team for two months by Bruce.
“Under this manager, I feel I’ve improved so much in training with him – and that’s a big thing for me,” said the 24-year-old. "Maybe in the last couple of years that learning and development bit was missing a little. That was disappointing for me.
"But the manager has come in with his staff and done little extra bits with me. I feel when I play I’m a lot more confident in what I'm doing. You're playing with Bruno, who comes in and makes the game a lot easier.”
United’s 2,650-strong travelling support enjoyed their afternoon at Carrow Road.
“They’ve had to go through some pretty tough times, especially at the start of the season,” said Longstaff.
“It was pretty bleak. They’ve had a great day out, and it’s great we can send them home happy.
“The changing room’s buzzing. It’s crazy what happens when everyone’s together – ownership, players, staff and fans. It can be a pretty powerful thing. We’re showing that at the minute.”