Jonjo Shelvey returned to the England team over the weekend, doubling his cap-tally three years after his one and only appearance for the national side.
It was a call-up that he really deserved, too. Rather than just reacting to early-season form, Roy Hodgson recognised that Shelvey has had a very strong 2015 and has been showing definitive signs of progress for almost a year now.
Well done to the England management structure for recognising that and well done to Jonjo Shelvey, Garry Monk and everyone at Swansea City for what has been a very admirable turnaround - more can be read about that here.
Rather than focusing on what has been done well by his new club, Shelvey’s renaissance is being used in some places as a stick with which to beat Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool let the player go very cheaply and, on his current form, he could clearly be a force for good at Anfield. He’s the type of ambitious ball-player that the side probably lacks in the centre of midfield and the better Shelvey performs for Swansea - and now for England - the more of an error his departure will ultimately look.
But that’s really not fair.
Brendan Rodgers deserves to be under a spotlight at the moment because his progress at Liverpool really doesn’t tally with his exorbitant transfer-spend. As time passes, the more that second-placed finish in 2014 looks like a Luis Suarez-inspired anomaly and in the months since there’s been precious little in the way of positive momentum.
But Shelvey is not necessarily one of Rodgers’ failures.
Given how much maturity the player has shown at Swansea and given how willing he’s been to take ownership of the aborted start to his career, Jonjo Shelvey himself would probably take full responsibility for his inability to leave a true impression of himself on Merseyside.
He’s grown up at The Liberty Stadium and, yes, Garry Monk has been a key figure in that process - and maybe you could argue that Brendan Rodgers could have played a similar role - but it’s reasonable to say that, in all likelihood, Shelvey benefited from essentially being rejected by a big club.
Sometimes, players need that kind of jolt - especially when their progress as a teenager has been largely smooth. As such, it’s more than plausible that his departure from Liverpool and his early struggles at Swansea, because it hasn’t been a completely smooth ride in South Wales, have been defining factors for him.
Talented footballers can benefit from a dose of adversity and Shelvey appears to be an example of that. Maybe, if he hadn’t been sold cheaply by Liverpool, he wouldn’t have been as receptive to Garry Monk and he wouldn’t have absorbed the very public criticism he received in December 2014 and reacted so proactively to it.
Egos can be obstructive to a player’s development and, superficially at least, Jonjo Shelvey’s probably needed to be deflated.
Blaming Brendan Rodgers for an apparent lack of foresight or for his inability to nurture the player properly is highly reductive, then, and is really just an opportunistic way of jumping on a manager who is already under pressure. There can be no certainty over how Shelvey would have progressed had he stayed at Liverpool and nobody could say for sure whether, had he not suffered through the emotional rainbow of that experience, he would have eventually become the player he’s now threatening to be.
Development is a convoluted, detailed process and there’s never just one aspect to it.
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