WITH Newcastle United’s injury problems mounting in the wake of Saturday’s draw at Wolves, Steve Bruce was asked whether he would have to turn to the kids for tomorrow’s FA Cup replay against Rochdale and the following weekend’s Premier League meeting with Chelsea.

“We’ve got two young kids in the middle of the park today, haven’t we, and they were both excellent,” said the Newcastle boss. “They ran a million miles, the pair of them.” Given they were only playing together on the senior stage for the sixth time, is says much about the speed of the Longstaff brothers’ development that they are no longer really thought of as emerging young players. Many more injuries, and they could find themselves as the most experienced members of the squad.

Matty’s emergence has hogged the headlines in the last few months, but the way in which Sean has established himself as a Premier League regular, not to mention a £40m target for Manchester United, should not be downplayed.

The 22-year-old only made his top-flight debut on Boxing Day 2018, with his first Premier League start coming a year ago yesterday in a 2-1 defeat at Chelsea. He was a revelation in the second half of last season, and while his form has dipped slightly in the current campaign, there are signs of him rediscovering his best performances.

He certainly impressed at the weekend, with his relentless running and astute short passing helping Newcastle dig out a hard-earned point.

“Obviously, the first half (of the season) was a bit disappointing from my point of view in terms of not getting a good run together, to be honest,” said Sean. “Being in, getting sent off, getting injured, it’s been really stop-start. Hopefully, I’ve turned the corner.

“It was at this point last year where I came into the team and did pretty well. Last weekend at Rochdale, I said to myself, ‘This is where it all started last year - you’ve got to do the same again in the second half of the season’.

“This was a start. I felt pretty decent out there in terms of passing and a bit more quality. Hopefully, it’s something to build on for me.”

It is hard for Sean to avoid an honest critique of his performance given the identity of the player he is playing alongside at the heart of midfield at the moment. From the moment they first started kicking a football in their native North Shields, Sean and Matty have displayed some understandable sibling rivalry, as well as a powerful desire to protect each other’s backs.

As a result, if Sean is wondering how he has played, he need only look to the person sitting next to him in the dressing room.

“I don’t listen to what people say on the outside, but I know the people close to me are pretty honest,” said Sean. “Luckily, I’ve got my brother next to me, who’s one of the most honest of them all.

“Even he walked in today and said, ‘Woah, you were a bit different today!’. He started laughing.

“He just said, ‘You’ve been better than you have been’, that was about it. It’s honesty that you need, and that’s probably why we’re so close.”

Sean admits he needed Matty’s support when he suffered the lowest moment of his professional career to date, his dismissal in October’s 1-1 home draw with Wolves.

The experience shook him, partly because it was one of the few setbacks he has experienced since breaking into the first team, and partly because its impact continued to be felt for the next couple of months.

“I think it probably had a bigger impact than I thought at the time,” said Sean. “In that game against Wolves, I was starting to feel a bit better, but then I obviously got sent off and didn’t end up playing a game for probably eight, nine weeks.

“It’s a long, long time. It’s something else I was disappointed about. Hopefully, that’s all in the past now, and I’m looking forward.”

The brothers’ midfield efforts helped Newcastle shackle a Wolves midfield containing Euro 2016 and Nations League winner Joao Moutinho and the equally accomplished Ruben Neves, resulting in a draw that ended a three-game losing run in the league.

“We were resilient and tough to beat,” said Sean. “For the first 25 minutes, I thought we were really good as well.

“The injuries disrupted the flow a little bit, but it’s a really tough place to come and a really good point in the end.”