This is what Matty Longstaff REALLY needs at Newcastle United
It was a “no-brainer” for Matty Longstaff.
Longstaff, after months of speculation, signed a new two-year contract at Newcastle United last summer.
Speaking at the time, the midfielder said: “I spoke to Steve Bruce, and we talked through it, and it was a no-brainer.”
A lot has happened since Longstaff decided to stay at his boyhood club. However, Longstaff – who broke through the season before last, and memorably scored the club’s winner against Manchester United at St James’s Park – hasn’t played a lot of football.
In fact, the 21-year-old has played just 377 minutes of first-team football.
Admittedly, the injury which saw him miss the start of the season didn’t help, but, unquestionably, it’s been a frustrating season, on a personal level, for a player who had hoped to kick on after signing his new deal – and Longstaff's disappointment is understandable.
In Longstaff’s own words, it “hasn’t gone to plan”. Speaking to BBC Radio Newcastle earlier this month, Longstaff said: "This year has been a big learning curve for me.
"Last year, I kind of got thrown in, and I thought I did pretty well, got a few games under my belt, but this year hasn't really gone to plan. But as I said, it's been a big learning curve, and you have times like these in your career which are tough, and you have to get through it, but hopefully next year can be a big one with whatever may happen."
What was stranger about Longstaff’s omission in the last few months of the campaign was that he did well when called upon after Christmas.
Longstaff came in against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium – who would go on to win the Premier League – and impressed, despite a lack of match fitness.
Starts against Liverpool, Leicester City and Arsenal followed – then the football, inexplicably, stopped.
The club blocked a January loan move to Watford, and, in hindsight, Longstaff would have been best served getting games away from St James’s Park following the mid-season signing of Joe Willock from Arsenal.
Longstaff has just one year left on his deal – and if he is to succeed at Newcastle, the club needs to have a clear plan for him.