Bruce's praise for Longstaff ahead of Chelsea trip
Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce hinted Matty Longstaff could get another opportunity to impress at Chelsea on Saturday after his debut-day heroics against Manchester United last time out.
The Magpies head to Stamford Bridge this weekend (3pm kick-off) just under a fortnight on from the 1-0 win over the Red Devils at St. James’ Park, which came courtesy of Longstaff’s memorable strike.
The 19-year-old’s man-of-the-match display on his first Premier League appearance, where he played alongside older brother Sean in midfield, saw United enter the international break on a high.
And now, with Frank Lampard’s side next up, Bruce says the teenager – who he says has been “like a kid in a sweet shop” following his bow – could well keep his place in the side for the trip to London.
“From day one, he’s been knocking on the door, and it was always a case of ‘when do I put him in?’” said Bruce. “The circumstances were right. Man United live on the TV was all about him. Since I joined up with the squad in China he’s the one who has constantly performed well in training, and his enthusiasm for it is there for everybody to see, so he deserved his chance.
“He’s got to handle all that comes so hopefully we can help him in that respect but certainly, as far as debuts go, I don’t think I’ve witnessed as good a debut – not just the goal, but that caps it off – but it was the way he played in the whole game. He was terrific.”
He added: “I think it’s been quite refreshing for all of us, to witness the interview (Longstaff gave after the Manchester United game). That’s why I picked him – his interview beamed out of the television, (that’s) what he’s all about.
“It brought a refreshing humility to us all again, and it was a wonderful debut from the kid. The big thing now is to try and help him, protect him, and nurture him along the way because he’s got a big, big future ahead of him – but what a great start.”
The two-week break has allowed some of the Magpies squad to continue their recoveries from injuries, with the likes of DeAndre Yedlin and Dwight Gayle – who have both only recently returned to action – now looking to keep themselves in contention.
Bruce said that only two of his senior players are set to miss the game at Stamford Bridge, which has given him a welcome selection headache against Lampard’s “very fine group of young players” – though he admits it means he will have to leave some of his players at home.
“It was nice to go into the break with a win, I have to tell you, and also there was one or two carrying knocks but thankfully they have overcome them,” he explained. “At the minute, we only have Matt Ritchie and big Flo (Florian Lejeune) injured so we’re nearing towards a full squad, which is always good because a few of them have been out a few weeks.
“It was good to see them back on the training ground, and see what they can do. Dwight Gayle and DeAndre Yedlin in particular – it was good to see them back on the training ground again and see what they’ve got. That can only be a good thing for us.
“Obviously I’ve got to disappoint a few today, because when you have got that many then you’re leaving four or five behind, but that’s the nature of football.”