Jonjo Shelvey says Newcastle United’s players can’t be distracted with off-the-pitch issues as they prepare for the new season.
Rafa Benitez has been involved in a stand-off with owner Mike Ashley this summer over a transfer budget and new contract.
United’s manager – who this week signed Fabian Schar and Yoshinori Muto ahead of tonight’s friendly against Porto at the Estadio do Dragao – is having to sell to buy in the window.
Shelvey and his team-mates – who secured a 10th-placed finish last season – are keen to see the squad strengthened ahead of what Benitez believes will be an even more challenging Premier League campaign.
However, Shelvey insists that the players can’t be distracted by what’s happening off the field as they prepare for the August 11 opener against Tottenham Hotspur.
“As a professional footballer, I don’t think you can get involved in that stuff off the pitch,” said the midfielder.
“You have to leave that down to the people higher up.
“The gaffer knows what he’s doing. He’s been there, done that and got the T-shirt. We’re obviously all behind him and behind the club as a whole.”
Shelvey is aware of the frustration of supporters who want to see Benitez backed in the transfer market.
And the England international had a message for fans ahead of the new campaign.
It’s a very, very young team, and we’re inexperienced in terms of Premier League games and stuff like that, but I think the main message that we need to send round to the fans and the players is that we need to stick together and fight as one.Jonjo Shelvey
Shelvey added: “You hear what the fans are saying, and what they want, and hopefully the owner will produce that, but, if not, we have to stick together and fight and try and do what we did last season.
“I think all we need to do is stick together in and around the group. It’s a very, very young team, and we’re inexperienced in terms of Premier League games and stuff like that, but I think the main message that we need to send round to the fans and the players is that we need to stick together and fight as one.”
Shelvey again worked on his fitness throughout the summer break, and he’s physically ready to tackle the new season, whatever happens in the transfer window.
“There are still a lot of things going on at the football club that we don’t know about,” said the 26-year-old.
“But, for me personally, I feel I’m doing all right. I’ve worked hard during the summer to keep my head and keep training well, so I can keep putting it in during the games.”
Shelvey was happy to see Kenedy return to the club earlier this summer.
United also signed former loanee Martin Dubravka on a permanent deal and added Ki Sung-yeung, who was a free agent after leaving Swansea City at the end of last season.
“I feel we’ve added some quality with Ki coming in,” said Shelvey. “Martin’s signed and we’ve got Kenedy back.
“They’re going to be three important players next year, but I feel the lads that are here probably deserve another crack at the Premier League because of how well we did last season, especially towards the back end of it.
“You could see the impact Martin had from his first game and Kenedy speaks for himself. He’s so strong and powerful on the left, but he’s got that skill and that know-how – he knows how to win games.”
Shelvey played with Ki earlier in his career when they were together at Swansea.
“Ki’s very neat and tidy on the ball,” said Shelvey. “He’s a great lad. He’s quite a quiet and shy, but ever since he’s come in, he’s fitted nicely into the group.
“That’s what you want from a new player, for him to get up and running quickly. He knows how to play in the Premier League.”