JONJO SHELVEY is aiming to mount a case for his defence next season – and Steven Gerrard is the inspiration he will turn to.
A £1.7m signing from Charlton a little over 12 months ago, Shelvey played some part in each of Liverpool’s last six matches of the season, adding to a debut season total of 15 appearances for the Reds.
But Shelvey admits that defensively he had little idea of what he was doing when he first broke into Kenny Dalglish’s senior side.
“The defensive side of the game was very new to me when I first came here,” he admitted.
“The staff here organise you very well defensively, and it’s helped me as a person on and off the pitch.
“I’m not so attack-minded any more, I’m getting to know what my job is in the team.”
The example Shelvey constantly turns to in his bid for self improvement is captain Steven Gerrard.
“I think he’s the benchmark for young midfielders – he is for me,” explained Shelvey, whose early performances for Liverpool actually saw him ambitiously compared to his idol in some quarters.
Those comparisons haven’t fazed the 19-year-old.
“Everyone has someone they look up to but he’s the one for me,” he added. “Hopefully I can achieve half of what he’s achieved.
“It's not a burden for me, it’s nice to be compared to people like that. If something’s not going well, you can tell yourself, ‘Come on, you’re supposed to be the next whoever.’ It’s a bit of inspiration.
“It's nice to be labelled, but you can’t rest on what you’ve done. You have to be your own player, train day in and day out and try to become the best player you can.”
Shelvey has undoubtedly become a more rounded player since becoming Charlton Athletic’s youngest ever player – at a tender 16 years and 59 days old – three years ago.
A regular for England at Under 16 and Under 17 level in previous years, Shelvey had the honour of captaining England’s Under 19s in the first half of last season as he helped Noel Blake’s side through the First Qualifying Round of the European Championship.
“It's always an joy to play for England and I've been fortunate enough to have done it since the U16s and it's something that I enjoy,” he said.
“To captain them is something special and after playing for the U16s, U17s and U19s, the next step is the Under-21s so that's where I have to be aiming now.”
But his primary focus is undoubtedly establishing himself in the Reds senior squad.
“I enjoy it here and hopefully I can get more starts and be a Liverpool player for a long time,” he added.
“The highlight is just coming into training every day. It's a pleasure to get up in the morning knowing you're coming into work at Liverpool Football Club. It's an honour.
“I speak to my brother and he hates getting up in the morning. He gets up at 7am to get a train up to London and he can't stand it. It's just an honour for me to get up and do what I love doing.
“I knew the club was a hard working and family orientated club as soon as I joined. Everyone loves coming to work here. I don't think you could find a better place to work. Everyone is friendly, everyone gets on with everyone.”