Comment: Lenell John-Lewis has a role to play at Shrewsbury Town
Shrewsbury Town soon have a big decision to make on Lenell John-Lewis.
The striker has been a pretty polarising figure in his two-and-a-half years at Montgomery Waters Meadow.
The club paid the experienced striker respect over the summer by handing him a six-month deal while John-Lewis was midway through rehab on his anterior cruciate ligament injury – a third serious injury of his career.
John-Lewis, signed from Newport County in 2017, has made his comeback in the last couple of weeks and now has a race against time to show fans and boss Sam Ricketts why he should stick around beyond the new year.
The 30-year-old was received well by supporters when returning from the bench against Macclesfield in the EFL Trophy recently, an appearance that put to an end 11 months on the sidelines.
But a section of Shrews supporters would see the the striker move on and be non-fussed about it.
John-Lewis can still be an asset to the football club.
He is a part of the furniture as one of the longest-serving players and commands respect in the changing rooms and on the training pitch.
Team-mates and staff do not respect John-Lewis simply because he is a nice guy – of which there is no doubt – but instead because of the standards he sets and work ethic he puts in.
No member of the Shrewsbury squad will work harder on a day-to-day basis than the striker.
He will be the first to say he has not played as much football as he wanted at Shrewsbury over more than two seasons – luck with injury has played a part – but that has not affected his attitude or morale at any stage.
‘The Shop’ as he is affectionately known by fans or ‘Lenny’ as colleagues refer to him, is a driving force behind the scenes.
He will continue to set high standards through professionalism and work ethic while at the club and those are factors that can’t be dismissed lightly.
Throughout his time at the club under different regimes, John-Lewis’s attitude and performances in training have helped raise standards of those around him.
Supporters may suggest players cannot be carried purely for being influential behind the scenes, but John-Lewis can prove himself to be more than that.
Before his horrific injury in the FA Cup against Stoke in January, the frontman was showing some signs of good form under Ricketts.
He had put in a fine display at the Stadium of Light on the left side of midfield for Town, as Ricketts set up to stifle the hosts.
John-Lewis was tireless in an unaccustomed role down the left flank.
His mobility has often been questioned but that day he was everywhere as the visitors earned a deserved point.
Ryan Haynes, left-back that day, was the grateful recipient of his graft.
Left wing is not his position but John-Lewis proved he is more than capable. He has not had the chance to prove himself as a regular League One starter but he is unquestionably a stellar option from the bench.
John-Lewis loves it at the club and wants to stay. As an affordable option, his place in the squad – for the reasons outlined above – is a no-brainer.