Newcastle United grabbed just their third home win of the season at the weekend, beating West Ham 2-1.
Given that Bilic and his Hammers side had been unbeaten in the league since November 22nd, the result will have have been particularly pleasing to under-pressure Magpies boss Steve McClaren.
It also lifted his side out of the relegation zone, again another positive from a well deserved win and fine display of attacking football, in the first half particularly.
But arguably the most pleasing and positive aspect to come out of the game was the performance of Jonjo Shelvey. The former Swansea midfielder, brought for around £12m only a few days before, had a debut to remember in front of the 50’000 strong crowd at St James’ Park.
[ffc-gal cat=”newcastle-united” no=”5″]
Having struggled for consistency this campaign, the North-East side have slowly been getting it together of late, the win coming just a few days after their dramatic 3-3 draw with Man United. Against West Ham, Shelvey’s presence in the heart of their midfield, controlling the centre circle and spraying passes around the pitch, was a key factor in the win and a welcome sight for the Geordie faithful.
Already forming a good partnership with fellow English midfielder Jack Colback, the pair provided a double-pivot in the middle of the pitch, giving Newcastle some steel and energy in front of the back-four whilst also providing a base from which to spring attacks and counter-attacks.
With a passing accuracy of over 91%, Shelvey completed 54 of the 59 passes he attempted, the range and variety particularly impressive, his sweeping 60-yarder to Janmaat eventually leading to the second goal the pick of bunch. In fact, his display was so impressive that manager Steve McClaren has since compared him to an NFL quaterback.
It’s not just his gaffer that was impressed, either. Goal scorer Georginio Wijnaldum hailed him as “magnificent” and fellow team-mate Moussa Sissoko also sung his praises: “For me, his style is very similar to Steven Gerrard’s, because he can play the long ball easily, he can get on the second balls.”
High-praise indeed for the new addition at St James Park, and one that passionate and loyal fans would love to see emulated.
Having only signed a new contract with the Welsh club in the Summer, it came as somewhat as a surprise that he was first out of favour at the Liberty, and there were certainly a few raised eyebrows when he was sold to fellow relegation candidates Newcastle United.
But Swansea have their own problems and for whatever reason, Shelvey was deemed surplus to requirements by interim boss Alan Curtis and the Swans hierarchy, a move that can only benefit the side in Black and White.
With Cheick Tiote closing in on a move Chinese side Shanghai Shenua, the Toon were in need of a replacement midfield enforcer. But in Shelvey they have more than just a break-up player and walking red-card-in-waiting as Tiote often was. Sure, the former Charlton and Liverpool man has a combative streak and petulant edge, as highlighted by his ‘friendly-shoulder’ into Enner Valencia’s face at the weekend, but he should bring far more to this improving Newcastle side than the man from the Ivory Coast did.
His commitment to the cause combined with his technical ability will only endear him to the locals, and if he can keep producing the kind of displays like the one against West Ham on Saturday, the four-time England capped midfielder will only go from strength to strength alongside his talented team-mates.