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History tells us Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey shouldn't be surprised by England snub

Both players were hurt are missing out on a spot in Gareth Southgate's squad. But this isn't the first time flourishing players in the north-east have been overlooked by the national team

Martin Hardy
Friday 06 April 2018 13:27 BST
Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey are thriving under Rafa Benitez at Newcastle
Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey are thriving under Rafa Benitez at Newcastle (Getty)

Paul Gascoigne essentially played three full seasons for Newcastle United, scoring 21 top flight goals in 92 games. Newcastle finished 11th, 17th and 8th between 1986 and 1988. There were another four goals in the FA Cup and the League Cup.

He left St James’ Park without a full international cap for England, and signed for Tottenham in the summer of 1988. He played two games for Spurs, in a 2-2 draw back at Newcastle and then in a 3-2 defeat at White Hart Lane by Arsenal.

That, though, was enough to get the full international recognition that had been denied Gascoigne when he played in the north-east.

Twenty one league goals in three seasons for a largely struggling side just didn’t cut it for the England squad – then managed by Bobby Robson. Chris Waddle had scored more than 40 goals for Newcastle before he got the nod for his country in March 1985, signing for Spurs four months later. Peter Beardsley had scored more than 30 goals in a season-and-a-half of Division One football before he was picked. So for those of a certain generation, the exclusion of Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey from Gareth Southgate’s recent England squads really is nothing new.

The official Newcastle United Twitter account posted a picture of the pair running together when Gareth Southgate picked his squads for the friendlies with Holland and Italy, accompanied by a pair of judgemental eyes. It got more than 3,000 retweets. There was a certain sense of anger in Tyneside when the pair were overlooked. It felt like old times.

Speaking to Lascelles last month about the possibility of reaching the World Cup, the midfielder was phlegmatic at the time.

“The England manager’s got his team, he’s got his centre halves who are established and they’ve played for years in the Premier League,” he said. “For me to go in and replace one of them would be a huge decision for him. I might get lucky but the main thing for me is to try and up my game and remain consistent and hopefully everything should fall into place.”

The exclusion of Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey from Gareth Southgate’s recent England squads really is nothing new (Getty)

Except it hasn’t. Swansea’s Alfie Mawson, Burnley’s James Tarkowski and Leicester’s Harry Maguire were all included in the absence of more recognised centre halves. Lascelles expressed his surprise. “I was waiting and I was disappointed,” he said. His club manager, Rafa Benitez, told him not to worry, that he had time. It still felt a slight against a player who has consistently in his time at Newcastle United shown himself to be a leader, and anyone who watched the abject surrender of those in England shirts against Iceland in the European Championships two years ago will realise the importance of that old fashioned virtue. He has a tutor in Benitez that he listens to and improves with each week.

Newcastle played a five-game period without Lascelles in December and picked up just one point. They have conceded three or more goals five teams this season and Lascelles was missing from four of them.

In the last 10 Premier League games Newcastle have won four, drawn four and lost two (against Manchester City and Liverpool). Their Premier League form since the turn of the year puts them in sixth place and a win at Leicester this weekend will all but guarantee them Premier League football next season.

Lascelles’ form is certainly ahead of Mawson’s and at least on a par with Tarkowski, while facing Maguire at the King Power Stadium will probably best show the difference between the pair in styles. Lascelles retains the old fashioned virtue of a defender; to defend, to block, and to cajole those around him.

Lascelles and Maguire meet on the pitch this weekend (Getty)

Southgate’s preference is for defenders who can play, for central defenders who might even be fullbacks, but his team is not strong enough to believe they will not spend periods in Russia with their back most firmly against a wall or two.

For Shelvey, it feels only now that the season is coming alive. He starred in victories against Manchester United, Southampton and Huddersfield, when aggression and work rate were added to the qualities few English midfielders possess, the desire to unlock.

Danny Murphy was another who wanted to risk moving the ball forward into dangerous areas – Jordan Henderson did so just 15 times (10 successful) out of the 91 passes he made against Holland. Unsurprisingly, the former Liverpool midfielder has argued for Shelvey’s inclusion.

“100 per cent he offers something different to Gareth Southgate,” said Murphy. “I think in terms of opening up a packed defence, he’s the best passer we’ve got.

“I understand the other side, discipline or defensive responsibilities, but when you look at the squad in players in his position, maybe not start but I’d be taking him. Against packed defences he’s the one who can do it.”

Jamaal Lascelles is unlucky to have missed out on each of Gareth Southgate’s squads (Getty)

Benitez has added variation and control to Shelvey’s play this season, in his return to the Premier League. His game can be short and long, he has done more of the scruffy work of a midfielder, he still looks as long as he possibly can when he gets the ball, but now there is the discipline to go shorter if it is a better option.

Both players were hurt by the recent snub from Southgate. It will take something special to emerge from the final seven games with something new on their CVs to book a seat on the plan to Russia.

The real point, however, returns back to Gascoigne, and that belief players must leave the region to catch the eye.

Lascelles has been watched by Chelsea and Shelvey was heavily linked with a move back to London with West Ham during the January transfer window. These are players flourishing in the north-east, and the England squad should reflect that.

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