The chant of ‘he’s one of our own’ has been ringing out at many Premier League grounds recently; Kane at Spurs, Lingard and Rashford at Man United, Rice at West Ham. It’s been a while since Newcastle United fans were chanting this though, the last time being for a certain number-nine striker. On Tuesday night though, the whole of St. James Park burst into song for almost the entire game. The recipient being Sean Longstaff, who scored his first Premier League goal for his hometown club to secure victory.
Christmas was difficult for Newcastle fans, with injuries and defeats aplenty. There was one shining light, however, that came in the form of the English midfielder. Having filled in for seasoned pros in the form of Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey, the 21-year-old is now irreplaceable and must be one of the first names on the manager’s teamsheet. Rafa Benitez praised the youngster in his post-Burnley conference including a subtle jab at an England manager that is accused of ignoring other English Newcastle players.
The Spaniard also likened the midfielder to another Geordie, in Michael Carrick, and stated that Longstaff has the attributes to outperform Carrick, who went on to win five Premier League titles with Man United. The issue for Rafa now might be trying to keep the player grounded. Although looking at the Longstaff family points to that of proven sporting ability.
His dad, David, is still playing professional Ice Hockey as the player-manager of Whitley Warriors, also becoming the first man to reach 100 caps for Great Britain. His mother played netball, and his uncle is former Newcastle and Celtic winger, Alan Thompson. There is another Longstaff in the Newcastle squad, in his brother Matthew, who prior to Sean’s run in the side, was believed to have more ability. It will be a wonder at how good Matthew is if that is the case.
What has been most remarkable about the rise of Longstaff is the calmness and composure shown on the ball. The appetite and hunger is there for all to see too. He outran every other player on the pitch in his first five Premier League starts, including games against Chelsea, Man City and Spurs. The upturn in Newcastle’s form can definitely be attributed to the positive impact that Longstaff has had on the pitch. For someone so young, it will be imperative for Benitez to protect him, but at the same time, he will not be wanting to leave him out of the squad right now.
Newcastle fans’ main worry now will be whether Mike Ashley is trying and cash in on the youngster. As an academy graduate, all money generated would be profit for the owner similar to the Andy Carroll situation. The big striker eventually joined Liverpool for £35 million in what was breakthrough Premier League season. For the moment though, the Geordies will be ecstatic to see a local boy tearing it up with the big boys. Big money may have been spent on Miguel Almiron, but Sean Longstaff could well be the find of the season.