Jonjo Shelvey assesses Newcastle’s Premier League chances – and reveals why he’ll always be grateful to Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez and Newcastle players at the launch of the club's new all-baclk third kit in Dublin
Rafa Benitez and Newcastle players at the launch of the club's new all-baclk third kit in Dublin
0
Have your say

Jonjo Shelvey says the Premier League will be a “shock to the system” after a year in the Championship – but he’s confident Newcastle United will hold their own.

Shelvey and his team-mates are preparing for the new season at the club’s training base in Ireland.

Rafa Benitez’s side take on Preston North End at Deepdale on Saturday.

Shelvey was outstanding in the first half of the club’s Championship-winning campaign. And the 25-year-old worked through the summer to be ready for the club’s return to the top flight.

Newcastle open their season with a home game against Tottenham Hotspur on August 13.

“The Premier League gets a lot better every year, and it’ll be a shock to the system the first game,” said Shelvey.

Jonjo Shelvey

Jonjo Shelvey

“There’s no better game to come back into than Tottenham on a Sunday live on Sky.

“That’s a positive for the lads. We want to go out there and prove we’re good enough to play at this level, and I think if we get a few good results at the beginning of the season, it’ll give us the confidence and a platform to go on and get more wins. “

Asked if United have a good chance of competing under Benitez, Shelvey added: “I think so. I think we need to probably bring a few players in, but that’s not down to us.

“We’re the ones at the club, and we are the ones who have got to come to the front when the season starts, regardless of anyone coming in.

We want to go out there and prove we’re good enough to play at this level, and I think if we get a few good results at the beginning of the season, it’ll give us the confidence and a platform to go on and get more wins.

Jonjo Shelvey

“I think it’s a real opportunity. It’s quite a young squad. There are not many that have played in the Premier League for a few seasons.

“We are a young team, but what a great opportunity for us to go out and express ourselves. It’s just good to be back. It’s the best league in the world at the end of the day, and it’s where everybody wants to play.

“We deserve to be back there from last season, just like we deserved to go down the season before.

“Now we’re back we need to make sure we stay there.”

Shelvey caught the eye in the club’s opening pre-season friendly against Heart of Midlothian last week.

The England international feels he’s ready for the challenge ahead. On his summer fitness regime, he said: “Last year I had a trainer, but this year I just went away and did my own bit.

“I was going a lot of running – 5k in the morning – and then an intense session in the afternoon, and then in the evening before bed I’d do another 5k.

“I feel a lot better, a lot fitter, a lot sharper, and that was the main aim for me going into this season, making sure I was ready and prepared.”

Shelvey also feels his year in the Championship has “toughened him up”.

“The last year has probably toughened me up,” said Shelvey, speaking at the Dublin launch of Newcastle’s new all-back third kit.

“I hadn’t played in the Championship for a long time, so it was refreshing to go back and play there, but it isn’t a nice league to play in.

“Luckily we had Dwight (Gayle) to score goals, but no matter how you get the wins, you just need to get them, we did and we got out of it.”

Shelvey was often man-marked in the division.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “I remember one game against Rotherham when I went over to get a drink and the kid followed me!

“But in the end they do tire and you just have to stay mentally in the game.”

Shelvey was also grateful to Benitez for sticking by him when he was banned for five games after an independent disciplinary commission found him guilty of using racially-aggravated language towards an opponent.

He had denied the Football Association’s charge.

“Any manager that sticks by you, you are buzzing, to be honest with you,” said Shelvey. “It could’ve gone either way with the club. They could have thrown me by the wayside.

“But they stuck by me, they believed in me, and I feel like I repaid them with my performances.

“I’ve just got to keep continuing to do that. The manager thinks enough of me to keep me at the club and play me, so the main thing I need to do now is to repay him.”