Jonjo Shelvey has been on the verge of breaking out for five years. He played for every English youth international team, and was plucked from Charlton Athletic by Liverpool at 18. After a highly successful loan spell he began to make regular appearances in the squad, and his resemblance to club legend Steve Gerrard—the marauding runs, the thunderbolt right foot, the rashness—only increased expectations.
But Shelvey’s career has never quite lifted off. With an aging Gerrard still occupying the attacking midfield role, he never managed to graduate beyond spot starter. His move to Swansea in 2013 appeared to be the perfect fit of player and club, with the ascending Swans gaining a young match-winner to bring edge to their Barcelona-lite attack. But while Shelvey scored his share of spectacular long range strikes, more often than not he brought chaos rather than edge, earning bookings and suspensions, being caught on camera screaming at his teammates.
With Swansea mired in a relegation battle they apparently decided that a midfield of Leon Britton, Jack Cork, and Ki Sung-yueng is more stable, and sold Shelvey to fellow relegation-threatened Newcastle. Shelvey made his Newcastle debut today against West Ham, and look what he did.
Shelvey’s contributions won’t be noted in the box score, but these are two vital hockey assists, the second one particularly stunning.
At Newcastle Shelvey will have all the rope—perhaps too much rope—he needs. They’re going to continue losing most of their games, and Shelvey’s unreliability won’t be as noticed or harmful. If he oscillates between anonymous games and ones containing match-winners, that’s a trade Newcastle will be more than happy to make. And perhaps along the way, at a club with lowered expectations that will conform to his talents rather than expecting him to conform to their style, Shelvey will find himself. After all, he’s still just 23.
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