Eddie Howe has indicated he intends to rebuild Newcastle United around Jonjo Shelvey. The midfielder, undeniably gifted and blessed with a stellar passing range, has spent significant periods of his St James’ Park career on the sidelines after being dropped at times by Rafael Benítez and, more recently, Steve Bruce.
Howe though seems to have identified a player signed by Steve McClaren as integral to Newcastle’s philosophical transition from a defensive, counterattacking side to a much more front-foot, possession-based team.
“I knew how good Jonjo was, having played against him and watched him many times, but when you actually work with him you realise he’s an incredible technician,” said Howe, who on Saturday takes charge of his first game since succeeding Bruce when Brentford visit. “He’ll be someone very important for us as the season develops.
“Jonjo can play all sorts of passes, long and short. In terms of our philosophy and how we want to to play, he’s someone who’ll be very important to us.”
As Newcastle seek their first win of the season, Howe will also be hoping to “unlock” the ability the Brazilian forward Joelinton displayed at Hoffenheim before struggling horribly after a £40m move to Tyneside in the summer of 2019.
“Joelinton can be a huge player for us,” he said. “From what I’ve seen in training he’s got very, very good feet, he’s very good technically and he’s intelligent. Unlocking that talent and ability and playing him in the right position are things I’m assessing but he’s got a big part in our future here.”
Unlike certain St James’ Park predecessors, Howe did not shy away from using two P-words: philosophy and principles. He said his first 10 days of training had been about instilling his playing principles.
“We’re having to implement our philosophy in a gradual manner so the players aren’t overloaded but the basic fundamentals of how we want to play, of our core principles, I’d like to think you’ll see that against Brentford,” he said. “I would like to think you’ll see a Newcastle team playing in the way I want them to; a way that also befits what Newcastle supporters want to see as well.
“How quickly can we get there? We’ll see. But I’d like to think you’ll see a team doing the city proud.”
Howe, who admits the decision whether to recall the newly fit Martin Dubravka in goal at Karl Darlow’s expense represents a “tough call”, has been so immersed in coaching that, bar one pub lunch in Gosforth with his coaching staff, he is still to explore his new habitat.
“I’ve seen the training ground and my hotel,” he said. “I haven’t seen [central] Newcastle in the the light of day yet. Tomorrow will actually be the first time since becoming manager that I step into Newcastle when it’s daylight.”