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The Beauty and Hope of Liverpool’s Jonjo Shelvey

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skopje_8Rafa Benitez saw something in Jonjo Shelvey in the summer of 2010. The former Liverpool manager purchased the midfielder for £1.8 million from Charlton Athletic. At the time, Benitez was on his last legs at Anfield and the team was in need of a major overhaul. Shelvey wasn’t a player fans could get excited about. He was 18 and had no top-flight experience. He was a player for the future. And the future looked bleak then. No one had time to wait. So, Shelvey’s arrival fell on deaf ears and Liverpool slumped.

Two years have passed and Shelvey has pushed his way into the Liverpool team. Benitez has gone. Roy Hodgson had his time cut short as well. But Shelvey remained. And under Dalglish, he’s found his footing and his place in the side, even if the team continues to slip further and further from Champions League contention, even behind Everton — an unthinkable thought at the beginning of the season.

Eighth place isn’t where Liverpool wanted to be when the season started. That poor positioning, along with injuries, has lead to the emergence of Shelvey. Dalglish never envisioned playing Shelvey. He wanted the young midfielder to seasoned experience while on loan at Blackpool. But after the season ending injury to Lucas Leiva, and with Steven Gerrard’s on going injury problems, Shelvey returned to Liverpool. He was in good form for Blackpool — six goals in 10 matches — and Ian Holloway was sad to see the player go, so much so that he wanted to bring Shelvey back for the second half of the season if he could.

“If I was going to get anyone in at the moment, I would try and get Jonjo Shelvey because we have already had him and I know what the lad is capable of. I really like him,” Holloway told reporters over the winter as interest for the services of Shelvey heated up in the second half of the season.

The move didn’t happen, and for the first few weeks after his return, Shelvey didn’t see much of the field. He did, however, keep working hard, waited patiently and fought for his chance.

Now, with the Champions League in the distance — way, way in the distance — for Dalglish and company, Shelvey is getting a run of games in the center of the Liverpool midfield. And it’s great to see the progress he’s made. It’s great to see that shining bald head glisten in the sun, hope radiates from his noggin. (Side note: Shelvey suffers from Alopecia and has since a young age, which explains why he has no hair. I am in no way making fun of him for this. I am only stating I love how shiny his head is.) It’s magical to see his long, thin, witch-like nose on the field because he is capable of moments of magic, something he’s shown before for the England youth teams and Blackpool.

Shelvey reminds me of Steven Gerrard, a player he is quoted to admire. He has a knack for popping up in the right place at the right time and scoring goals from the midfield. He doesn’t have the same kind of pace Gerrard once had, but Shelvey has a similar vision on the field and understanding of the flow of a game. That’s something you can’t teach, and it’s something that is invaluable. Goals are the most precious commodity in the game, and if someone has a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net or popping up at the right time to finish a chance, that’s a trait I would never trade away, no matter a player’s other flaws.

Shelvey runs more like a dinosaur than a footballer, but he does it with great effect. He bounds up and down the field, back hunched over, always looking to pick off a pass or jump into a tackle. He is acutely aware that he isn’t as fast as other players, so he gets himself on his toes and shuttles well and positions himself well to get into the action.

Shelvey showed the potential Benitez saw in him when he signed the Charlton player in 2010 when Kenny Dalglish started the midfielder in his preferred position, behind a forward as a withdrawn striker/attacking midfielder, against Blackburn. Shelvey was one of six players in the starting XI 22 years old and younger. And even as Liverpool went down to 10 players, and gifted Blackburn two penalties, one of which was converted, Shelvey and the rest of Liverpool pushed hard and eventually dealt a major blow to Blackburn in the dying moments of the game when Andy Carroll scored the winner.

Shelvey, Jordan Henderson (who cost a lot more) and Jay Spearing give Liverpool a backbone in the midfield for the future. Shelvey and Henderson have played, and worked well, on the international stage as England Under-21’s. Liverpool hopes that partnership will continue to blossom in the Liverpool red.

Henderson and Spearing look more like a traditional pairing in the center of the midfield — Spearing the bulldog, Henderson the tempo creator — and that’s all well and good, but they don’t separate Liverpool from other teams. That’s where Shelvey, a hawk who can score and create chances, comes into play.

Shelvey has the intangibles to be a player who can catapult Liverpool into the future. His nose for goal and his reading of the game makes him a player to watch. A player who, if he blossoms into the player anticipated in 2010, can push Liverpool back ahead of Everton and fighting for a place in Europe on a regular basis. Let’s just hope the magic doesn’t fade.

Kevin Koczwara

Article with thanks to LFC Boston Supporters Group

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Kevin is the news editor for a small newspaper in central Massachusetts, an editor and co-founder of The Soccer Guys, and a contributor for Worcester Magazine, KCKRS.com and NESN.com. Member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Follow him on Twitter @kkoczwara.
  • Jim

    I agree that shelvey has potential, but the thought of the these players mentioned above give me nightmares regarding liverpool s future, we have to aim a lot higher or we will be light years of winning the prem or champions league, with these three in midfield we will turn into a mid table team.

    • DH1

      Agreed. All potentially good squad players, but REAL quality needed and needed fast if we are ever going to come close to challenging for the title. Other than Suarez and Stevie G, there is not a single offensive player at Anfield that a top side would wish to sign from us. The league position does not lie and a major overhaul is required as any of us who think this side will suddenly turn into a top 4 team is, frankly, delusional. I hope KK stays, but if he does, I hope his summer signings are vastly superior to last year and that the deadwood is cleared out – or the next league campaign will be a rerun of this years.

  • Kirk Dale

    Henderson ” the tempo creator ” ? Your having a bubble ain’t ya

  • http://twitter.com/Kelvin_atlast Kelvin U

    I love this piece. It’s spot on!

  • Tim Jones

    ‘Shelvey, Jordan Henderson (who cost a lot more) and Jay Spearing give Liverpool a backbone in the midfield for the future.’

    More spin from the blind-faith brigade

    The thought of these three being the backbone to our midfield in the future just confirms that we are heading for mid-table mediocrity – with the King Kenny brigade loving every minute of it.

    It’s the stuff of nightmares when you consider we had players like Alonso and Mascherano operating there not so long ago

    • Saito

      I have to disagree with you on Shelvey. I strongly believe he has a whole lot more potential than henderson (when you consider the price and how crap henderson has played). While henderson shows he’s afraid to take control of a game, shelvey doesnt. 

      • Tim Jones

         I wouldn’t disagree – but you could make a case for saying Jimmy Bullard or a host of other championship midfielders are better players than Henderson

        Between them Carroll, Henderson and Downing have played well in about 5-10 games this season. That’s a huge indictment of Kenny’s transfer policy and if he does stay I just hope the owners don’t gove him any money to spend because his judgement of players makes Graeme Souness look insightful

        Shelvey does have potentual but I don’t believe he’s the type of player whose pressence in the first 11 is going to get us back challenging for the Champions League

    • DH1

      Absolutely. It’s scary to see how much our team has declined in recent seasons. The lack of REAL quality is why we’ll finish 30 odd points off the pace, not ‘bad luck’ or hitting the woodwork. Can’t see Real Madrid or Barcelona coming in for Charlie Adam somehow…..

  • EBLFC

    ‘Intangibles’ hehe I love it. I’m afraid this isn’t American football unfortuantely, and the thought of those 3 numpties replacing gerrard, alonso and mascherano are scary. 

  • Saito

    He has alot more potential than henderson and spearing. Difference is Rafa bought spearing for 1.8million, Kenny and Commoli bought henderson for 20million. see the difference.

  • Viewpoint_X

    These would be fine squad players. The kind of players we could bring on with 15 minutes to go while leading 2:0 and with a team having enough talent to compensate for one of them even at that.
    What you have to ask is, would any of those players make a Barcalona, Real Madrid or Chelsea team as they are probably the best around at the moment (based on CL form). In fact, how many of our players would make any of these teams; Reina, Skrtel, Agger, Suarez would have a chance. The only thing that will change this is a top class proven manager who won’t accept mediocrity and will know that these players are only potential and not permanent first team quality. Oh yes, excuses are always the sign of mediocrity!!

  • Redblooded Male

    LFC Boston supporters group? Americans eh! The mere fact that we’re eulogising about Shelvey shows the decline in both expectation & quality our team has undergone. Fellaini & Cahill, Gardner & Cattermole, Parker & Modri?, Cabaye & Tiote, Barton & Taarabt!, I’d take any of these CMF partnerships over any combo of Henderson, Spearing, Adam, or Shelvey, and that’s saying something. Thankfully it looks as if deals for Jackson Martinez (ST), Gaston Ramirez (AM), Royston Drenthe (LW/RW/LB), & possibly Keisuke Honda (RW/LW) are in progress, & all for less than £30M. Please please please.

    COYR

    • Jtiy1

      Shelvey our savior, then we truly have lost all hope.

  • ianmcd31

    Shelvey is a tad of hope for a future that many of us can’t see. Our expensive signings haven’t given the fans much confidence and it doesn’t help that the days of Rafa’s squad still loom fresh in our memory. This summer will be important, european class is needed to help out our timid British signings. Our British signings should definitively be given our support for next season, they have at times shown signs of promise against top teams, we just need them to deliver consistency, discipline, concentration and confidence next season. Oh, and GOALS!

  • Brendanfnolan

    Shelvey maybe. Spearing doesn’t have it and Henderson looks like a bottom half player. Those three couldn’t play at barca or Madrid, like our best midfield of the last decade could.

    • Tim Jones

       To be honest mate they wouldn’t even get into the first 11 of teams we’re currently battling with in mid table – Fullham, Everton, even West Brom, Sunderland and Swansea

      The only reason they get into our team is because Kenny obviously thinks they are really good and without Lucas, Gerrard and Adam, they are all we’ve got – a sobering thought if ever there was one

  • Leopoldfrank

    I see what you’re all saying. It’s true, those 3 probably aren’t our future spine as stated (and perhaps that statement detracts from the initial point). That aside, I do agree, Shelvey definitely has the potential to be great. I want to see him play all remaining Premiership games this season. He’s earned it.

    • Tim Jones

      ‘I want to see him play all remaining Premiership games this season. He’s earned it.’

      From what I’ve seen from Shelvey he’s been okay(ish) but how’s he earnt the right to play in all remaining Premiership games?

      He’s only appeared sporadically for Liverpool, and whilst he had a good spell on loan at Blackpool, I’ve seen nothing to suggest that he warrents a place in our starting 11. His performances have been pretty average

      The fact we’re hyping him so much just shows what a poor state we’re in, which will only get worst if the club give Kenny’s more money to spend over the summer

  • RobbieisGod

    I’m just hoping that Jonjo is given the opportunity to bed himself into the team !!!!

    4-2-3-1 formation, from Midfield forward;

    Lucas – Gerrard
    Suarez – Shelvey – downing
    Carroll

    Spearing, Adam & Hendo was squad players next year, try (maybe wishful thinking) to bring Hendo on as Gerrards long term replacement. hendo can also rotate with Shelvey !!!!

    I’d be happy with that – but more inforcements brought in to challenge for places(esp Downing and Carroll) but only if these new players we’re MAJOR improvement on the players we already have.

  • Dodgy

                Reina         
    Kelly   Skrtel  Agger  Enrique
                 Lucas
    Suso Shelvey  Sterling             Suarez
          “World Class Finisher”

    If we could sign a world class striker like Villa (if he’s fit) or a Huntelaar or another player of that quality, I think this would be a great side with Gerrard, Downing, Maxi, and other squad players making strategic cameos as needed. 
    I know it’s a tall order as there are a limited number of those kinds of players available and we don’t have Champion’s League to tempt them with but we would only need to make one “big’ 35million signing this summer to do it!

    • Auketas

      In 5 years time this could be a great team but starting both suso and sterling at this age would be stupid

  • Kopidol3

    shelvey plays best in behind the striker/s. until he gets a good run of games there we may never see the best of him!

  • Mike6170uk

    Could’nt agree more , this lads quality , when he gets the ball he looks forward . he reads the game really well, my worry is willl the big money signings get the nod ahead , hope NOT. Big Big fan , come on you reds .

  • Jmbr79

    Totally agree!!!!!