Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff is aiming to bowl boss Rafa Benitez over after signing his new four-year deal.
The midfielder – and keen cricketer – committed his future to St James’ Park until 2022 in December and made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day.
He came off the bench in the 4-0 defeat at Liverpool and started Saturday’s 1-1 FA Cup draw with Blackburn.
And Longstaff, who was on loan at Blackpool last season, feels boss Benitez is crucial to his development.
He told Football Paradise: “It’s a massive step to go from League One to the Premier League. You basically have to go be an international footballer and if you’re not you need to be the highest quality. The level is ridiculous.
“I’m trying to learn from the manager and he’s helping me bridge the gap.
“He is one of the top managers in the world so for him to see I’ve got a little bit of ability and he likes enough to give me a new deal is great for my confidence.
“He’s managed some of the biggest clubs in the world and the trophies he’s won back that up.
“For the first six months of the season it’s been the best place for me to be, learning from the players and the manager. I’ve improved so much.
“I’ll speak to Newcastle and see what the plan for the second half of the year is. For the minute the manager sees enough in me to keep me around, that’s all the incentive I need.”
Longstaff scored nine goals in 45 games for Blackpool last term after a spell at Kilmarnock but has remained with Newcastle this term.
He also trains with Tynemouth Cricket Club, who play in the North East Premier League, in the summer and believes the break from football helps.
“I spend a lot of time there. There are a few lads at Newcastle who are keen on it so we speak about it a lot,” said the 21-year-old.
“I do a lot of pre-season training at the cricket club and it’s just a good way to get away from football and do something different.
“I bowl more than I bat, being quite tall it helps, I claimed seven wickets in a match once.
“It’s something I took more seriously when I was younger but now I do it for a bit of fun with my mates.
“Anyone from the north east it’s not really a decision, football was always my number one goal and I’m lucky enough to be able to do that.”
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