Matty Longstaff came into the public spotlight again recently when he joined #PlayersTogether, a charitable movement which was set up to help aid the NHS’s battle against Coronavirus.
Longstaff agreed to donate 30% of his reported £850-a-week wages in a move which gave him nationwide recognition.
Yet the reason that this act got so much attention is that Longstaff, despite playing 12 times for Newcastle’s first team, is ‘only’ on £850-a-week.
This figure puts the 20-year-old well above the UK’s average wage of £585-per-week, but for a Premier League player, he is vastly undervalued.
The midfielder’s contract is due to terminate at the end of June and so far the club has been unable to offer him an acceptable extension, with many fans worried that he may move onto pastures new for the 2020/21 season.
Where did Longstaff come from?
Longstaff signed a two-year professional deal along with five other youth prospects in July 2018.
After a year developing in the U23s, he benefitted from Rafa Benitez’s departure as the club went on a pre-season tour to China without new boss Steve Bruce, who was in the process of travelling to the Far East.
U23 coaches Ben Dawson and Neil Redfearn were put in charge of the Premier League Asia Trophy opening game against Wolves; and with the side 3-0 down in the 64th minute, Longstaff, along with Elias Sorensen, Tom Allan and Owen Bailey, were all introduced as Newcastle debutants.
Although on this occasion the boyhood Newcastle fan had little impact as United eventually lost 4-0, Longstaff did enough to feature in United’s further four pre-season games – culminating in the home game against St Etienne, where just seconds after coming on, he hit a scintillating drive into the opposite top corner from all of 25 yards.
Yet this was to be the last that the Geordie faithful would see of the diminutive midfielder as, despite having a promising pre-season, Longstaff didn’t make the first-team squad for the first seven games of this season.
Breakthrough this season
However, after a 5-0 drubbing at Leicester saw Isaac Hayden sent off, Longstaff was given the platform to introduce himself to the world and took it with a fabulous strike from outside the area; which saw the Magpies beat Manchester United 1-0 – with the debutant’s strike proving to be the solitary goal.
90 minutes in the following two games, a 1-0 defeat at Chelsea then a 1-1 draw at home to Wolves, was then compounded by another spell out of the team – this time for eight games.
It has been a feature of the England U20 international’s season, where he will play for a few games and then spend considerable time out of the team.
Much of this can be attributed to his age, but after scoring the opener in an eventual 4-1 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Boxing Day; Longstaff has played just 185 minutes out of the final 10 league games of the season – up until its suspension due to the Coronavirus.
Is this down to age? Or is this due to a very sour contract saga, for which there are still no obvious signs of resolving?
The Longstaff surname is already a familiar one to most football fans after his older brother, Sean, shone in the tail end of the 2018/19 season under Benitez’s stewardship.
Despite being linked heavily with a move to Manchester United for a fee quoted in the press to be as low as £25m and as high as £50m, a bad knee ligament injury saw him remain at the club – and he has struggled to recapture his original form since returning this season.
But for some people in Newcastle, the surname has already been well known for a long time.
David Longstaff, father to Matt and Sean, was the first ice hockey player to appear 100 times for Great Britain and is still player/coach for the Whitley Warriors in the English third division.
Upon signing his first professional contract in July 2018, Matty discussed the importance of his father’s involvement in his development.
He said: “With playing at the highest level in his sport, my dad knows how to handle certain situations, how to get the best out of yourself, so it’s always good to use him as well as my brother when you go through tough times.”
While his mother and sister are involved in county-standard netball, and his grandfather also played ice hockey for Great Britain, it’s through his father’s cousin where the football connection comes from.
Alan Thompson came through at Newcastle and made 16 appearances before he left to join Bolton Wanderers.
His career would eventually see him play for Aston Villa, Celtic and Leeds United; while he also earned a solitary England cap in a 1-0 defeat against Sweden in March ahead of Euro 2004.
With his vast experience, Thompson is able to guide Matty through any football-specific conflicts which he may have – for example, his market value.
Longstaff contract latest
The Chronicle’s chief NUFC writer, Lee Ryder, suggested that Matty would be willing to accept a basic wage of £25,000-per-week – which would keep him in line with the other squad player’s remuneration at the club.
In October, before scoring against Manchester United, Longstaff had been close to agreeing a deal; but as of February, the last time Bruce spoke about the situation in public, he proclaimed how negotiations had reached something of an “impasse”.
With the nature of being out of contract, Matty is currently able to agree a pre-contract deal with any non-English side; and he was heavily linked with moves to Inter Milan and Marseille earlier on this year.
However, he has clearly not done this, and the general conscientious in the North East is that Matty is holding out for the club to finally match his requests.
Testimony from team-mate
On Saturday, Newcastle loanee Jetro Willems held a Q&A on his Twitter page, where he declared that all he wants is “to sign and play for NUFC”.
Willems injured his cruciate ligament against Chelsea in January, but still had ample time to play and train with the junior Longstaff brother.
During the Q&A the 22-time Dutch international was asked who he thought the most talented player is at Newcastle. His reply? Matty Longstaff.
This may seem surprising for a 20-year-old who has played just seven Premier League games, but it’s clear that Matty Longstaff has such an ability that he stands out against more obvious candidates such as the wizardry of Allan Saint-Maximin or Swiss international Fabian Schar.
His potential needs to be nurtured and developed at a club which cherishes its own, and whether Amanda Staveley’s consortium completes the takeover or not, it’s imperative that whoever is in charge of Newcastle United makes sure that Matty Longstaff’s future is secure for years to come.