Steve Bruce has made a host of damaging mistakes during his time on Tyneside, and one of those that isn’t talked about enough is how he’s handled the two Longstaff’s.
Talk of a fallout between him and Sean has been reported – not to mention the fact he’s made a promising player’s career go backwards via awful management – but his actions towards Matty over the past two months have been baffling to put it mildly.
The 20-year-old eventually signed a new deal after being promised a path to first-team opportunities. He got his chance at the back end of last year and did well, offering energy, enthusiasm and a sense of calmness on the ball in games against Man City and Liverpool, also putting in a decent shift in a narrow defeat to Leicester at St James’ Park.
For a young player that had gone almost 12 months since his last Premier League start, he came in and offered something different, yet two months on he’s been frozen out by Bruce – failing to feature in four of his last five matchday squads.
He finally returned to action today, but not quite how he would’ve hoped a day after our biggest game of the season. After Bruce opted for the anonymous Hendrick in Sunday’s stalemate at West Brom, both Matty Longstaff and Elliot Anderson started in our U-23’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland this afternoon.
So, not only has he been axed for no apparent reason, it seems he’s been demoted back to reserve level. OK, he needs minutes to stay match fit, but this isn’t what his promising performances deserved and certainly not what he expected after eventually penning a new deal last year.
Considering we’ve played a three-man midfield for several weeks now and have seen the likes of Jeff Hendrick land his fair share of starts – a player who offers so little to our engine room – Matty’s absence has been a mystery.
Watford are believed to have offered him a loan move in January, but he reportedly rejected their advances in a bid to fight for his place at St James’ Park.
Sadly, it seems that place is back where he started almost 18 months ago now, highlighting how our U-23 start has taken one step forward and two steps back under Bruce through little fault of his own.