Exclusive: Released Newcastle United star opens up on exit, injury nightmare & his future

The former Newcastle United star has reflected on a challenging year as he looks to take the next step in his career.
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The last 12 months have been a painstaking process for former Newcastle United midfielder Matty Longstaff.

On Boxing Day 2022, having come off the bench just eight minutes earlier in an away game at Gillingham, the Magpies academy product suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during the closing stages of what would be the final game of a loan spell with League Two club Colchester United.

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A loan spell that was hoped to be the inspiration for a move away from a frustrating period in his career had turned into a nightmare and left Longstaff facing up to a year on the sidelines. In the space of 12 months, the hardworking midfielder suffered the first major injury of his career, was released by his boyhood club and has been through a challenging recovery process that is now entering its final weeks.

Challenges, both physical and mental, have been met head-on. Where anger and frustration once resided, positivity and a renewed hope for the future are now prominent. Longstaff, with the backing of his Dad, former Great Britain ice hockey international David and older brother and current Magpies midfielder Sean, has been battled his way through it all and is now ready to repay their faith and support.

In an exclusive interview with NewcastleWorld, he said: “I came on for the last ten minutes of a game, tried to turn and I just felt a pop. I knew as soon as I heard that pop I had done my ACL. They had a lad did the same injury in the first-half and I said on the bench you could tell it was bad - but I didn’t know that would happen to me seventy minutes later.

“The biggest thing you learn in football is that 70 or 80 percent of the game is mental. It’s probably stuff people don’t see because they turn up on a matchday and judge you on 90 minutes. But, as a player, you have everything in training, preparing properly, dealing with the ups and down.

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“I have my brother to lean on, you see the stuff he’s been through and where he’s at now. There’s nobody better to look at and I have the same with my family and friends. My Dad has been great, he’s always honest, too honest sometimes, but I’ve needed that and sometimes you do need that tough love, especially when I’ve been through the last year. My Mam, Dad and the family have been there for me and I appreciate that.”

Support has also come from his former club after Longstaff’s recovery was aided by key figures within the Magpies hierarchy. In his own words, the likes of of Eddie Howe and Dan Ashworth have been with the 23-year-old ‘every step of the way’ over the last 12 months in a sign of what he believes has been a major change of attitudes at St James Park.

“I can’t thank Newcastle enough for what they’ve done. Everything I have needed, they’ve been there for me and I’ve been working with the physio Alex throughout. She’s been unbelievable and I’m very lucky with the way the manager and Dan Ashworth have dealt with me.

“They’ve allowed me to be around the building all of the time, they speak to me every day and keep me involved in everything. That shows the sort of people that are around the football club now, it’s not just about football with them, they’re about the human side of things too. They’ve been with me every step of the way.”

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With his rehabilitation and recovery now in the past, Longstaff is rapidly closing in on a return to training and should make the biggest step yet over the coming week. What follows lies in the hands of his agents, CAA Base, the same agency that represents Magpies star Kieran Trippier, and any interested clubs.

Several clubs across the Championship, League One and League Two have expressed a desire to take a personal check on Longstaff’s post-injury progress and there has also been some interest from clubs in two European countries. Having previously considered a move to the MLS earlier in his career, Longstaff has admitted he would be open to a move out of his comfort zone and testing his fortunes abroad.

“You need to assess all of the offers but I’ve always said I would be open to moving abroad and maybe the timing is right now,” he explained.

“I would be up for it but I would look to what’s around England first because we have some of the best football leagues in the world. I just think some of the different styles abroad would be good to experience and at 23 it could be the right time to do that if the right offer came in. I’m still young but I’m at the age where I need to play regular football.

Sean Longstaff and Matty Longstaff. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)Sean Longstaff and Matty Longstaff. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Sean Longstaff and Matty Longstaff. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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“Hopefully once I’m in training I can start speaking to clubs and seeing what options there are out there for me. I’m looking forward to speaking to them and seeing what is out there for me because it’s time to move on.

“I know I need to be somewhere where the manager wants me and the people at the club want me because that is when I perform at my best. When I come back I need to get to my peak again and wherever I end up going I am sure I can get back to my best.”

Feeling wanted is not necessarily something Longstaff experienced in the aftermath of putting pen-to-paper on a new two-year deal at Newcastle during the summer of 2020. After seeing his previous deal run out just weeks earlier, the Magpies academy graduate was the subject of serious interest from Serie A clubs Udinese and Inter Milan, as well as three clubs in the Bundesliga.

However, the heart ruled the head and a new agreement to prolong his time with his boyhood club was thrashed out with the understanding Longstaff would receive increased game-time after making just five Premier League starts following that memorable debut against Manchester United.

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What played out was something very different as the former England Under-20 international was limited to just four starts during the following season by former manager Steve Bruce - and although he did earn widespread praise for a man of the match display in a goalless draw against Liverpool, frustration proved to be the theme of the campaign.

Over the last two years, loan spells with Aberdeen, Mansfield Town and Colchester United have provided further frustration and that culminated in Longstaff’s release from Newcastle during the summer. Surprisingly, when it is easy to look back at what could have been, the midfielder is fully focused on what still could be in the future.

Newcastle United's Matty Longstaff celebrates scoring against Manchester United on his Prmeier League debut in October 2019.Newcastle United's Matty Longstaff celebrates scoring against Manchester United on his Prmeier League debut in October 2019.
Newcastle United's Matty Longstaff celebrates scoring against Manchester United on his Prmeier League debut in October 2019.

He said: “It’s tough to live with regret and yes, if I knew how things would pan out, I am not sure I would have stayed at the club. Newcastle are my boyhood club, I grew up supporting them and I had a manager telling me to stay because I was going to play games for him.

“You get told that and you’re never going to leave the club because your heart is always with Newcastle. It felt the right decision but obviously looking back it’s hasn’t been. What has happened in the past has been great but I want to go on and do something with my career now.

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“I’m fully focused on doing what I need to do and I can’t afford to look back at things. You can get trapped in the past, it was great what happened with the Manchester United goals and stuff like that but I have to look ahead and take the next step in my career.”