Longstaff ‘privileged’ to represent Newcastle in cup final after conquering injury troubles

LONDON: In a different world, Sean Longstaff could have been lining up for Manchester United in the Carabao Cup final this afternoon.

However, he is an integral piece of Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United jigsaw.

The Geordie was a $60 million target for the Red Devils in 2019, but a move for the now 25-year-old fell through over valuation.

A dip in form then followed the Old Trafford links, and the midfielder looked set for a Magpies’ departure but for a renaissance under Howe.

“It is exciting more than anything,” said Longstaff ahead of this afternoon’s clash with Man Utd at Wembley.

“It is a new experience for a lot of us, so we are just trying to take every day in our stride and not think about it too much. You don’t want to be burned out by the time the final comes along,” he said. “But it is a chance to play in a cup final for Newcastle — and that’s not something that comes around too often, so I am lucky and really looking forward to it.”

The links to Old Trafford were unsettling for Longstaff, and many around Tyneside in the years under Rafa Benitez, but he has since had a coming-of-age at St James’ Park.

While the later years of the last century were progressive for the academy product, it has been the resurgence under Howe that has proven a real meaningful moment in the North Shields lad’s career.

“It was, but more because I was trying to come back from an injury,” said the midfielder of the Man Utd distraction.

“Obviously Rafa was here at the time, I was close with him, then he left and the new manager (came) in. It was a race to be fit, I wasn’t really fully fit but felt I had to play to show the new manager. It was just bad timing with everything. I had only played nine games, I had played at Blackpool (on loan) and now your name is being mentioned (with a move). Everyone wanted to speak to me about it.”

Longstaff says it was a “weird time”, and he recalls thinking that he could not bend his knee.

“It happened at 20, 21 and I came through it,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason. If you’d say I was going to stay and play in a cup final for Newcastle United, I’d have snapped your hand off. I am really happy how it has turned out.”

Emotions are something that dominate things when it comes to Newcastle United fans, having not been to a final since 1999.

However, Longstaff is keen to make sure that stays out of things come Sunday afternoon.

“I think if someone told me a year and a half ago I’d be about to play in a cup final for Newcastle, I am not sure I would have believed them,” said Longstaff.

“I feel as though it has been quite an up and down journey — one I have enjoyed. You have to just be as positive as you can be,” he added. “I will walk out Sunday or be around to support whoever does, but just to be there, to soak in the atmosphere and the occasion is something I feel very privileged to do.”


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