Steve Bruce is relishing the opportunity to pitch his Newcastle kids into battle with Frank Lampard’s Chelsea youngsters.
The Magpies head coach threw 19-year-old midfielder Matty Longstaff in at the deep end when he handed him a top-flight debut alongside his 21-year-old brother Sean against Manchester United on October 6 and saw him cap a fine individual display with the winning goal.
Chelsea’s transfer embargo has forced manager Lampard to turn to youth and he has been richly rewarded, with 21-year-old Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, 20, and 22-year-old Tammy Abraham having all played key roles in a four-game winning run in all competitions.
Bruce, who worked with Abraham during his spell at Aston Villa, said: “Frank might have been forced into the situation with Chelsea. All of a sudden, they’ve had to give their youngsters a go and whether that would have been the case (if they were not given the transfer ban), you’ll have to ask Frank that.
“He had Mount and he had the other boy (Tomori) at Derby with him, who’s played at centre-back, and Tammy, of course.
“I had Tammy and the big thing with Tammy was, ‘would he ever get the chance?’ He’s got the chance now and within eight weeks, he’s got into the England squad after playing in the Championship last year. It’s good for everybody.”
Bruce was a key member of the Manchester United squad into which Sir Alex Ferguson thrust the Class of ’92 – Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville – and saw them go on to dominate domestic and European football.
The former defender said: “He made a big call to leave out (Mark) Hughes, (Andrei) Kanchelskis and (Paul) Ince and bring in the young ones. Whether he was a genius… we were all scratching our heads then, by the way.
“In my experience, there’s nothing better than having someone come through and play, especially now we have academies which we invest fortunes in.
“Young Longy’s been there or thereabouts since I walked in. The first running session, he was up the front. He’s like a tomato when he finishes, and the heat certainly didn’t help. He tried like a beast.
“Since that day, he’s been the way he is. It’s quite refreshing. My job now is to protect him and keep that humility that both of them have got.”