Matty Longstaff is the 19th Academy graduate in the last decade to make his first team debut for Newcastle United.
He marked his bow with a superb debut Premier League goal but as he knows only too well, he still has plenty of work to do to establish himself at St James’ Park. Of the 18 others, only a handful went on to break into double figures in terms of Newcastle appearances and some fell out of the game entirely.
This list makes for interesting reading. There have been others who have come close – Michael Richardson, Fraser Forster – who famously left before playing a minute of football and were then capped for England.
But these players have all played in meaningful games for Newcastle (Premier League, Championship, League Cup or European competitions).
Here are the 18 who preceded Longstaff in the last decade and what came next.
Kazenga Lualua (2008)
Winger Lualua was a big noise in the club’s Academy: a tricky winger with a turn of pace and an older brother who had already caught the eye for the first team.
Kazenga was called up to the first team squad just a month after his 16th birthday, having been teed up for his first team debut in an FA Cup game at Birmingham in 2007. In the event he didn’t come on that day but a year later he made his Premier League debut against Stoke.
There were further Newcastle appearances but the next step never came. Injuries and the upheaval at Newcastle in subsequent years meant he ended up moving down the leagues with several loan spells before leaving in 2012.
After a short spell at Sunderland in 2018, he’s now at Championship Luton and is still only 28. It’s been a solid career.
Ryan Donaldson (2009)
The former Youth team captain was an England under-17 and under-19 regular and another who was highly thought of in the United Academy ranks. On the fringes of the first team squad, he made the step into the senior set-up in 2009 under Chris Hughton.
Although his starts were limited that season, he was a member of the squad that won promotion and seemed ready to progress into into first team contention.
But in 2012 he was released after failing to consolidate on that good start – partly due to injuries and a couple of so-so loan spells. Has gone onto have a decent career, first at Gateshead before moving to Cambridge and scoring in the play-off final against his former club. Now at Hartlepool.
Nile Ranger (2009)
A tale of what might have been.
One of Dennis Wise’s signings during his ill-fated stint on the Newcastle board. Wise was given a remit to scour the country for the best young talent and identified the troubled Ranger as a potential rough diamond – bringing him into the United Academy despite a past that had seen him in trouble with the law.
Ranger clearly had something: physically imposing, quick and with excellent technique he soon caught the eye for the Academy and reserves. He won the “Wor Jackie” award for most promising young player at the club and Alan Shearer saw enough in a short spell to sanction a contract extension.
Ranger’s debut came in the Championship season and he didn’t look out of place at that level. The next season he played several times in the Premier League, including troubling Arsenal’s defence in both games in the 2010/11 season.
But his off-field behaviour remained hugely problematic (he made front page news when a picture of him with a replica gun sparked outrage), with ill discipline and poor time keeping contributing to successive managers losing faith with him. He was released by the club in March 2013 and has spiralled down the leagues with Swindon, Blackpool and Southend. He served 10 weeks of an eight month sentence for conspiracy to defraud in 2017.
James Tavernier (September 2009)
Bradford-born Tavernier was snapped up by Newcastle’s Academy after leaving Leeds. Benefited from the relegation into the Championship and got chances under Hughton in 2009 before a series of loan spells. He had further opportunities in the Premier League but never fully convinced Alan Pardew.
Now a star north of the border, having played more than 150 games for Glasgow Rangers.
Phil Airey (January 2011)
Dubbed the next Andy Carroll by those who had watched him score freely in the Academy, Airey was a big striker with an eye for goal. His Newcastle debut came in the ill-fated FA Cup defeat at Stevenage in 2011 and he was highly-rated enough for Hibs to take him on loan.
As sometimes happens, he struggled to get back into the professional game but had a good career in non-league with Blyth and Whitley Bay among his teams. Now a fencer with Northumberland Estates.
Sammy Ameobi (2011).
Before the Longstaffs, there were the Ameobis. Sammy followed in the footsteps of older brother Shola and joined the Academy in 2008 after being inspired by seeing him play for Newcastle.
Blessed with superb natural ability and technique, Ameobi Junior was earmarked for big things with Michael Owen claiming he was set to be “one of the Premier League’s most exciting players” and Alan Pardew feeling he could reach the very top.
The 2011/12 season was his breakthrough but he appeared more than 50 times for United, scoring within seconds of coming on as a substitute against Spurs in 2014.
He was teed up for greatness but his form tailed off and there were doubts about his focus towards the end of his time at Newcastle, with the player himself admitting he found it difficult in the Newcastle goldfish bowl at times. A personal memory is an ashen-faced Sammy leaving Bordeaux’s stadium after an ineffective display in the Europa League which probably spelled the end of his time at United – a sad end for a player who promised so much.
Now at Nottingham Forest, where he is impressing, after spells at Bolton and Cardiff.
Shane Ferguson (2010)
Ferguson joined Newcastle’s Academy after impressing in a friendly for Maiden City Soccer against a Newcastle under-15 side – and was another tipped for the very top.
Alan Pardew said he had a “wand” of a left foot and in a League Cup game against Chelsea he was one of the stars of the night, prompting the watching Matt Le Tissier to say he had a great future. But he was another who struggled in the Europa League campaign that was meant to be the platform for Newcastle’s Academy stars but ended up bringing some of them down.
He played 23 times before joining Birmingham on loan where – memorably – Joe Kinnear earmarked him as a potential signing, having apparently not realised he was a Newcastle player.
Now an established first teamer for Championship Millwall.
Adam Campbell (2012)
Striker Campbell made his bow in United’s 2012 Europa League campaign, playing against Atromitos and at Stoke in the Premier League. He was the youngest player ever to play in European competition for Newcastle but, as he told the Chronicle last month, he lost focus after loan spells went awry.
Played at Notts County and Morecambe before his current spell at Darlington, and hopes to get back into the league.
Adam Armstrong (2014)
An England international from under-16 to under-21 level, skilful Armstrong was handed his debut and set up two goals against Crystal Palace in the League Cup.
A Premier League debut was to follow and there was plenty of buzz around the forward when Newcastle dropped into the Championship – but Rafa Benitez was never fully sold on him and allowed him to go on loan to Coventry and then Bolton.
Newcastle sold him to Blackburn in 2018.
Rolando Aarons (2014)
Picked up by United’s Academy after being released by Bristol City, he made some impression in his first Premier League season – coming off the bench to score in a 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace.
A direct, strong-running winger it looked as though he was set for a stellar career but injuries have been a big problem under successive managers. Now on loan at Wycombe.
Jak Alnwick (2014)
The debut that probably never should have happened. Alnwick was called into the firing line when Tim Krul and Rob Elliot both suffered injuries – and made an impression by helping Newcastle see out a 2-1 win against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
The club had already made the call to release him by then but he played at Spurs and Arsenal before leaving in the close season. Now on loan at Blackpool after joining Rangers as understudy.
Paul Dummett (2015)
If the Longstaffs want anyone to look up to, teammate Dummett’s probably the man.
The left-back Pardew told was not good enough for the Premier League – partially to motivate him – came of age at St Mirren on loan before stepping into the Newcastle side when injuries and suspensions laid waste to their first team options.
Has made the most of every opportunity handed to him and has now played more than 150 first team games for the Magpies, including captaining the side.
Callum Roberts (2015)
Drafted into Newcastle’s side by John Carver for their FA Cup loss at Leicester. Belatedly made his full Newcastle debut in the FA Cup last season, scoring against Blackburn.
Now at Blyth Spartans after his summer release.
Jamie Sterry (2016)
Full-back handed his debut by Rafa Benitez in the final Premier League game of the relegation season, he then came back into the squad during the Championship campaign.
Has had loan spells at Coventry and Crewe but was omitted from the Premier League squad and will leave when his contract’s up at the end of the season.
Dan Barlaser (2016)
Two FA Cup appearances for Newcastle under Benitez for the talented midfielder, who is currently on loan at Rotherham.
Freddie Woodman (2016)
United’s next number one? The England under-21 goalkeeper has been earmarked for big things and made his Newcastle debut in the FA Cup two years ago.
Now out at Swansea and impressing, with Newcastle looking to tie him up to a long-term deal.
Sean Longstaff (2018)
Thrown in at the deep end at Anfield as Newcastle and prospered. The North Shields-born midfielder had made his bow at Nottingham Forest in a League Cup defeat after impressing while on loan at Blackpool.
Now a first team regular after United turned down huge summer offers from Manchester United.