IN football, for every winner, there is generally a loser. As Matty Longstaff wheeled away in celebration after scoring on his Premier League debut against Manchester United, one wonders what Jonjo Shelvey was thinking as he watched on from the substitutes’ bench.

Joy at one of his team-mates scoring a screamer in front of the Gallowgate End to secure a much-needed victory? Or a glum acceptance that yet another barrier had been placed in front of him on his route to the first team?

Pretty much ever since he arrived on Tyneside in January 2016, Shelvey has been Newcastle United’s enigma. In terms of natural talent, he is probably the most gifted player in the Magpies squad. There are few players in the Premier League that can better him when it comes to arrowing a cross-field 50-yard pass, and he has been at the heart of some of Newcastle’s most memorable moments from the last three years. At one stage, there was even a concerted campaign to secure his promotion to the England team.

And yet at no point in his Newcastle career has he ever felt like a cast-iron regular. His goalscoring statistics are poor – nine goals from 115 outings – and it was obvious that Rafael Benitez harboured serious reservations about his ability to fit into the tactical template that proved so effective over the last two seasons.

When Steve Bruce arrived, it was assumed Shelvey’s prospects might look up. Bruce wanted to be more open and adventurous than Benitez, so Shelvey’s eye for a pass would surely appeal? Not exactly. The 27-year-old has started just four of Newcastle’s eight Premier League matches this season, and will once again be on the bench when the Magpies travel to Stamford Bridge this afternoon.

Like Benitez, Bruce questions Shelvey’s work-rate and worries about his lack of mobility at the heart of midfield. The Longstaff brothers will willingly run themselves into the ground from first minute to last. Isaac Hayden, who is serving the second instalment of a three-match ban today, is similarly energetic and agile. Shelvey? He has to sit deep to render his passing effective, but in such a position, it does not take long for his defensive deficiencies to become apparent when he or his team-mates give up the ball.

As a result, and with Matty Longstaff’s emergence having added another dimension to Newcastle’s midfield mix, he is likely to find his first-team opportunities limited for the foreseeable future. Given that he is due to enter the final 12 months of his current contract next summer, that could mean the Magpies look to cash in at the turn of the year.

“The hardest part of management is keeping the ones who aren’t playing happy. If I’ve got 12 who aren’t playing tomorrow then I know what I would have been like, tearing the door down. He (Shelvey) accepted it,” said Bruce, in what was hardly a glowing endorsement of the midfielder’s desire to prove his manager wrong.

“He’d been struggling with a thigh for a while, and then a hamstring. So, in a big game (against Manchester United last weekend), I decided to give the young un (Matty Longstaff) the nod. He’s not going to enjoy that, but that’s what it was.

“He strained his hamstring after Brighton, and he hasn’t been quite right. His thigh injury has been hanging around for a long time, so he’s just got to accept it the way it is.”

The situation is Paul Dummett is not quite as clear-cut, but having started the first seven games of the season, the 28-year-old found himself dropped to the substitutes’ bench for the first time against Manchester United.

Ciaran Clark played in his place, and is likely to remain in the starting line-up this afternoon, so like Shelvey, Dummett also finds himself battling to avoid being permanently cast to the fringes.

“I just thought, ‘Ciaran, he trains every day and works hard at it’,” said Bruce. “I decided I was going to leave Dummy out, and once I’d made that decision, then I thought Ciaran was best equipped because he’s naturally left-sided and gives the team a better balance. That was important, and that’s why he got the nod.”

Newcastle (probable, 3-4-2-1): Dubravka; Schar, Lascelles, Clark; Yedlin, S Longstaff, M Longstaff, Willems; Saint-Maximin, Almiron; Joelinton.