What can Shelvey’s Swansea resurgence bring England?
Jonjo Shelvey’s return to the England fold for the next round of Euro 2016 qualifiers comes as somewhat of a surprise; not due to performance, but rather previous.
It seems all has been forgiven for Swansea City schemer Shelvey’s recent snubbing of Under-21 duty, though the midfield maestro has the possibility of collecting just his second senior cap, despite being included in squads but failing to feature.
The playmaker’s full Three Lions debut came in 2012 against San Marino, so it is apt he rejoins as England (12/1 from Coral to win Euro 2016) prepare to face the minnows again, and Switzerland, over the international break.
In the years between his bow and sudden recall, Shelvey, a Charlton Athletic academy product, has undergone a host of changes to become the increasingly polished player he is today.
Liberty Stadium boss Garry Monk appears to have been a vital mentor, after Swansea plucked the passionate, occasionally ill-tempered player from Liverpool, for whom he had shown promise but little end product.
As the Reds’ transfer policy continues to falter, the Merseysiders may wish they held on to the midfielder, purchased for a modest initial £1.5m fee, or thereabouts.
Shelvey joined the Swans in 2013 for increased game time, threatening in flashes to become the Welsh side’s string-puller.
Yet, the previous two terms, bar the odd goal and eye-catching assist, or game-changing moment of magic, were marked with matches played as a passenger, inconsistency and occasional on-pitch disciplinary issues.
Shelvey’s tempestuousness, as well as vision, however, is what sets him apart from peers.
Now, the Englishman’s talents appear to have matured and been honed into an all-round more effective and contemplative player.
Club manager Monk recently backed the 23-year-old’s international recall, stating: “It’s time to grow up and he’s done that. I had a good relationship with Jonjo and worked closely with him and he’s worked very hard.
“He’s much fitter, he’s looking stronger, he’s not quite there yet, but he will be there if he continues to work and play like he is,” added the coach.
Hodgson, who had a chance to work with Shelvey while briefly in charge at Anfield, has kept faith in the still young midfield plotter, and will know all about his flaws and attributes.
Shelvey himself, must have been aware of his Three Lions call-up before taking to the field against Manchester United, but gave nothing less to his club duties than full focus.
Taking second-billing to goal heroes Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis, Shelvey was just as crucial, his showing illustrating just what England fans can expect.
An early, fearless tussle for possession with decorated Bastian Schweinsteiger set the tone for the Swans’ turnaround, as Shelvey continued to carve through Man Utd’s defence with precise passing and a dangerous set piece.
One assist so far does not do service to his sensational start to the season, and demolishing the Red Devils was no flash in the pan, as excellent performances against Chelsea and Newcastle United also show.
Somewhat off the radar, while other English talents are championed and put on pedestals which often exceed their potential, Shelvey’s England inclusion is a refreshing change, and one well-earned.
The Three Lions have long craved a continental dominance in midfield, while pass-masters such as Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick were famously oft ignored.
Now Hodgson is showing savvy here. Of course, star outings for Swansea are far different from bossing proceedings against the likes of Germany and Spain. Yet, Shelvey has the appetite for big games.
As Ross Barkley garners praise for lung-bursting runs and long-range strikes, but is yet to truly dictate play consistently, and Jack Wilshere continues to struggle with injury, there is space for a less flashy support artist.
Able to operate in advanced, as well as deeper, midfield roles, England could unearth a real gem ahead of Euro 2016, able to make their often disjointed midfield tick.
Three Lions fans may not want to get ahead of themselves, and the returning recruit is not the answer to all of England’s issues by any stretch.
Yet, if Hodgson’s men are to stop flattering to deceive, it is to be hoped Shelvey seizes his chance to help the Three Lions, 20/1 to win World Cup 2018, smooth out midfield creases.