The Magpies boss surprisingly opted to start Jonjo Shelvey over Matty Longstaff in central midfield against West Ham United last time out, and it paid huge dividends, with the 27-year-old scoring the winning goal in the Magpies’ 3-2 victory.
Sky Sports pundit Mills was very impressed by the decision: “There’s been a lot of talk about the Longstaff brothers and how good they are going to be but sometimes you have to dip in and out, the young players, especially when there’s an awful lot of pressure on them,” he told Football Insider.
“That may be the reason for that but it worked. Jonjo Shelvey scores so you have to say, Steve Bruce got that one right and all credit to him for making that bold decision. It probably would have been easier to leave Longstaff in.”
Mills is absolutely spot on, here. As he says, the easy call would have been to keep the younger Longstaff in alongside the back-from-suspension Isaac Hayden. However, Bruce went with Shelvey, the more experienced man and the West Ham fan, and the England international repaid his coach’s faith with a terrific free kick goal. The former Swansea City star is a polarising figure on Tyneside, but there’s no daub that he performed exceptionally last time out. The statistics demonstrate as much. As per WhoScored.com, Shelvey had two shots on Saturday – one on target being the goal – as well as embarking on a successful dribble and knocking 12 long balls forward to the attackers. Furthermore, he made four crosses and achieved a WhoScored rating of 8.12. This really was a five star performance from Shelvey, but one he wouldn’t have had the chance to make if Bruce had gone with conventional wisdom and continued with Longstaff.