The Newcastle United star who can be pivotal in development of Elliot Anderson and Lewis Miley

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Three Geordie midfielders, all at separate stages of their careers, can flourish as Newcastle United return to the Champions League.

Sean Longstaff has been through it all during the early years of a career that still promises so much.

Nurtured and developed by Rafa Benitez, seemingly under-appreciated and wasted by Steve Bruce, Longstaff is now an established member of Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United side having come through the academy system before enjoying loan spells with the likes of Kilmarnock and Blackpool earlier in his career.

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Now 25-years-old, the Geordie midfielder forms a key part of the United midfield that will return to the Champions League this season and his value to his manager was never more evident than the latter stages of last season when Longstaff missed a number of games as his side secured their place among European football’s elite.

Speaking during the final month of the season, Howe said of Longstaff: “We’ve missed him a lot. He goes under the radar in terms of what he gives the team tactically, technically and physically. He’s a high level player and he has a really good football brain, so we’ve missed those qualities. As always you have to adapt when someone is missing and I believe we have the players to cover.”

Newcastle United's Sean Longstaff celebrates after scoring his second Carabao Cup goal against Southampton last month.Newcastle United's Sean Longstaff celebrates after scoring his second Carabao Cup goal against Southampton last month.
Newcastle United's Sean Longstaff celebrates after scoring his second Carabao Cup goal against Southampton last month.

Longstaff’s presence in Howe’s squad, and his recent experience of progressing through the Magpies youth system and making the most of loan spells elsewhere, will provide a significant guide for two of his younger team-mates as they reach differing steps in their own development at St James’ Park.

For Elliot Anderson, pre-season has been something of a dream. Long spoken about as the next big thing to come out of the United academy, the attacking midfielder enjoyed a productive loan spell at Bristol Rovers 18 months ago and was expected to head out on loan once again last season.

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But his form during last summer persuaded Howe to keep him in and around his first-team squad as Anderson provided cover for his more senior team-mates. A total of just six starts in all competitions may lead some to question how wise that decision was but there can be no doubt Anderson has benefitted from training alongside the Magpies senior players over the last 12 months.

The fruits of his labour, and his clearly disciplined approach to the close-season, have been evident throughout United pre-season fixtures. After scoring a late brace to give Howe’s side a 2-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion in the early hours of Saturday morning, Anderson’s tally stands at four goals in four pre-season appearances. There have been consistent flashes of silk and steel in equal measures as the Scotland Under-21 cap has grown in confidence as a big season draws ever closer.

Whereas 12 months ago there was some doubt over his ability to firmly thrust himself into Howe’s side, now there seems less. Anderson looks physically stronger, his increased fitness levels have enabled him to meet Howe’s demands for high intensity and his decision-making has improved ever further. Now there should be no talk of a loan move away, Anderson’s time has come, something Howe referenced in his post-match press conference following the 20-year-old’s two-goal display against the Seagulls.

Elliot Anderson's brace secured Newcastle United a win over Brighton.Elliot Anderson's brace secured Newcastle United a win over Brighton.
Elliot Anderson's brace secured Newcastle United a win over Brighton. | Getty Images for Premier League

Howe said: “He (Anderson) came back for our fitness testing as the fittest player – and by some distance. He was very committed to his personal programme and looks stronger, leaner and quicker. You don’t score goals like that in the last minute, with the strength of his legs and his upper body to go past an opponent, if you’re not super-fit. Especially in this heat. Those goals don’t come by accident; they come for a reason, and that’s down to him.

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“He is in my thoughts for Villa. The team is never set. Someone asked me the other day if I’d picked my team already, but no way. There are still more games to come and you want players to not change your opinion, but force their way into your eyesight. Elliot has certainly done that.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise - and unquestionably the most pleasant - for Howe has been Lewis Miley’s increasingly impressive performances.

At just 17-years-old, the young midfielder is viewed as a genuine talent, not only within the United academy, but also across England’s youth levels. After making his senior debut as substitute in the season-ending draw at Chelsea in May, and coming close to marking it with a goal as he struck the crossbar with a powerful effort, Miley have spent the entirety of pre-season with Howe’s senior men.

Significantly, he has not looked out of place alongside the likes of newly-acquired Italy international Sandro Tonali and Brazilian duo Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton. Indeed, it would not be a stretch to suggest there have been times when Miley has outshone his more senior team-mates with his powerful running, defensive discipline and maturity in and out of possession.

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Getty Images

Miley has not looked flustered or overawed by his earlier-than-expected opportunity. He has, in reality, flourished and grown with every passing game. A loan move has been discussed by some external to the club, but Howe was insistent the youngster would benefit from remaining with the club, close to his family and where his development can be protected by the Magpies boss and his coaching staff.

In Howe’s own words: “The plan for him has been consistent in my mind. There are no thoughts about sending him on loan, he’s too young to be exposed to that at the moment. He needs to stay with his family and learn and develop around the players we have.”

Both Anderson and Miley have plenty of potential and despite being a different stages in their own development, they can both look up to their more senior academy product as they look to navigate the perils and pitfalls of life in the Premier League.

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