Jonjo Shelvey's little black book and what it means for his Newcastle performances

Jonjo Shelvey has a little black notebook.

Wednesday, 14th February 2018, 6:00 am
Jonjo Shelvey

It was bought for him by his psychologist, and after every game, the Newcastle United midfielder writes three things he did well and three things that he didn’t do well.

Most people inside St James’s Park on Sunday will have struggled for three things he didn’t do well against Manchester United, who were beaten 1-0 by Rafa Benitez’s side.

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Shelvey was that good. So too was Mohamed Diame, his midfield partner.

So good that Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic – who between them cost almost £130million – were taken off by Jose Mourinho.

Shelvey was good with and without the ball. The 25-year-old tackled, ran and passed. He was everywhere.

If Shelvey could play like that more often – and keep his discipline – he’d be in the England squad.

Jonjo Shelvey tackles Alexis Sanchez

The Romford-born player gave a rare interview to the club’s matchday programme before the Man United game.

Shelvey spoke about seeking help from a psychologist midway through last season.

It was a wise move. Shelvey, we know, has the talent. We’ve all seen that. But has he got the temperament?

“The penny’s sort of dropped now with me,” Shelvey told the programme.

Jonjo Shelvey

“I know what’s right and wrong, on and off the pitch, and I know what you can and can’t do.

“I’m just trying to stick by that every day. It’s probably taken a lot longer than what it should do to sink in, but I feel like I’m at that stage now.”

Shelvey hasn’t played that well for a long time. It was arguably his best performance for the club he joined two years ago.

But can he play like that again? And again?

Jonjo Shelvey tackles Alexis Sanchez

Shelvey, unquestionably, needs to be more consistent.

If he can, then it’s hard to see how England manager Gareth Southgate could ignore him.

Shelvey, an engaging interviewee, doesn’t often speak to the press, but he spoke to a handful of journalists last summer in the basement of Dublin’s Sports Direct store.

The subject of England came up.

“If you look at the competition, we’re crying out for a central midfielder for our country, in my opinion,” said Shelvey, who won his last cap in November 2015.

“All I can do is just show in my performances that I warrant a place in the England team.”

Jonjo Shelvey

England are crying out for the Shelvey that played against Man United, though not the one that needlessly got sent off twice.

Rafa Benitez was asked about Shelvey’s performance after the game.

Newcastle’s manager said that he’s not in such a “rush” on the field these days, though he’s seemingly always in a hurry when he walks through the post-game mixed zone.

Shelvey, such is his vision, can slow a game down, and that’s a rare gift. But it needs to be the gift that keeps on giving if Newcastle are to stay up this season.