“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.
Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police
Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.
According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.
Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.
The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:
Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch
Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.
Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.
“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.
“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.
“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”
Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.
“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.
“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.
“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”
Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player
27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.
Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.
Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.
Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.
“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”
“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.
“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”
“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.
“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.
“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.
“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.
“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.
“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”
Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.
“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.
“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.
“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.
“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”
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