Tony Cottee has told Soccer Special on Sky Sports (broadcast on 28th November 2017 from 19:30) that he was surprised by Rafa Benitez's decision to leave Jonjo Shelvey on the bench until the final 11 minutes of Newcastle's clash with West Brom on Tuesday.
The Magpies went into their game at The Hawthorns looking to end a run of four consecutive defeats in the top flight, so some Newcastle supporters may have expected Benitez to play his strongest squad possible against a Baggies team that had collected a positive result away at Tottenham at the weekend.
Interestingly, Shelvey was left out, with Isaac Hayden and Mikel Merino starting in the middle of the park until the final 11 minutes when Shelvey replaced Hayden. And it was after the former Liverpool man's introduction that Newcastle found the equaliser after falling 2-0 down earlier in the game.
And Cottee suggested that it was little surprise to him that the Magpies found that equaliser once the Englishman had been brought on as he should have been involved from much earlier.
"He came on in the 79th minute. I haven't followed Newcastle enough to know whether he's been injured, whether he's out of favour, whether his performances have been bad. I know he got sent off at the start of the season. But for me, if he's fit, he should play because he gets in that midfield, he strolls around, he's got a fantastic range of passing and he was involved in everything going forward and they looked a better team with him in that side."
In fairness to Benitez, Shelvey has started all four of their recent defeats so perhaps the Magpies boss felt that it was time to leave him out and either rest him or try another partnership in the hope that it would help end the club's recent poor form.
And hopefully from a Newcastle perspective, the midfielder's time out of the side - even if it is only for 79 minutes - will help give him the hunger to rediscover his best form as he tries to force his way back into the side.
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