Rocking up at Rugby Park in January 2017, few Kilmarnock fans will have known who Sean Longstaff was. Even fewer could have predicted he would go on to become a Newcastle mainstay.
Longstaff arrived on a six month loan deal from the Magpies, looking to gain some first team minutes he desperately needed. He played 16 times over the course of his time at Rugby Park, scoring three goals as Killie finished in a disappointing eighth place.
He’s broke into the first team at Newcastle, becoming a key player in recent weeks, following a Premier League debut against Liverpool on Boxing Day. He’s got his chance at the big time, and Killie were a big part of his development.
Killie gave him a chance
Whilst he perhaps never set the world alight during his time in Ayrshire, he was a decent player in the first half of 2017. Prior to his spell at Killie, he hadn’t played at a senior level. Longstaff was initially a risky signing by Killie boss Lee Clark
At the time they were teetering towards the bottom of the table, and wanted to avoid the play-off situation they had found themselves in the year previous. To bring in an untested midfielder to that environment and hope they perform was a gamble by Clark.
Clark left in February, and Lee McCulloch became interim boss. The former Rangers defender kept the faith in young Longstaff, who started every game under McCulloch.
In flashes, Longstaff showed he could one day become a Newcastle player. The midfielder was energetic and great technically, with his big quality being passing ability. He had great awareness, and always played the right pass.
Longstaff sat slightly deeper than the rest of his midfield partners, but never got caught in possession. When opponents pressed him, he was calm and collected, often aware of what his next pass would be.
These qualities were developed over his loan spell at Kilmarnock, and it gave him the ability to succeed with Blackpool last year, where he completed his first full season as a first team player.
Longstaff looks set to stay in the Newcastle side for the foreseeable future. His composure and calmness from defensive midfield have drew comparisons to Michael Carrick. It’s early doors, but this is high praise for the young midfielder.
Longstaff has been Newcastle’s best midfielder in recent weeks, and has finally got his shot with the Magpies. He deserves his chance, and Longstaff has Kilmarnock to thank for moulding him into the player he is today.