By Matt Farr
Former Newcastle boss Steve McClaren has picked out Jonjo Shelvey as the club’s star performer this season.
Newcastle are comfortably positioned in the Championship promotion race, and boast a one point lead over rivals Brighton at the top of the table.
They have a 17-point cushion over seventh-placed Fulham, who are just one point adrift of the play-offs, and McClaren is confident that they will win promotion back to the Premier League this season.
McClaren, who was in charge at St. James’ Park during their ill-fated top flight campaign last term, admitted to the Premier League Daily show live on Sky Sports on Tuesday that the club would make an immediate return.
He heaped the praise on 25-year-old midfielder Shelvey for his performances for Newcastle over the course of the season, insisting that he, not goalscorer Dwight Gayle, was the key man to their promotion bid.
He said: “They score goals, they win football matches. Give Benitez credit, he took a big risk, a big chance in staying in the Championship with Newcastle. I think it will pay off.
“They squad that they’ve got, I think there’s goals in there from anywhere. I mean even without Gayle they’re winning games and scoring goals.
“But I think the revelation for them has been Jonjo Shelvey. I think he’s been the main, main player. He’s a leader, and as long as he can curb his temper, stay on the field and not get sent off so much, he is the big man for them.”
Shelvey has contributed four goals and 11 assists from 39 appearances in all competitions this term.
McClaren also admitted that manager Rafa Benitez took a big risk in staying with Newcastle following their relegation to the second tier, but is one that looks set to pay-off.
Benitez replaced McClaren as manager at St. James’ Park in March 2016, but could not orchestrate their Premier League survival during what little time he had with he club.
But he opted to stay with the club for their pending season competing in the Championship, despite reports suggesting that he would quit following their relegation.
In other Newcastle news, Micky Quinn has named five Magpies stars in his Championship team of the season.