By Neil Jones | Liverpool Correspondent
Liverpool's latest signing Jonjo Shelvey can grow into the perfect long-term replacement for Steven Gerrard, according to the 18-year-old's former physical education teacher.
The Reds confirmed on Wednesday that the England Under-17 midfielder will join the club from Charlton Athletic on May 10, after undergoing a successful medical at Melwood earlier this week. The fee is believed to be an initial £1.7 million, rising to £3m depending on appearances.
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Ackred Atkinson coached Shelvey at school, district and county level, and told Goal.com UK in an exclusive interview that he feels the Romford-born starlet can be moulded into the ideal successor to Liverpool skipper Gerrard, and even has the potential to emulate his illustrious new team-mate.
"I would say Jonjo is in that exact mould," said Atkinson. "He would be the perfect replacement for a player like Gerrard. If you are talking about how far Jonjo can go in the game, I would say all the way; he is a fantastic player."
Atkinson added that Shelvey was always highly rated at Brentwood County High School, and revealed that the youngster possessed outstanding physical and technical attributes.
"For sure, he was always head and shoulders ahead of the other boys," he said. "We had a few lads of similar ability - a couple have gone to Leyton Orient and to West Ham United - but he was on another level.
"He had a real intimidating presence, being tall and strong, and he certainly used to stand out in every game he played.
"He began by playing as a centre-back, but his ability on the ball and with free-kicks - which he would smash in left, right and centre - meant he was quickly moved forward into midfield, where he has of course made his career so far."
Shelvey is said to have rejected a move to Chelsea upon signing professional terms at Charlton on his 17th birthday, and is known to be a huge West Ham supporter, so does his decision to leave London and join Liverpool surprise Atkinson?
"It does surprise me in a way," he said. "I think when he signed for Charlton, he wanted to show his loyalty to a lesser club. Of course he is a West Ham boy deep down, and it was always expected that he would end up there, but you never know whether they will be a yo-yo club.
"I think Liverpool, in the best possible way, still has that 'English-ness' that may have attracted Jonjo. Compared to the likes of Arsenal or Chelsea perhaps, Liverpool might seem a more appealing destination. Especially with someone like Gerrard there as the ideal role-model."
Atkinson also revealed that Shelvey keeps in touch with his old school, and supports the P.E. department on open days. He even texted his old school team manager to let him know of his move to Anfield, an indication of his growing maturity.
"He did have temperament issues as a younger player," says Atkinson. "But I think as he has grown and been immersed in a professional environment, they have been ironed out.
"He was always totally dedicated to his football, that was always clear, and it is always nice to see him when he pops back into the school. He often helps out with open days and things like that, and he sent me a message to say he was on his way to Liverpool on Monday.
"We are all delighted for him, and hopefully we will be hearing a lot more about him in the coming years!"
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