Eddie Howe names 'important' Newcastle United player who's doubtful for Manchester United game
Ralf Rangnick’s side take on Newcastle United on Boxing Day – and Jonjo Shelvey may not be fit. The midfielder missed last weekend’s home game against Manchester City with muscular problems following a gruelling few weeks on the field.
Asked why Shelvey, 29, missed the City game, head coach Howe said: “Muscle concerns with Jonjo. I think he was feeling a tight groin and a tight hamstring.
"I think he’s given a lot to the team in the hectic schedule that we’ve had.
"He hasn’t had a lot of football before that period, so I didn’t want to force him to play in a game which was probably a step too far for him, and then lose him for a number of weeks, so I think it was the right decision.
"He hasn’t trained with the group yet. We hope to have him back very soon. He’s such an important player for us, we we need to keep him fit.”
Howe quickly identified “technician” Shelvey – who had come in for some criticism earlier in the season as the team struggled for form – as a key player after taking charge last month.
Asked if any players had “surprised” him on the training pitch, Howe said: “I think we’ve got some very, very good players, very good technical players.
"Just picking one, for example, Jonjo Shelvey. I knew how good Jonjo was on the ball technically, having played against him and seen him many times.
"When you actually work with him, you realise he’s an incredible technician, and he can play passes all over the pitch, long and short.
"He’s someone that I’ve looked at, in terms of our philosophy and how we want to play, and he’ll be very important for us as the season develops.
"There are other players I could mention, and that’s probably unfair (singling out Shelvey), but I wanted to give you one name.”
Shelvey, signed from Swansea City in January 2016, scored in last week’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.