Shelvey broke into the side at the end of last season and the talk after the hammering of Coventry on the last day was about the impact he would make this season. It was no surprise then that he started the first game of the season, a 2-1 home win against Swansea. He also started three days later against Yeovil but had a poor game along with everyone else in a red shirt. Pardew was critical of a number of players after that performance and made a comment about the dangers of exposing young players in poorly performing sides which risks attracting the wrath of the fans and damages fledgling confidence. Whilst Scott Wagstaff was the obvious very-poor performer that evening against Yeovil, neither have been seen since.
There has been a school of thought that our performances and league position have demanded that we field the most experienced side we can week-in, week-out, and that the youngsters were being protected from it (and the deafening booing at times). However, our desperation for some inspiration and a change in fortunes has seen us try just about everthing else apart from the youngsters.
The fact that Shelvey is still only 16 years old and unable to sign a pro contract until February has caused speculation that we might lose him to a Premier league big fish before then and get only a derisory schoolboy fee a la a notable number of others in recent years e.g. Palace's John Bostock to Spurs last season. That in itself might seem justification for keeping Shelvey out of the limelight, although his surprise inclusion yesterday would question this with his 17th birthday only a month away. Perhaps the risk is considered worth taking now? Maybe it was simply a one-off? Cup-tieing him might also be considered a positive move in terms of keeping him longer term?
If the intention is to hold onto him and to build a side around him, Phil Parkinson's comments after the game yesterday were hardly condusive - "he just loves football and deserved his chance to play in this one because he did well earlier in the season. But he is only16 and we have to be careful how we play him. He is a big asset and will be a top player. I'm sure we can keep hold of him, there haven't been any calls yet." Maybe Parky was just being candid and acknowledging the previous rumours but he might have worded it less like an advertisement.
In our current predicament, the Board will have been looking at every possible asset and the question of whether to try and sell Shelvey will have been considered. In a season when nearly everything that could have gone wrong, has, I am praying that we hang on to Shelvey and contract him properly next month in order to give us some real hope for next season as well as protect our longer term financial interests. If Shelvey were to go, the last remaining credibility of the Board would surely go with him and a large chunk of Valley Gold revenue. The £10-a-month scheme to develop youngters is a great idea and one several thousand of us have been happy to support but a blatant raid on that investment and cheap-sell would go down like a bag of sick and would move this relegation season into a clear lead for the worst in our history.