There is a standoff at St James’ Park which has been running on for “far too long” which has bubbled, relatively, under the radar and doesn’t involve any geopolitical petrostate feuds. Unless the situation changes, Matty Longstaff is set to depart the club in the summer at the end of his contract, with Udinese appearing to be the most likely destination for the 20-year-old having reportedly offered him a £30k-a-week contract.
The younger of the Longstaff duo is said to have turned down a £15k-a-week long-term deal to remain at St James’ Park, and manager Steve Bruce described Newcastle’s latest offer to the player as “fantastic”, though he is yet to sign.
Nevertheless, the 20-year-old midfielder has not started a single match since the return of the Premier League, but a double injury blow against Tottenham Hotspur threatens to end that, whether Bruce likes it or not. Fabian Schar has featured in midfield in recent weeks, ahead of Longstaff, with the Magpies manager citing his “physicality” as the reason behind the decision, rather than being as a result of the central midfielder’s contract situation.
But against Spurs, the Swiss defender dislocated his shoulder and will now miss the remainder of the season. At the same time, it has also been confirmed that Jamaal Lascelles has had ankle surgery, causing him to miss the final two Premier League matches. That duo joins the growing list of players on the St James’ Park treatment table which includes, Allan Saint-Maximin, Andy Carroll, Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden.
Bruce is rapidly running out of options in midfield, and he may well require Longstaff to return to the starting eleven against Brighton at the weekend. Jonjo Shelvey and Nabil Bentaleb are the only other centre midfielders available to the Newcastle boss, but both have seen their fair share of action since the restart. The England international has missed just 38 minutes since the resumption, while the former Spurs midfielder has accumulated 340 minutes.
To avoid risking further injuries, Bruce may be forced to start Longstaff, who has only appeared in cameos from the bench of late. The manager may be frustrated with his current situation with the prospect failing to commit himself to the club, but it would be foolish to risk the fitness of other squad members at Longstaff’s expense.
As for the player, this may be his last opportunity to convince Newcastle to offer the 20-year-old a deal, which meets his personal valuation. Meanwhile, for fans, unfortunately, this could be one of the last glimpses to the Toon Army get for a player with a bright future ahead of him.