Jonjo's dream comes true

16th September 2013

Jonjo Shelvey is hoping to fulfil a burning ambition this evening as he lines up against his boyhood hero.
The midfielder, who swapped Liverpool for Swansea back in the summer, is preparing to face a former team-mate with more than just Premier League points at stake.
Born in Romford and growing up on the terraces at West Ham, he always wanted to play against Steven Gerrard - the man who used to pull on the same red shirt as Shelvey during his three-year spell at Anfield.
But tonight sees a landmark in Shelvey's burgeoning career as he goes head-to-head with his midfield idol.
"I've always looked up to him, ever since I was a kid," said Shelvey. "I watched him when I was growing up and he was the one that my dad singled out.
"It's just ridiculous how good he is, and in my opinion he's the best English midfielder that this country has ever seen.
"I always said that I wanted to play both with him and against him by the time I finished my career - that way you can judge yourself on how good you are.
"I lived next door to him at Liverpool and he was first class with me. He is still looking after my brother up there now, which is a mark of the man he is."
Gerrard, of course, was tipped for a bright future from a young age - something that Shelvey knows all too well.
After excelling in the youth team at Charlton, the midfielder went on to become the club's youngest-ever player in April 2008.
Representing England at all age groups, it wasn't long before the big clubs started to circle - and Anfield was his destination.
But after just 31 starts in three seasons, Shelvey explains it was time for a change.
"It was a big thing for me to move away from one of the biggest clubs in the world," he said. "I'll always look out for Liverpool because they are a fantastic club and the supporters were first class with me while I was there.
"But I felt it was time for me to move elsewhere and play games and make a name for myself. I saw it as a chance to get back to the status that I once had and hopefully I can do that with Swansea.
"Also, I think every young player should want to play. You could take money away and still want to play - the money is just a bonus in football.
"I know I've got the ability to do it, it's just finding that consistency that I never really found at Liverpool."
That word, consistency, is an important one for Shelvey.
There were times at Liverpool when he showed glimpses of why he was tipped for the top at such a young age - such as his sumptuous 30-yard strike against Chelsea at Anfield in May 2012.
But injuries, coupled with the return of more glamorous names, meant Shelvey was restricted to spells on the bench.
"Michael (Laudrup) has given me an opportunity here," he said. "And when I heard what both he and the Chairman had to say then I couldn't wait to sign.
"But one of the things the manager said in the initial meeting was that if you were playing well then you would be starting games.
"Whereas at Liverpool if you had a good game you would still be out of the next one. In that respect, your confidence does shatter a little bit but coming here I feel more part of a team.
"Even when we won the League Cup at Liverpool, I wasn't even on the bench and even though you have a winner's medal you don't feel part of it because you haven't been involved.
"But right now I'm happy. I'm playing every week and enjoying my football."
And it's fair to say that Shelvey has hit the ground running in south Wales.
His consistent performances in midfield thus far have earned him plaudits on a regular basis, while there have been calls for Roy Hodgson to hand him his second England cap.
But with his fiancée Daisy expecting a child, it was a move not just for the present.
"It's been a big difference coming down here, compared to Liverpool," he said. "Not just on the field, but off of it as well in terms of the city and the way of life.
"People don't come up to you as much, they let you be and in some ways that's perfect.
"I love my football but I want to be able to leave that at the training ground and come home and relax with my family.
"But we love living down here and that's the main thing. We're looking at buying a house rather than renting because I want to settle here."
When talk returns to his impact on the field, Shelvey's attention quickly turns to the supporters.
"The fans have been first class since the day I arrived," he said. "But I've always been someone who applauds the supporters after every game.
"They pay their money and it isn't cheap. Football is expensive these days and they have to pay their petrol money and travelling costs to go and watch the games.
"Most of our away games are not short journeys, and the least we can do is give a minute of our time to show our appreciation.
"They are the ones that are giving you the support that you want, and I couldn't have asked for much better so far."
One man that played a pivotal part in Shelvey's move to south Wales is a familiar face in these parts.
But the midfielder holds no grudges against former Swans boss Brendan Rodgers, instead paying tribute to a manager who aided his development.
"Brendan said it would be a great move for me," said Shelvey. "He couldn't speak highly enough of the club, the staff and the supporters.
"He also gave me advice on places to live and he told me his phone is always on if I needed to chat.
"But when I left I thanked him for everything because if it wasn't for him then I probably wouldn't have got an England call-up."
With one international cap to his name, it's clear that Shelvey is hungry for more.
Not content to sit on the bench at Liverpool, his move to Swansea may well have coincided with a belief that more chances at international level will follow.
But for now, his focus is on Premier League points rather than a potential trip to Brazil next summer.
"I'm trying not to think about England," he said. "If I get picked then it's amazing because playing for your country is everyone's dream.
"But if that does happen then it will be through consistent performances for Swansea, and that's why I need to take it step by step.
"Right now, I'm enjoying my football and I feel as though this club is going places."
It's only fitting then that talk returns to Liverpool.
But with his former club in town tonight, Shelvey is clear about what outcome he wants come the final whistle.
"It's one of those games where you can't let the occasion get the better of you," he said. "Obviously it's a massive game for myself but it isn't a case of me wanting to show Liverpool what they are missing, because I'm not like that.
"I'm playing for Swansea now and the main priority is to get us moving up the table - starting with a win tonight."