THE BIG INTERVIEW: Jonjo Shelvey
30th August 2015
He might be a big fan of stand-up comedy, but Jonjo Shelvey is proving that when it comes to the development of his career, football is no laughing matter.
The Swansea City playmaker is going the extra mile to ensure he is on top of his game as he aims to "kick on" and step up to the next level this season.
When he retires from the sport, Shelvey doesn't want to have any regrets, which is why he's leaving nothing to chance.
"I've been looking at covering all angles and trying to get myself fitter," reveals the English midfielder, sitting down in the home dugout of a sun-drenched Liberty Stadium.
"I sat down with the manager, my dad and my agent to talk about things I needed to improve. A big thing was lasting the 90 minutes of a game.
"I feel that when I'm on it and fit, I can dictate and control a game. I have no worries about my ability, and I can go on the pitch and be fearless. If I try something that doesn't come off, I'll still try and do it again.
"But the manager, who has been spot on with me, wanted me to work that little bit harder and to get fitter.
"He had no qualms with my ability in terms of performing or winning us a game, but he told me that he was bringing me off in games because he'd look at the other midfielders and they would be running past me.
"I had a good look at every game and thought to myself: I need to do this for me so that I can kick on with my career. I'm 23 years of age now, and I want to perform with more consistency."
Shelvey has certainly left no stone unturned in order to make sure he improves the area of his game that he feels needs enhancing.
Ahead of a gruelling pre-season, Shelvey was already putting in the hard work during his summer break when he was working with a personal trainer to stay in peak physical condition.
And now he is going to even greater lengths by employing a personal chef to ensure his diet is on par with his top-class talent.
"It was my agent's idea at first," admits Shelvey. "He did it for Gareth Bale, which helped him. He kicked on with his career at Tottenham and now at Real Madrid.
"I'm not saying I'm as good as Gareth Bale, but it's obviously worked for him, so I just wanted to give it a go.
"If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but it's a matter of trying things. I think the chef comes in for a six-week trial to see how you get on with them and to see if you're comfortable with them being around the family. For me, it's a good chance to try something new.
"The chef is just about to start with me now, so it will be interesting to see what he is like and how he cooks the food. I'll have to try and learn how to cook myself!"
The talented midfielder looks as though he has already found the right ingredients following an eye-catching display at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season prior to another impressive performance against Newcastle United, when he provided the assist for Bafe Gomis' opening strike.
"I've already felt the benefits from working with the personal trainer, so hopefully all the hard work will pay off," he adds.
"I do think I'm playing the best football of my career at the moment and in one of the best teams I've played in, in terms of how competitive it is in every position in the squad.
"The manager wanted competition for places and for everyone to be fighting for the shirt, which I think can only benefit the club.
"We want to go as far as possible in every competition, and you need a competitive squad to be able to do that.
"I'm really enjoying living in Swansea and getting the chance to play at this great stadium (Liberty Stadium) every other week.
"I feel very settled here - my family is very happy. I've got a house here, and I wouldn't want to up and leave.
"Outside of the top four or five teams in the Premier League, for me, this club is the next to get into that bracket. I want to stay here and try to help Swansea reach that level."
So far, it really has been a fantastic 2015 for Shelvey. Not only is he playing some of the best football of his career, but the Englishman also signed a new four-year deal in July and got married to his long-term partner Daisy during the summer.
"It was a good summer for me," beams Shelvey. "In terms of getting married, it was probably one of the best days I'll ever have.
"We had Jimmy Carr doing a bit of comedy at the wedding, which was a plus for me because he is my favourite comedian.
"Ash (Williams) and Nathan (Dyer) came to the wedding, and they couldn't stop laughing at him. He was hilarious - very rude, but he was spot on.
"You wish you could do the whole day again, but it probably wouldn't be as good second time round.
"Daisy and I then got ourselves off to Dubai for a few days before coming back here to get back into training."
Despite still being relatively young at the age of 23, Shelvey is now into his ninth season of senior football, having made his professional debut for Charlton Athletic at the tender age of 16.
And the playmaker is hoping his experience of top-level football can help the Swans reach even greater heights this season.
"I do feel as though I'm an experienced player within the Swansea team," he adds. "It's an honour to play in the Premier League, and I've played at this level for a few years now.
"I feel I'm at the age now where I can talk to players and help them.
"I haven't set myself any real personal targets, but I want to try and get forward more and score a few more goals."
Meanwhile, from a team perspective, Shelvey sees no reason why Swansea can't top their record-breaking campaign of 2014-15.
"I have no worries over whether we can hit the targets we hit last season, but I think we can do even better - maybe one or two places higher in the league," he adds.
"I think we're better than a lot of teams in the Premier League, and we can go anywhere and stamp our authority on the game and get a result.
"We proved that last season and we proved that at Chelsea on the opening day of this season."
The Swans now face another test of their credentials when they face Manchester United at the Liberty this afternoon in what will be another big challenge for Garry Monk's men.
But as Shelvey rightly stated, the Swans have proven in recent seasons that they can go toe-to-toe with the big guns of the Premier League, having secured a league double over United last season.
"We deserved to win both games," remarks Shelvey. "We always seem to do well against the bigger teams, and we want to put on a show for the fans again.
"It's going to be tougher this year because of the money they have spent. They've bought some exceptional players over the summer, who will improve them.
"But if we play well and play our usual game, we can beat anyone.
"If you look at the opening game of the season, I think people expected us to be rolled over by Chelsea, but we were the team that looked most likely to win the match.
"Of course, we drew the game and the win wasn't meant to be, which was a little bit disappointing if I'm honest, but that says a lot for how far this club has come."