“I’m someone who will always take the ball and try to make things happen. I will never hide. If people show options ahead of me then I will always put it in their path for them.”
JonJo Shelvey, speaking in the Official Newcastle United Matchday Programme
An impressive 4-1 win for Newcastle on a night when The Magpies for once got decisions from refs – a pen & free-kick on the edge of the area – gave lift-off to their season in style at St James’ Park last night.
Goals from three of Rafa Benitez’s new signings Isaac Hayden, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle including this worldie free-kick from the no. 9 gave Newcastle three points against Jaap Stam’s men.
Benitez’s next challenge is to record his first away victory for the club away at Bristol City on Saturday afternoon.
Against Fulham, a midfield packed with one too many defensively-minded midfielders in Hayden, Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita lacked the natural forward-thinking that a player like Jonjo Shelvey provides.
He showed his array of passing skills with the flair and direct creativity Newcastle need in a late cameo running the shows against Fulham and was unlucky not to draw a third deserved penalty on a night Newcastle got nothing from referees determined to halt The Magpies Championship take-off.
Promoted to the starting line-up on the strength of that display, Shelvey is looking sharper by the game and the ultimate compliment to his form was when the rough treatment was dished out by Reading’s less than Royals last night. With more games will come the form and goals that catapulted him into the England reckoning as one of the most exciting attacking midfielders around with Swansea:
“I need to keep playing games, getting regular football and finding my rhythm as it’s been a while since I had a run of matches”
Its away from St James’ Park that Shelvey could prove vital as Newcastle’s last competitive away win was December 13th 2015 when The Magpies came back to beat Tottenham Hotspur. Goals from second-half substitutes Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez reversed a Eric Dier opener at White Hart Lane on what is a happy hunting ground for Newcastle. Yet since and a long time before, away trips have become a hell for Newcastle teams and the hordes of travelling Geordie fans who support their team.
To his credit, new manager Rafa Benitez stopped the rot as he fought to keep the club in The Premier League and earned a draw at former club Liverpool having realised a double pivot in midfield of Colback & Cheick Tiote made Newcastle hard to beat. However, failure to beat Aston Villa away on the penultimate day of the season showed the limits of a side lacking creativity and attacking thrust.
The answer was – and is – JonJo Shelvey, the £12.5M England international the club signed in the January transfer window.
As the above vine shows, the 24 year-old has the vision and class to execute attacking manoeveurs of the highest order as he did for Swansea time and again.
When Newcastle go away from home, the side needs to attack and find that penetration they have lacked in the recent past while remaining hard to beat.
Jack Colback and new man Isaac Hayden – who seems to be Cheick Tiote’s replacement and bagged a great goal last night – can provide the defensive shield.
And the onus needs to be on Shelvey to push further up in the no. 10 role behind the main striker – Dwight Gayle until Mitrovic returns – and create havoc.
A fully-functioning on-form JonJo Shelvey is one of the best attacking midfielders in the land. The Three Lions were shocking at The Euros with the barren Wayne Rooney in midfield yet just nine months earlier, Shelvey had showed what he can do against France and Spain, opponents of real quality as he seemed to feature in Hodgson’s plans.
In the hectic world of top level professional football in England, however, its too easy for players of genuine talent to get lost in the merry-go-round of transfers and managerial changes as teams and clubs in flux rarely bring out the best in players and new managers may not fancy the previous bosses’ players.
Fortunately for Shelvey who was signed at Newcastle by Steve McClaren last January, his new boss Rafa Benitez when McClaren was sacked six weeks later actually signed him for Liverpool as one of his final acts as Reds manager in 2010 as an 18-year old prodigy with the potential to replace Steven Gerrard.
A chequered career for The Reds nevertheless ensured he made his mark during his development at Anfield as well as some off-pitch antics which earned the respect from the unlikely figure he crossed following his red card against Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson:
“I pulled him aside afterwards and apologised to him and he was spot on with me,” Shelvey told the Liverpool Echo.
“He said, ‘no I like it. It shows you’ve got a bit of balls about you’.
Shelvey could hardly have had announced his arrival at Newcastle United in more impressive fashion with a phenomenal game pulling the strings against West Ham.
He set up both Newcastle goals in an electric first-half display including the Premier League pass of the season from deep for United’s second in a passing masterclass that immediately endeared him to the Toon faithful who sang his name as the successor to Yohan Cabaye they had long craved.
McClaren was as impressed as the fans and soon after made him Newcastle Captain when Fabricio Coloccini got injured despite having just arrived at the club.
After a string of bad away results interspersed with a home victory over West Brom in which Shelvey – again – provided the throughball for Mitrovic’s winner, McClaren got the chop, the problem being Newcastle were a soft touch away from home and Shelvey had no defensive platform to play off.
The manager changed, he lost his place and Newcastle went down but he remains a key part of Benitez’s plans with the manager himself admitting his Newcastle team at the moment is not the one that will end the transfer window.
Given more attacking licence with tacklers behind him in the shape of Colback and Hayden, grafters on the wing like Yoan Gouffran and Matt Ritchie as on Wednesday night, Shelvey could prove a shining diamond away from home and coax the best out of Gayle’s pace and finishing.
Unique vision enabling him to score from range and create for goals for others means the future of black and white is bright, the future is Jonjo Shelvey.