Matty Longstaff was due to spend the season in Newcastle United’s academy, but the teenager is bordering on a first-team debut in the Premier League.
Just a year ago, the younger brother of Sean Longstaff was plying his trade in the reserves, bidding to put together an impressive account for himself that would book a seat on the plane to Asia for the Magpies’ pre-season tour.
He managed to do just that, and shone off the bench in the Premier League Asia tour ties against Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United, before earning his first senior start in Black and White against Preston North End.
A return to the reserve fold with Ben Dawson has not, yet, been on the cards for Longstaff either, who travelled to Carrow Road last week, and just missed out on a spot in the 18-man squad who faced Norwich City.
The club are said to be considering a new contract for the 5 ft 6 Toon product, too, and Longstaff has shared his gratitude for the trust shown to him by Steve Bruce.
“I have loved every minute of it, and I can’t thank Steve Bruce and his coaching staff enough,” the 19-year-old told the Chronicle. “They have helped me everyday.
“They have trusted me to go and play. When I have got on, I am doing enough to stay around the place, and remain part of the squad.
“At the start of pre-season, my aim was to get out on loan. But pre-season went well, and I have remained in the squad.
“The plan was completely different to the way it was mapped out. I thought I’d go to Spain with the reserves, then head out on loan. Thankfully, I got a chance.
“I took a couple of the opportunities that came my way and hopefully there are more to come.”
Longstaff’s changed role has been one of the only shining lights to emerge during Bruce’s tenure of Tyneside so far, and offers promise that the academy is producing top talents that will supplement the first-team rather than fade into the wilderness before being sold.
His appearances in Asia showed a tenacious young holding midfielder, as he buzzed around the pitch in his cameo outings winning the ball back and applying pressure to the opposition.
Bruce could hand the teenager his senior debut in the Carabao Cup tie at home to Leicester City next week, and see how well the youngster holds up against Premier League competition in a competitive fixture.