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Jonjo for England!

Petulant, unreliable, inconsistent, stupid! All of those words have been associated with Jonjo Shelvey at various points of his career. But it's finally looking as though those days are now behind the former Liverpool midfielder.

It's about time too! Jonjo Shelvey had always shown glimpses of class when first moving to Tyneside, however controversy was never far away. A five match ban in the Championship for alleged racial abuse to Moroccan midfielder, Romain Saiss, a claim which Shelvey still to this day, vehemently denies. A red card in Newcastle's opening game, on their return to the Premier League for a stupid foul on Dele Alli, whilst wearing the captain's armband, saw Rafa Benitez and the Newcastle faithful begin to lose faith.

Shelvey though, to his credit, always fought for his place and worked his way back in the side ahead of Jack Colback in the Championship, and Mikel Merino in the Premier League. At the end of the 2017/18 season, calls for Shelvey to be included in Gareth Southgate's England World Cup squad were becoming louder and louder. Pundits and fans felt that Shelvey could provide that "x-factor" in finding a pass to unlock a defence when the going was tough. The call never came, nor did it for team-mate and captain, Jamaal Lascelles. The two left bitterly disappointed, and Shelvey in particular had given up all hope of representing his country again.

Fast forward a year and Shelvey had lost his place again in the Newcastle starting eleven, this time to academy prospect, Sean Longstaff. Longstaff had been drafted in to cover Shelvey in what was a horrendous injury crisis in the centre of midfield. The elder Longstaff's form however, meant that even when Jonjo was fit, Benitez stuck with the blossoming midfield pairing of Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff.

A year after missing out on England, it now seemed like Jonjo Shelvey's time at Newcastle was coming to an end. But Rafa Benitez's failure to sign a contract extension and Steve Bruce coming in to replace the popular Spaniard, meant that Shelvey was reprieved and started with a clean slate once again.

The links to boyhood team, West Ham soon dissipated and Shelvey was back starting in the centre of midfield alongside fellow England hopeful, Isaac Hayden. Hayden's future also came into constant question under Benitez, due to personal issues, but both were happy, settled and performing under the amiable Bruce, whilst others were misfiring.

Shelvey is now likely to finish as Newcastle's top league goalscorer this season, which probably says more about the options up front, but nevertheless, when fit Shelvey has been in fantastic form. There is no sign of the stupid red card tackles, no sign of him failing to track back, and no sign of games just passing him by.

The 28-year-old has now matured into a hard-working "quarterback" who looks to unleash pacey counter attacks with searching balls. He signed a new contract earlier in the season to put to bed the constant rumours of an exit, and is fully focussed on his club career. But in my opinion there should be room in Gareth Southgate's plans for Jonjo Shelvey, especially ahead of the likes of Harry Winks and Eric Dier (if played in midfield.)

I'm not getting my hopes up though, as we all know when it comes to the likes of Jamaal Lascelles, Isaac Hayden, and Jonjo Shelvey; Gareth Southgate seemingly ignores all players in black and white stripes.



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