Steve Bruce explains key decision against Manchester City – and hints at changes
Steve Bruce is ready to refresh his Newcastle United team at Bramall Lane – after resisting calls to change his starting XI against Manchester City.
Jonjo Shelvey rewarded Bruce’s faith in him with an equaliser in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Manchester City at St James’s Park.
The midfielder’s performance in Newcastle’s 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa a week ago had drawn criticism. But Shelvey kept his place – and the captain’s armband.
Asked if he had considered leaving Shelvey out against City, Bruce said: “No. I've been quietly pleased with him. I thought he was excellent against West Ham, which was only four weeks ago.
“Look, we were disappointing against Aston Villa. I thought we were disappointing as a team, and that's the thing we have to try and address.
“I've been really pleased with Jonjo. Physically, we’ve asked him to do stuff which he probably wouldn't have been able to do before – or been asked to do before. When I saw his physical stats against Aston Villa, they were terrific.”
Christian Atsu played a free-kick to Shelvey, unmarked outside the box, for his 88th-minute equaliser.
“These days, it's very rare that people leave the edge of the box, and I think Jonjo went over and had a word and said 'there's nobody standing on the edge of the box',” said Bruce. “It's all right talking about it – delivering it like he did is a difficult skill.”
Bruce had Sean Longstaff back from a three-game suspension, but he kept the 22-year-old on the bench.
United’s head coach, however will carefully consider his options for Thursday night’s game away to Sheffield United.
Bruce said: “If I hadn't got it right, I'm sure you would have told me! I've got to make a decision. That's what you get paid for.
“They're big calls, but I was never in doubt to leave him (Shelvey) out. Going out to Thursday and then Sunday (against Southampton at St James’s Park) has got me thinking but we will address that on Thursday.
“Already, I'm thinking of changes, which is something I believe we will have to do in January, because of the amount of games we have to play.”