MLS

Matty Longstaff enjoying fresh start with Toronto FC after difficult spell

By Sports Desk April 10, 2024

Matty Longstaff is enjoying a fresh start with Toronto FC having gone from the highest of highs with boyhood club Newcastle to dealing with injuries, frustration and the business side of the beautiful game.

If you were writing a script for a young Geordie, then scoring the winner against Manchester United on your Premier League debut at a packed St James’ Park would be the dream.

Better still, teenager Longstaff did that playing alongside his older brother and appeared set to follow Sean in establishing himself as a Newcastle regular.

The midfielder made 15 appearances during the 2019-20 campaign and scored at Old Trafford, but things ultimately did not go to plan for a midfielder starting anew in Major League Soccer with Toronto.

“You probably don’t realise how special it is until down the line, you realise how difficult it was to actually go and do that,” Longstaff told the PA news agency.

“When I came through, I didn’t have any lows. Broke through, scored on my debut against Man United, played that season, felt like I’d done well, obviously scored at Old Trafford.

“Everything just kind of seemed to roll on. You don’t really think about anything – you just play, play, play.

“Then certain things come up and suddenly you’d start to stall. It gets a bit tougher and then you realise that it’s a business and it’s not what you think it is. As bad as it sounds, it’s a business at the end of the day.

“Obviously I was there and then you’re gone and you have to accept it because ultimately, players are going to come and go.

“When I’m 19 breaking through, you just think ‘I’ll play here and this will be me for my career’ but then in about six or seven months, you soon realise that it’s completely different and you never know what’s going to happen.”

Longstaff’s breakthrough attracted interest from Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, including a lucrative offer from Udinese, but he was always “praying” for a new deal where his “heart lay”.

The homegrown midfielder eventually signed a new contract with the Magpies but only made five more appearances for them, spending time on loan at Aberdeen, Mansfield and Colchester.

The latter spell was ended by an anterior cruciate ligament injury on Boxing Day 2022, leading to a gruelling rehabilitation programme and uncertainty after his Newcastle deal ended last summer.

“I did every bit of the rehab there,” said Longstaff, who is full of praise for his former club. “I was really lucky.

“When I ran out of contract, I got a phone call off (sporting director) Dan Ashworth in the off-season when I’d ran out.

“Let’s be honest, as a player you never know what can happen with clubs and stuff, but they were absolutely spot on with me.

“Dan just rang me and said ‘look, Matty, we’re going to keep you here for the full rehab process, it doesn’t matter how long it takes’.

“Dan and the gaffer (Eddie Howe) at Newcastle were unbelievable with us.”

Longstaff says it “makes such a big difference to you when you know people actually care”, with that help even extending to aiding his move to Canada.

 

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The 24-year-old met Ashworth and Toronto boss John Herdman – who hails from nearby Consett – at Newcastle’s training ground during rehab, leading to a trial and signing a two-year deal.

Longstaff so far loves life in Toronto – his brother Sean’s “favourite place” – and is full of praise for an “unbelievable” club, who he made his debut for off the bench against Charlotte a month ago.

“I hadn’t played a competitive game in 15 months, so you miss that feeling,” he said. “The way the fans went on, it was unbelievable.

“Something I’ll remember and hopefully the longer I’m here, I can give them a few more opportunities to cheer.”

Longstaff has since made four starts for TFC and is excited to be starting this new chapter at a time when MLS is beginning its own with the 2026 World Cup looming large.

“It’s showing what a good league it is now,” Longstaff said. “I’m looking forward to playing more.

“When you look at the players that are coming here and what’s happening round here, it was a bit of a no-brainer.”

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