Steve McClaren: Jonjo Shelvey gave Newcastle perfect balance against West Ham
Published 16/01/2016 | 18:56
Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren hailed debutant Jonjo Shelvey after seeing him inspire his new club to a priceless 2-1 Barclays Premier League victory over West Ham.
The Magpies climbed out of the bottom three as a result of their win - their first in a Saturday 3pm kick-off since February last year - although £12million signing Shelvey could yet find himself in hot water with the Football Association after an off-the-ball clash with Enner Valencia.
Newcastle raced into a 2-0 lead with just 15 minutes gone and Shelvey played a part in both goals, feeding the ball into Georginio Wijnaldum to set up Ayoze Perez and then picking out Daryl Janmaat with a raking cross-field ball and watching as the full-back crossed for Wijnaldum to score.
McClaren said: "You always worry, the first game. Will he blend in? Will he fit into the team, the balance? It was a perfect balance.
"That first pass forward created the first goal and that cross-field just gives you, because of the speed of it, that extra two seconds that the defence can't recover.
"That's the difference between top-quality midfield players and average ones. He's got the potential to be top. There's a long way to go, but it's a nice start."
The only blot on Shelvey's copybook was his 38th-minute collision with Valencia in which he appeared to body-check the striker, although he was not punished at the time.
McClaren, however, dismissed the incident and was adamant there should be no repercussions.
He said: "I have seen it. It was more handbags. Come on - we're a contact sport. It was shoulder to shoulder and he (Valencia) couldn't move Jonjo Shelvey.
"I have watched it. Let's just talk about the game, not stupid little incidents that might make headlines. The headlines should be about the game, should be about the three points and should be about the win, more positive than that."
Half-time substitute Nikica Jelavic pulled a goal back for the visitors within four minutes of his arrival to spark a concerted fightback by his side, but, although Rob Elliot had to pull of a fine late save from Cheikhou Kouyate, there was no way back.
Hammers boss Slaven Bilic was less than impressed by his team's first-half display and admitted they got exactly what they deserved from a game which brought their first defeat in 10 outings in all competitions.
Bilic said: "We prepared for the game all week and had a good warm-up and everything, so I thought we were going to start better because we were the team that should have started with more confidence than them because we were up in the table, we were unbeaten for a number of games.
"They have improved a lot recently, but still they were down and we were counting on the confidence to be on our side. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
"We have to give them credit, Newcastle, who started bright and good and everything, but definitely we helped them in that.
"In the second half, we can talk about positive things. We can talk about good spirit, turning the game a little bit around, scoring a goal and then putting them under pressure and having a few chances at the end of the game.
"We had a great chance to equalise. Also they had chances in the second half on the counter-attack as we took that risk, so we could have nicked a point and it wouldn't be the first time.
"But to be fair, we have to admit, unfortunately, that they were better and they deserved to beat us, they deserved three points especially with their performance in the first half."