Rafa Benitez has backed under-fire Newcastle United captain Jonjo Shelvey ahead of his reunion with former club Swansea City.
Shelvey has struggled for form since his £12million January move.
I think the team as a team has to improve and him, as a captain, is training well, pushing, working very hard.Rafa Benitez
The midfielder was handed the captain’s armband after club skipper Fabricio Coloccini suffered an injury in February. Benitez signed Shelvey – who had an acrimonious exit from Swansea and has repeatedly refused to speak to the media on Tyneside – while manager of Liverpool.
And asked about the 24-year-old’s captaincy, United’s manager said: “I think the team as a team has to improve, and him, as a captain, is training well, pushing, working very hard.
“When I talk to him he is trying. He understands, he tries to help, but you cannot do too much if the team is not performing.
“He is trying to give everything and support his team-mates.”
Shelvey said he would be Swansea’s “loss” after joining Newcastle, but his former team, now safe from the threat of relegation, have prospered in recent months.
Meanwhile, Benitez – who celebrates his 56th birthday today – has urged his Newcastle players to leave “everything” on the pitch in the club’s final six games.
He said: “When you leave the pitch, you have to be sure you have done everything.
“So no regrets about anything like ‘maybe, I could do this, or go on another run’. That is crucial.
“You can win, you can draw or you can lose, but don’t look back and think ‘I could have done something more’.”