Newcastle United: Is the criticism toward Sean Longstaff fair?

Sean Longstaff of Newcastle United F.C. (Photo by Newcastle United/Getty Images)
Sean Longstaff of Newcastle United F.C. (Photo by Newcastle United/Getty Images) /

Sean Longstaff has gone from fan favorite at Newcastle United to a player who is constantly criticized.

Newcastle United brought shame to the north east with their performance against Leeds United yesterday. Aside from one or two players who put in a good shift, Newcastle United struggled as a collective unit as they conceded five goals despite parking the bus for most of the game.

One player in particular that left fans fuming with his performance was Sean Longstaff. The 23-year-old lost the ball far too easily, was second-best in almost every duel, and he was slow to react to the Whites’ counter-attacks, which contributed to the demolition of his teammates on the back-line.

The problem, however, is not just with yesterday’s performance. Longstaff has been a shadow of his former self ever since Rafa Benitez left last June. Under Benitez, Longstaff was a rising star who began attracting the attention of some of the Premier League’s most notable clubs.

His composure on the ball, his hustle to recover the ball and quickly orchestrate a counter-attack, and his willingness to get involved in the action offensively made him a fan favorite.

In fact, Longstaff was so good and consistent when he first broke into the team that Jonjo Shelvey was left riding the bench, and he even gave an interview at the time saying how difficult it was seeing the youngster take his place.

Longstaff experienced a dip in form last season, but the Toon Army cut him some slack since it was his first full season with the squad, but his performances have only gotten worse. At times, he no longer looks like a Premier League player, yet Steve Bruce continues to give him chance after chance.

If Longstaff was 19 or 20, the narrative and tolerance level among fans would be much different, but being 23 going for 24, Longstaff is about to enter his prime as a player, which is why his current regression is so frustrating.

Yes, Longstaff is a local lad who worked his way up the academy, and that is why fans expressed their immediate support for him when he was promoted the Premier League squad, but he needs to realize that standards are set in place at this level.

No one on Tyneside wants Longstaff to fail or lose confidence, but his performances over the last couple of months sparked a declining faith among fans.

A resurgence would be welcomed in a heartbeat, but does he have the motivation and mental strength to bounce back to the days of his Premier League debut?

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Time will tell, but for now Bruce needs to think twice before considering Longstaff as a starter.