Could Jonjo Shelvey force his way back into England reckoning?
Jonjo Shelvey has always had the talent, but also question marks over his temperament – now though, he seems a player reborn.
There was a reason why, in 2010, Rafael Benitez decided to bring Shelvey to Merseyside from Charlton.
Despite only ever playing a handful of games in the Championship and League One he displayed enough promise to earn a dream switch to Anfield for a fee of £1.7million.
The world was at Shelvey’s feet and many expected him to go on to have a stellar career.
By no means has he had a bad career – he has been a mainstay in the Premier League and has gone on to win six senior England caps.
However, there are certain facets of his game that some managers in the past have found off-putting.
His penchant for a Hollywood ball can sometimes lead to spectacular results, but often it reeks of a player perhaps trying a little too hard.
His lack of mobility also means that he can get caught in awkward situations with quicker players around him.
And, perhaps most damningly, it is his disciplinary record which turns managers off picking him – the Romford-born midfielder has been sent off four times in his Premier League career so far.
However, he has broken back into the Newcastle side which has slowly but surely improved under the maligned managerial choice of Steve Bruce – being named stand-in skipper due to the absence of Jamaal Lascelles through injury.
The Toon are playing with three central defenders that afford Shelvey a bit more protection – it is fair to surmise that Shelvey can be a luxury player.
Yet, he has been outstanding in his little return to form, and that was encapsulated by his brilliant goal in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Manchester City.
For a player who has often been instinctive and rash, the goal showcased a newfound thoughtfulness and maturity – he waited purposefully on the edge of the box before caressing the ball into the top corner.
Shelvey is going for the simple over the spectacular more often but not to the detriment of his natural aptitude for the game.
The question is, can he force his way into Gareth Southgate’s thinking?
The realistic answer is that it will be tough – England already have a number of midfielder options at their disposal.
However, none of them have the attributes of Shelvey – the likes of Maddison, Mount, and Barkley are all clever players in and around the box and Jordan Henderson provides a lot of energy but none of them can play the “quarterback” role in the same way as Shelvey.
There is no question that the 27-year-old will have to have a stellar season from here on in to be considered for a spot at Euro 2020.