This article is part of Football FanCast’s One to Watch series, which focuses on those players we think are particularly worth keeping an eagle-eye on as the 2019/20 season unfolds.
Jonjo Shevley is a very curious case indeed.
Once a starter and lynchpin at the heart of the midfielder, he found himself struggling for regular opportunities under Rafael Benitez.
The transition into a new managerial era could stimulate a turnaround in his fortunes and that’s why he’s been selected as one to watch.
Shelvey was signed by Liverpool from Charlton when the Englishman was just 18 years old. He’d managed 24 league appearances for the London club in the third tier of English football before Roy Hodgson signed him for a mere £3m.
Shelvey played three campaigns for the Swans, scoring one particularly memorable wonder-goal against Aston Villa from the halfway line, though his time in Wales came to an abrupt end as he joined Newcastle midway through a season in which they eventually struggled to relegation under Steve McClaren.
In his time on Tyneside, he achieved promotion with Rafael Benitez and remained an important part of the Spaniard’s side who went on to finish comfortably in mid-table in during their first season back in the top-flight.
The creative midfielder was so impressive that a handful of pundits, including Danny Murphy, Paul Ince and Alan Shearer, suggested he deserved a place in Gareth Southgate’s 2018 World Cup squad.
Last year, though, Shelvey’s opportunities diminished and he played just 16 league games, with just ten of those being starts.
With Isaac Hayden impressing under Benitez, the signing of Miguel Almiron, the emergence of young Sean Longstaff and the presence of Ki Seung-yueng all to consider, Shelvey is battling against some talented midfielders.
The signs are there from pre-season to suggest that he will be a major part of Bruce’s plans this season in a team that will boast some very expensive signings.
Almiron was Newcastle’s record signing earlier this year, but the arrivals of Joelinton’s from Hoffenheim and Allan Saint-Maxim from Nice have added further firepower to the squad. And Shelvey may well have a lot of fun raking passes into that front three.
With Hayden and Longstaff available to Bruce as well, you could see Shelvey starting in a midfield three with plenty of licence to get forward and show his most creative instincts, something he’s done many times as an attacking midfielder, though he’s played most of his career more centrally.
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If Shelvey can cement his place in the starting XI and begin to command the type of esteemed recognition he was earning towards the end of the 2017/18 season, it will be regarded as a successful campaign.
Anything less than that will be disappointing for everyone concerned, so it will be intriguing to see how he develops under the new regime.
Shelvey should target (all competitions)