Monday, October 19, 2020

Is Jonjo Shelvey playing for a contract?

In a story reported by ChronicleLive this morning it was reported that Newcastle United are planning to offer Jonjo Shelvey a pretty hefty long term contract extension. The English playmaker has just 18 months left on his current deal and has continually split opinions during his time on Tyneside, with fans often finding themselves frustrated by Shelvey’s inconsistency and his continued disciplinary issues. On the flip side, Shelvey will then put on a performance that leaves Geordies in awe of his passing range and ability to strike a ball, it’s incredibly difficult to find one fan who feels specifically one way or the other.

As we covered recently, Shelvey has entered something of a purple patch in recent weeks, finding a level of consistent form that we haven’t seen from him for some time. He has been influential in a number of key wins for Newcastle this season and fans are beginning to dream that they are finally seeing some consistency from their mercurial playmaker.

Shelvey has 18 months left

However there is one small concern. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Shelvey currently has 18 months left on his Newcastle contract. If he wasn’t awarded a contract extension by the end of this season or very early summer, it would be a key sign that the team were planning to move him on in the next transfer window, as Mike Ashley is not a man who would allow a player of his value to leave for free. Shelvey openly admitted that his preference is to stay in the North East, during an interview with reporters earlier in December – though there was one sentence in there that should come as a warning sign for club officials and fans alike:

“At the end of the day, I’m playing for a new contract now. I want to stay here and hopefully a contract will be sorted. The kids love it up here -they’ve got their friends here.”

The key phrase from that quote above is highlighted in bold, it’s something we don’t often hear about in football in this country, playing for a contract. ‘Contract seasons’ are far more common in American sports, in fact they’re often used as a caveat when a player appears to be having the best season of their career.

See, in American sports, a player will enter the last year of their current contract with a view to getting as much money from their free agency period as they possibly can. Meaning that they play out of their skin for a season, giving their all to the game for however long that may last in a bid to showcase their talents to both their current team and any potential new teams, to gain the most money possible.

It’s something that fans are well aware of, as once that season is over the player will generally drop back down to their previous level of production, which is rarely justified by the contract that they are now on. In some worse circumstances the players will actually drop below their previous level of output with a lack of care given now that they have secured a new long term deal.

This is my worry with Jonjo Shelvey. This season has seen him in some of the best form that he has shown during his time at Newcastle, but are we simply just seeing this because he wants to secure a new contract? What happens once the ink has dried on that long term contract extension that the team are currently intending to offer him? Will we see a return to the inconsistent and frustrating Shelvey who holds all of the talent in the world but rarely unlocks it?

My hope is that, as he wants to stay here, this new long term deal will simply serve as a platform for him to kick on from. That this new level of form and ability is something that stems from playing in a system that is better suited to his abilities and he can continue to grow into the midfield linchpin that fans have long hoped he would become.

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