Two years ago, a 19 year old Matty Longstaff made his Premier League debut for Newcastle United against Manchester United.
Everyone remembers that game. He didn’t put a foot wrong and scored a long-range winner which ended the game 1-0. It was the perfect debut and a dream moment for the local lad. However, since then his time at St James Park has stalled somewhat.
That season, Longstaff made 15 appearances across all competitions and had 3 goals to show for it. Many tipped him to be regular in Bruce’s side over the past season, yet his game time was lessened quite significantly.
This resulted in Longstaff making just 5 appearances last campaign, with a few of these being from the bench. This would be more acceptable if he was still a kid learning his trade in the Academy. At 21 he is still young, but there are a few issues regarding his future and a real need for him to be playing first-team football next season.
Firstly, his contract runs out next summer. This means that the upcoming season could be his last at Newcastle, and then he could walk away for nothing. Bruce is believed to have finally sanctioned a loan move away – he needed one in January if the truth be told – and a number of clubs are after him, with the likes of newly promoted Norwich City said to have made an enquiry. He has also had interest from other leagues, with West Bromwich Albion, Udinese, Anderlecht and Middlesbrough also linked.
On the one hand, this sounds like the ideal opportunity for Longstaff to go out on loan and get some much needed experience – although there’d be a huge decision for all parties to make this time next year should the move not go well.
Hopefully he returns all the better from a season of regular football at senior level and is able to compete properly for a first-team spot in 2022. As the saying goes, ‘you can’t buy experience’ and this is very true. On the other hand, if Longstaff wished, he could also walk away for free summer and would no doubt have plenty options as a result.
So, what would happen in an ideal world? He has a strong 2021/22 out on loan in the Championship, returns to Tyneside in better fettle and signs a new long-term deal at Newcastle. Even if this meant a slight rise in wages, it would probably be worth it in terms of finally protecting his value.
As seen with Jacob Murphy, his previous season in the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday helped build him into a solid Premier League player. Unlike Murphy though, Longstaff is 5 years younger though, so time isn’t as much as an issue.
In short, lets hope that common sense prevails and that Longstaff signs a contract extension which seems good for everyone. Too often in the English game, academy prospects aren’t used correctly and end up wasting valuable years. In a similar fashion, sometimes these prospects can also get their heads turned by short-term deals from other clubs that can also stop their progression in their tracks.
Put another way, it’s probably best for everyone if Longstaff signs a contract extension and then goes on loan to a Championship club. This way, everyone would know where they stand in the summer, with the option for Longstaff to be integrated properly into the first team, or for him to be sold for a solid profit.
As this is Mike Ashley’s unorganised Newcastle though, what makes sense rarely comes to fruition and there’s every chance that we’re back to square one on the contract front when he return from a likely summer loan move.