Soccer / southgate

JonJo Shelvey Can Kickstart Newcastle's Season and Take England To Next Level
England manager Gareth Southgate's presence at St. James' Park alongside Newcastle's MD Lee Charnley for last week's game between Newcastle and Arsenal suggests the national boss is finally looking north for the solution to the evolution of his England side. After an excellent World Cup in Russia when England made the most of a favourable draw yet were beaten off Croatia and Belgium, defeat followed again in the UEFA Nations League debut against Spain although England were unlucky with a late disallowed goal. Something or rather someone is missing when the England XI side face the top teams and its the best passer of a ball in England by a country mile, JonJo Shelvey, midfield maestro and playmaker extraordinaire who can elevate England's game against the best. In Newcastle's side, he adds a different dimension to the team and was the architect of most of what was good in a black and white shirt in the first half of 2018, masterminding wins over Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea in the run-in to a 10th-placed Magpies finish. In those three games alone, Shelvey's partnership with a similarly reborn Mo Diame dominated Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, N'golo Kante and Tiémoué Bakayoko, Granit Xhaka and Mohamad Elneny, the midfield of teams that would finish 2nd, 5th and 6th in The Premier League and two players who would go on to win The World Cup in Russia. United boss Rafa Benitez is in no doubt that can Shelvey can perform for England: "He (Shelvey) has quality, he has the vision, he can make these passes that strikers like behind the defenders. “In a team, squad, you have to have different kind of players, I don’t see many of this kind of player. I don’t know what the England manager thinks, I am the manager of Newcastle and I have to decide for Newcastle, can he play for England? Yes.” Unfortunately for the watching Southgate and Benitez last Saturday, Shelvey was missing against Arsenal through the thigh injury that has stunted his season after the first two games saw him top the charts for Premier League chances created with seven. In Shelvey's absence, Newcastle have been pointless albeit in tough games against Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal, a fixture list start Rafa Benitez described as "cruel" especially with Spurs on the opening day to begin the season at St. James' Park. Newcastle now find themselves second bottom of the table yet the only way is surely up with eminently easier games against Crystal Palace and Leicester City next before a daunting trip to Old Trafford and Shelvey will be the key to the Magpies revival. His passing & goals makes the Toon tick in contrast to the limited creativity offered by the more agricultural Isaac Hayden, who was surprisingly preferred to the more creative Ki against his former side Arsenal, yet the return of Newcastle's Diame-Shelvey axis will return the Magpies' Mo-Jo allowing Kenedy, Ritchie, Rondon, Perez, Muto & co to thrive. Similarly, Shelvey can change the England dynamic against the world's elite sides especially in a midfield partnership alongside Jordan Henderson with the latter doing the more defensive shift like Diame does for Newcastle allowing Shelvey the freedom to keep the ball, dictate play and, crucially, do the damage in the final third. Shelvey's quarterback vision and passing can find the electric runs of the likes of Marcus Rashford - proving yet again against Spain his goalscoring effectiveness in the middle in contrast to Raheem Sterling, whose international future is surely on the wing - Dele Alli & Harry Kane. Sterling played wide at Liverpool with Shelvey, who would fire the bullets for England's attack like only he can threading the eye of a needle from 5 or 50 yards. England need a fully-flying Sterling the kind we see week-in, week-out at Man City and former Liverpool team-mate Shelvey knows his game and can bring out the best in him: Gareth Southgate has stressed that his England side now and in the future will play a progressive passing game saying recently, "We've got to keep faith in how we're trying to play and not go back to what we were doing historically," he said. "There's no way we'll be a top team if we do that." yet so far he has been omitting England's premier passing talent in Shelvey. If this was because of temperament issues - Shelvey was sent off twice in 2017 - he deserves another chance after seeking the help of a psychologist who revolutionised his mindset resulting in the mature performances of the second half of the 2017/8 season. A former England youth level and Under 21 star, Shelvey has six full international caps already for The Three Lions to his name gained under Roy Hodgson and has featured respectably against both France and Spain in England colours. There is a growing popular and professional clamour for Shelvey for England from long-term admirers of his like Chris Waddle and journalist Brian Glanville while his performances in the World Cup run-in earned praise from Alan Shearer & Martin Keown. Yet the 26 year-old midfielder know as well as anyone that getting and staying fit then playing consistently well for Newcastle is the only way he will be considered for a national team crying out for him almost as desperately as his club side, starting on Saturday.

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