Liverpool FC player Jonjo Shelvey
IT takes a man to confront Sir Alex Ferguson. And it takes an even bigger man to then seek out and apologise to the Manchester United manager.
But then Jonjo Shelvey is demonstrating this season that, under Brendan Rodgers, he is maturing fast at Liverpool.
Shelvey has grown in prominence since the Northern Irishman assumed the Anfield reins in the summer, carving a niche as that most precious commodity – a goalscoring midfielder.
Yet it was the reaction to his controversial dismissal against United last month after a challenge with Johnny Evans that has perhaps most ingratiated the 20-year-old to the Kop and seared himself into public consciousness, an unhappy Shelvey wagging an accusing finger at Ferguson on his way down the tunnel before giving him a piece of his mind.
“I saw him in the fourth official’s ear so I said to him, ‘It’s your fault I got sent off’,” says the Liverpool midfielder. “I apologised and pulled him afterwards because I knew I was in the wrong.
“I had just picked up my mate and his girlfriend from the players’ lounge and I was walking back down the tunnel towards the car park and he was walking towards me. It was a bit awkward.
“I’m a young boy and I think the emotions got the better of me when it happened. I apologised but said I still wouldn’t have pulled out of the tackle if it was there.
“He said ‘It’s fine. It takes a man to apologise. No hard feelings. It’s an emotional game. Don’t worry about it’.
“My dad has always brought me up to respect people, but if you have your opinion and feel you are in the right don’t be afraid to say it.
“I think that counts in all aspects of life. You have to fear no-one – well, except our manager!”
The legacy of that challenge continued into his call-up to the full England squad earlier this month, when Roy Hodgson – who gave Shelvey his debut at Liverpool – gave the youngster, a previous international at under-16, U17, U19 and U21 level, his senior bow as a late substitute in the World Cup qualifying romp against San Marino.
“Danny Welbeck pulled me when I arrived and said 'Leave my manager alone',” laughs Shelvey. “That helped break the ice.
“I'd gone very quickly from playing in a park with my mates to sitting next to Wayne Rooney at dinner. It was a bit weird.”
Shelvey, however, could have been lining up in green and white that evening.
“My granddad was a traveller from Ireland,” he says. “I could have played for Ireland and Scotland but it wasn't a difficult decision for me to be honest.
“I thought about going down that road but my dad soon put a stop to that and told me I was going to play for England. It turns out he was right.”
It seems the refreshingly forthright Shelvey has been in demand ever since learning how to kick a ball.