Football managers despise the ‘c’ word. No not that one. I’m talking about the word ‘complacency’ - a term that’s been the enemy trait of so many gifted players down the years.
Does Newcastle United’s new boy Jonjo Shelvey fall into that category?
Having seen him deliver such a barnstorming debut last weekend - outshining the quality he produced for Swansea of late by an embarrassing distance – you’d have to at least think he might.
It was a performance that screamed of someone who had been jolted back into life.
Whenever people talk about the Magpies’ £12million midfielder, there does always seems to be a ‘but’…
He’s got ability, but doesn’t always apply himself.
He has a great passing range, but there are too many loose balls.
He can score from anywhere, but doesn’t do it enough.
He’s powerful, but doesn’t use that strength.
He’s bright, but loses his head.
He could be great, but all too often isn’t.
As a consequence players like Shelvey - where there’s a perception of unfulfilled potential – will have their mental fortitude and attitudes questioned. It’s par for the course.
Scrambling around for a reason why Swansea would sell him to a competitor this month, Alan Shearer tellingly said, “there must be something wrong with his attitude”.
In my case certain coaches labelled me ‘not nasty enough’ or ‘too laid back’. Both fair points looking back.
For Shelvey, it’s more of the latter.
Puzzled as to why he was frozen out by interim manager Alan Curtis, the midfielder has even said: "I had players coming up to me asking, ‘What have you done? Why aren’t you playing? What’s going on?’ I honestly couldn’t tell them, I couldn’t put my finger on it."
When you’re coasting, you don’t always know it. Unfortunately, others do.
I know, because I was guilty of it too. I worked hard and was professional at all times, but as a young Arsenal player that had never received a knockback, I confess I never saw the day coming when I’d no longer be wanted at the club.
It was naïve, but at the time I was so confident my ability would be enough that I took my eye off the ball, and didn’t push as hard as I might have done. I didn’t go the extra yard.
This I think is the lesson Shelvey must learn from his Swansea experience.
There was no shame in his failure to inherit Steven Gerrard’s crown at Liverpool.
In Wales though, he should have been Alan Curtis and Francesco Guidolin’s go-to-guy in the second half of this troublesome season.
He isn’t because Swansea didn’t trust him to deliver on his promise, and letting him join a fellow struggler for the run-in, was a slight on Shelvey’s character no matter how you dress it up.
Although elated at his move to such a wonderful club (and the success of his debut) the reasons behind his sale should have stung him as hard as a Bakary Sako piledriver that’s caught him flush in the face.
I hope it has. For this is a crossroads point in the 23-year old’s career.
Since becoming Charlton Athletic’s youngest-ever first teamer, debuting at 16 years and 59 days, the former teen prodigy has racked up over 200 club appearances, as well as four England caps. That’s decent work in anybody’s language.
Yet at 23, there still remains a feeling he has under-achieved.
Has he? Over the next two seasons we’ll find out.
If the penny’s finally dropped, Shelvey will kick on, learn lessons, and never take his place for granted again. The Magpies will be major beneficiaries.
If he lapses into his old ways all those ‘buts’ will plague his reputation, and this will be the last major transfer of his career.
As long as he doesn’t fall foul of that dreaded ‘c’ word again, he and Steve McClaren will get on just fine.
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