CHELSEA have been praised for giving their young players a chance this season, but as he prepares to take his side to Stamford Bridge, Steve Bruce feels Newcastle United’s current crop of youngsters are every bit as exciting as the ones they are going to line up against this afternoon.

Having hit the headlines as they marshalled the heart of midfield in the 1-0 win over Manchester United that preceded the international break, Sean and Matty Longstaff will once again be alongside each other in Newcastle’s starting line-up in West London.

The duo will be joined by Allan Saint-Maximin, who only turned 22 in March, and Joelinton, who celebrated his 23rd birthday in August, with the Magpies’ summer transfer business having reduced the average age of the squad bequeathed by Rafael Benitez significantly.

Chelsea’s transfer embargo means Frank Lampard has been forced to blood a number of young players more quickly than he might otherwise have liked, and the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham have responded with a string of impressive displays.

Mount and Abraham represented England at senior level last week, but while his own youngsters might be slightly behind that pair in terms of their development, Bruce is confident they are capable of catching up.

“Sometimes, I think we forget just how many young lads we’ve got in our team,” said the Magpies manager. “We forget about Jo, but he’s still only 23. Allan’s 22, Longy’s (Matty Longstaff) 19 and his brother’s 21. We’ve got a sprinkling of some good, young players now, which is always good to see.

“There’s still something special about seeing young lads come through, especially when they’re young lads who are supporters of the team. Then, it’s about making sure there’s that pathway through to the first team, and I think that’s always going to be a problem, especially in the Premier League, because let’s be fair, we’ve got some of the best players in the world here.

“The way through can get blocked, and that’s why you see a lot of them go on loan, but we’ve got a few that are in our team and that’s great.

“It’s obviously the same at Chelsea. All of a sudden, they’ve had to give their youngsters a go, and whether that would have been the case (without the transfer ban), you’d have to ask Frank. But he’s playing his youngsters and it’s good for everybody.”

Matty Longstaff has been lauded as an overnight phenomenon in the wake of his match-winning strike against Manchester United, but Bruce insists the teenager has figured prominently in his thoughts from the moment he first clapped eyes on him during the pre-season tour of China.

Longstaff was a late call-up to the Chinese trip, but his performances on the training ground earned him a full-time promotion to Newcastle’s senior group and persuaded Bruce to field him in August’s Carabao Cup defeat to Leicester City.

Last weekend’s Premier League bow was the next logical step in his progression, and he will remain in the starting line-up this afternoon, with Bruce confident he can handle the challenge of a trip to Chelsea.

“Young Longy’s been there or thereabouts since I walked in in China,” he said. “The first running session, he was up the front. He was like a tomato when he finished with his bright red face – the heat certainly didn’t help – but he tried like a beast. Since that day, he’s been the way he is. It’s quite refreshing, but my job now is to protect him and keep that humility that both of them have got.”

The younger of the Longstaff brothers was rejected by Newcastle at the age of 11 after a four-week trial, but used the experience to redouble his determination to make it as a professional player with his hometown club.

Bruce knows all about responding to adversary, having been turned away by a succession of clubs, including Newcastle, before he signed his first professional forms at Gillingham, and he feels a setback or two can actually be beneficial in a young player’s development.

“Listen, there’s nothing wrong with a rejection,” he said. “He was rejected once and brought back - I was rejected everywhere and still am!

“I remember what that felt like. I did work experience in a shipyard and thought, ‘Jesus, I can’t work in there’, so going to Gillingham was a bit of a relief. It’s not nice the way a rejection feels, but it is how you respond to it. We all need a break somewhere down the line, and for somebody you can trust who is going to give you one.

“That’s the first part. The next part is keeping at it, staying in the team and working on what you have, which is great.”

Newcastle officials will also be doing all they can to tie both brothers down to new long-term contracts, with further discussions scheduled for the next couple of weeks.

“That’s going to be above me,” said Bruce. “Lee (Charnley) will be on with that, but we’ll do our utmost to make sure we don’t lose our best young players. I’m sure we’ll be all out to get that tied up – and his brother, which is vitally important. There are one or two that are in discussions with the club, and I’m sure we’ll move that on in the next week or two.”