BBC Sport pundit Garth Crooks has praised Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce for his decision to start young midfielder Matty Longstaff against Manchester United on Sunday.
The 19-year-old was thrown in at the deep end for his Premier League debut at St James’ Park, and produced a fairytale by scoring the game’s only goal. Crooks believes the manager deserves the lion’s share of the credit for selecting him.
“It is not often a manager takes up most of the column inches in my report but on this occasion Bruce deserves it,” he wrote on the BBC Sport website. “It takes a tremendous amount of courage for a manager to give a young lad his debut against Manchester United when points are in desperate need.
“Not only did the kid deliver, he scored the winning goal. This could have turned out very badly for Bruce, but instead it turned out extremely badly for United and their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.”
Look, Bruce did have to make a big call in picking Longstaff and he obviously made the right one. However, we shouldn’t go overboard in praising him for making a decision like this when his back was up against the wall. Crooks has seemingly used this opportunity to go wild for someone he obviously like and respects in Bruce. However, this was a selection that was forced on the Magpies boss by how uninspired his previous team selections have been. Isaac Hayden was suspended, while neither Jonjo Shelvey or Ki Sung-yueng have looked a good fit this term. Therefore it wasn’t some stroke of genius to go with the younger Longstaff. He had to try something different, because what he’d done prior to this game had been so bad. However, he still made the right decision so credit to him for that. But the big story is Longstaff, not the coach who was effectively forced into selecting him.