Jonjo Shelvey and Aleksandar Mitrovic found themselves in very similar situations at the end of last season.
Rafa Benitez had arrived at St James Park, took four games to get his feet under the table and then left the pair of them out of his team for the entire relegation run-in.
As United began a six game undefeated run to end the season, both Mitrovic and Jonjo Shelvey were dropped, Newcastle going on to win 3-0 against the England international’s former team.
Rafa seeing it as the final straw when both players gave shocking performances as Newcastle had given feeble resistance when losing 3-1 at Southampton, a game that could have seen United lose by many more.
The Newcastle boss feeling that he couldn’t rely on either player to help try and save Newcastle from relegation. Jonjo Shelvey not getting another start and Aleksandar Mitrovic only getting back into the first team for the final meaningless match with Spurs, NUFC already relegated.
Jonjo Shelvey went away and reacted by losing over a stone in weight, looking far more mobile and with his passing ability back to its very best. The midfielder has featured in all 11 of Newcastle’s Championship games, starting nine and coming on as a sub in two.
Aleksandar Mitrovic on the other hand has come back to Newcastle after the summer break and arguably looks even less fit/mobile than he did last season, if that’s possible. He only turned 22 in September so you ca only wonder what kind of shape he will be in when he reaches 30.
Older fans may well see similarities with the infamous Billy Whitehurst in terms of the Serbian’s lack of movement.
You don’t expect Mitrovic to be as quick as Dwight Gayle but you do expect him to put himself in a position where he can do the very best for the team. Jonjo Shelvey is never going to be the most agile in midfield as if his movement was as good as his passing he wouldn’t be playing for us(!) BUT he is clearly reaping the benefits of the work he has put in, to try and force a way into Rafa’s plans.
Many supporters were thinking it was just a case of when, not if, Mitrovic was paired with Dwight Gayle but after only one start so far at QPR, it is clear that Rafa Benitez doesn’t see it the same way.
Even in his odd substitute appearances, the former Anderlecht striker looks knackered after he’s been on the pitch for 15 or so minutes, he really has to take note of the route Jonjo Shelvey has found back into the Newcastle team.
The big shame is that Aleksandar Mitrovic, just like Jonjo Shelvey, could be a major asset to this promotion battle, instead of sitting there watching the games like the rest of us.
Before he came to Newcastle, Mitrovic was often accused of lacking professionalism, gaining weight when away on international duty, and failing to put his football first.
Many Newcastle fans still love him but there is surely only one reason why Rafa Benitez is not playing Mitrovic – because he doesn’t think he is good enough to get into his team at the moment. Which judging by how bad Mohamed Diame has been recently, means Rafa must be REALLY disappointed in what the Serbian striker has to offer at this moment in time.
“He (Rafa Benitez) is a very good man-manager and he gets his points across well.
“If you are not playing he is a manager who is very approachable, you can always knock on his door and he will give you the explanation.
“It is football and it is a results business, it doesn’t matter who plays or who scores as long as we win the games and get this club back up to the Premier League.
“He signed me at Liverpool and I went up there in the May to meet him, then I went back to Charlton for the last month of the season.
“Then in that summer he left and Roy Hodgson took over.”