It’s been another season of toil for Sean Longstaff under Steve Bruce. The promising young midfielder has experienced long spells out of the team beginning with the start of the campaign.
Longstaff didn’t get his first league start until the win against Everton in November, though he did start all of the league cup matches. The Everton game began an eight-match string of starts for the local lad culminating in the disappointing defeat at Brentford in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup.
That was one of the many low points of this season as the lads meekly let a fabulous opportunity for a cup semi-final slip away. Steve Bruce had started a very strong squad bringing striker Callum Wilson and then number-one goalkeeper Karl Darlow into the team.
Sean Longstaff was on the bench for the next two matches before returning for the losses to Leicester and Sheffield United, another low point of the season. After the defeat to the Blades, which represented their first win in the league, Longstaff was out of the team for the next few months.
When asked about Sean and his brother Matty’s absence from the team in February, Bruce said that the duo must ‘roll up their sleeves’, ‘be prepared for competition for places’, and ‘find that consistency.’
Sean finally fought his way back into the team. It was after another low point in the 3-0 loss at Brighton just before the international break. Bruce again made wholesale changes to his team and formation.
Longstaff was back in the starting eleven for the draw against Spurs. He had made his first appearance in months as a substitute at the Seagulls. Longstaff played very well against Tottenham and has kept his place during our four-match unbeaten streak.
He gave an interview with NUFC TV earlier in the week and said the following about his recent run of games:
“I’m loving it obviously. To be out for, or not play a game for three months was really frustrating. It would have been quite easy to go the other way.
“That’s not the type of person I am. That’s not the type of person my Mam and Dad raised. When the going gets tough, it’s about finding out who you are really. I’ve got a really good strong group around me.
“There were a lot of times in those three months where I thought I trained really well. I went home and looked myself in the mirror and was happy with what I was doing.
“I knew if I did get a chance, I would be ready. Obviously, what you do in training replicates itself on the pitch.
“So I was confident when I got back in the team. I was just waiting for the opportunity. It probably took longer than I wanted it to. Hopefully, I’m not going to let my chance go past me.”
In his short career so far, Longstaff has struggled for consistency. That seems to go hand in hand with his confidence. Though, he showed great fortitude in getting through his disappointment earlier this year.
Sean did all that he really could do, which was train as hard he possibly could. Later in the interview, he revealed that he’s his own worst critic and is sort of a perfectionist with his training and performances.
This is how Longstaff responded when asked about the high expectations he has set for himself:
“Yes, 100%. The staff says pretty much every day to stop being so hard on myself.
“I want to be perfect in everything that I do. If that doesn’t happen I can sort of beat myself up a little bit.
“I’d rather be that way than let things slide and not do things properly.
“I probably am my own worst critic. It’s probably good at times and not so good at others.
“It’s ultimately about me working hard every day and getting better every day. I feel as though the best way to do that is to be extra critical of myself.”
Unfortunately, Matty Longstaff hasn’t had his opportunity just yet. With the brothers both entering the final year of their current deals, we’ll probably witness another contract saga played out next season.
As for now, all they do is train as hard as possible and hopefully, Matty’s chance will come and Sean will continue to improve as a player.