Rafa Benitez, Steve Bruce, Eddie Howe and Sean Longstaff

The coach, the man-manager, the sheep herder: Sean Longstaff describes what it’s like playing under Benitez, Bruce and Howe

Sean Longstaff’s career as a Premier League player is six seasons old. In that time he’s played under three big name characters in the English game.

His Premier League debut was handed to him by Rafa Benitez. Sadly injury, then Benitez’ departure from St. James’ Park, curtailed his time under the former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager. Steve Bruce was Longstaff’s next boss, he played 65 times under the former Manchester United captain before a takeover saw a change of pace at Newcastle.

Eddie Howe took over as boss in November 2022 and as Longstaff approaches his 100th game under the current man in the St. James’ Park hotseat we sat down with the midfielder to ask him about the contrasting styles of all three bosses.

Sean Longstaff on Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez waving to the crowd

Rafa Benitez managed Newcastle for 146 games and had a win ratio of 42.5 per cent (Image credit: PA)

“Rafa was great for me: a person who’d speak about football all of the time. Whether you were walking down corridors at the training ground, having lunch or walking off the pitch, he was always trying to coach you.

“You think you know what football is, then you speak to him and there’s just so much more to it.

“His defensive block – if you were half a centimetre out, he’d stop the training session and say, ‘You need to do this.'”

Sean Longstaff on Steve Bruce

Steve Bruce

Steve Bruce managed Newcastle for 97 games and had a win ratio of 28.9 per cent (Image credit: PA)

“Under Rafa it was all great, then I did my knee. Whether I was ready to come back and play, I wasn’t sure, but with a new manager [Steve Bruce], I felt like I needed to. You could feel the negativity seeping in – it sounds bad, but I have to be honest. 

“Steve Bruce was more about trying to be the man-manager and getting players motivated to play. Whether people agree or not with how he did it, that’s not for me to say. He was much different from the other two. Rafa and Eddie want to really coach you, whereas Steve was a manager: he picked the team and that’s it.

“From my point of view, if you got rid of the two years that followed Rafa and fast-forwarded to this manager now, I feel as though some people’s opinions of me would maybe be higher. It can be tarnished by those two and a half years. Now, with the new manager, it’s been about trying to change people’s opinions about me.”

Sean Longstaff on Eddie Howe

Newcastle United Head Coach Eddie Howe looks on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Chelsea FC at St. James Park on November 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England

As of March 2024 Eddie Howe has managed 115 Newcastle games and has a win ratio of 46.96 per cent (Image credit: Getty Images)

 “Working under Rafa, you think you know a fair bit about the game – then Eddie Howe comes in and his attention to detail is out of this world. We’re more high-pressing and aggressive. 

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