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Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff: The New Carrick With Added Ice in His Veins

Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff: The New Carrick With Added Ice in His Veins

Sunday, 10 March, 2019 - 09:30
Rafael Benítez can see the likeness with Michael Carrick in Sean Longstaff ‘s play but the 21-year-old has additional attributes. Photograph: Richard Lee/BPI/REX/Shutterstock
London- Louise Taylor
Anyone who has watched Sean Longstaff play will understand why his name appears in sentences also featuring the words balance, poise, vision, and assurance.

Perhaps a little part of that is due to the year in which Newcastle’s midfielder of the moment spent every spare hour virtually living on an ice rink in Stockholm where his father, David, starred for Djurgården, one of Sweden’s leading ice hockey teams.

By the time he returned to north-east England and began playing football for North Shields juniors, Sean was still only five but, already, his game seemed unusually well calibrated. For one so young, his calmness under pressure suggested that something of the Stockholm ice had transported itself into his veins.

Unbeknown to a primary school prodigy swiftly recruited by Newcastle’s academy, his father’s career had reached a sliding-doors moment. David Longstaff’s talent was much coveted – he would become the first Great Britain ice hockey player to win 100 caps – and there were offers to emigrate to Canada from NHL sides.

A new life on another continent beckoned but he and his wife Michelle – an excellent netball player – could not quite break the ties to north Tyneside where David, 44, is the player-coach of Whitley Warriors.

Staying put dictated that Sean and his brother Matty – two years younger and another midfielder, impressing for Newcastle’s Under-23s – were destined to concentrate on football rather than ice hockey.

Already, Sean has emulated his uncle, the former winger Alan Thompson, in breaking into Newcastle’s first team. The 21-year-old has spent part of this week telling television interviewers he is “living the dream” after earning lavish plaudits in the course of the 12 appearances – eight in the Premier League – he has made for Rafael Benítez’s side this season.

Since making his league debut as a substitute in the 4-0 Boxing Day defeat at Liverpool, highlights have included a key role in a January home win against Manchester City and his first league goal, scored in Tuesday’s 2-0 home victory over Burnley.

Longstaff’s two-footed central-midfield skills have attracted the attention of the England Under-21 manager, Aidy Boothroyd, who seems certain to call him up to his next squad, not to mention numerous comparisons with another Geordie, the former Manchester United and England midfielder Michael Carrick.

If the similarities in the pair’s straight-backed running style are irresistible, they also share a certain serenity, namely that invaluable knack of appearing to always find time on the ball and rarely looking rushed or snatching at passes.

Throw in vision and a varied passing range and we are in doppelgänger territory but Benítez emphasizes some differences. “I can see that [the Carrick likeness],” says Newcastle’s manager. “But, at this stage, Sean has more mobility and stamina. Certainly he has the technique and he can use both feet as well.”

(The Guardian)

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