During the fifth edition of Player Insights we will be taking a deep dive into the career of our central defender and club captain, Jamaal Lascelles.
Lascelles was born in Derbyshire in 1993, and since a young age had a large degree of desire and competitiveness within him. He often explains how the close relationship he had with his older brother draws out his competitive nature during sport, specifically highlighting basketball and football.
Jamaals’ older brother, Rema, followed in the footsteps of their dad and became a professional basketball player, now plying his trade with Leicester Raiders. Fortunately for Newcastle, Jamaal opted for football, beginning his career in the Nottingham Forest youth setup.
It was here that Lascelles gained knowledge of the game, with an important loan spell at League One Stevenage presenting a key opportunity to gain experience for the young defender. This was a breakthrough moment in Lascelles’ career as he ended the season playing consecutive matches in the right back position, also appearing in the play off matches which Nottingham Forest went on to lose 0-1.
Following this loan spell a contract extension was tabled to Lascelles, possibly to deter interest from Premier League giants, Arsenal, but also to slowly introduce the defender into first team football. The following season Lascelles established his place in the starting XI, building a strong partnership in central defence with Jack Hobbs and appearing 29 times for the club.
Further Premier League interest followed with Everton approaching the player, however it was not until 2014 that Newcastle got their man, alongside club teammate and goalkeeper Karl Darlow. Alan Pardew was the man at the helm for Newcastle, and decided to purchase the Nottingham Forest pair on long-term contracts with an immediate one year loan back to their parent club.
Life at Newcastle
By the time Lascelles arrived at Newcastle, a managerial change must have placed doubts over the requirements of his services. Alan Pardew departed for Steve McClaren, and subsequently Lascelles did not make a league start for some time. The debut did arrive in January 2016 against Watford, which resulted in a 1-2 loss for the Toon Army, but an eye-catching performance and a goal by the defender raised awareness around the defender.
Results of the team did not take a huge upturn with the introduction of Lascelles, due to deeper issues within the squad and manager. The quality of the team including international players such Moussa Sissoko and Gini Wijnaldum was not performing anywhere close to its potential, with McClaren getting the axe due to this, however Lascelles did begin to establish himself within the first team squad.
To the amazement of the city, the replacement manager was a certain Champions League winner, Rafael Benitez. In March 2016 Benitez started methodically improving the squad from a tactical and behavioral perspective to ensure the club survived in the Premier League. Lascelles was a key part of this project, following a 1-3 defeat to Southampton, Jamaal was identified as a key leader within the dressing room. His confidence to challenge much more experienced players was recognized by Benitez and the pair formed a strong working relationship.
Unfortunately, this pairing could not prevent the club from slipping down into the Championship at the end of the season. Although a clearly negative result for Newcastle, the fact that Rafa stayed with the club not only highlighted the size, nature and brilliant support the club has, but also allowed a re-build of the team. Lascelles was made captain following the departure of Fabricio Colloccini and a recruitment drive for mentally strong and resilient players begun.
Throughout the Championship campaign Lascelles went from strength to strength, guiding the team to the title while improving as a player and leader, largely down to the detailed work of Rafa Benitez. These performances earned our captain a place in the PFA 2016-17 Championship Team of the Year, while also penning a new long-term deal to the club.
Upon arriving back in the Premier League Lascelles continued to grow. His ability to assure other players in the team, while being defensively solid ensures he plays a pivotal role on match days for Newcastle United. The mentality of our skipper alongside his ‘all or nothing’ nature has made him one of our most, if not the most important player. I do feel Lascelles is slightly underrated by our fan base due to the consistent, but unspectacular nature of his performances
What the future may hold
In a recent article Lascelles has voiced his opinion that he would be happy to spend the rest of his career at Newcastle United. Now I know how quickly things can change if a big money move gets placed on the table, however I truly believe the departure of our club captain could cause serious trouble for our team.
Regarding an international career, I believe Lascelles isn’t too far away. There are still some weakness in his game such as small lapses of concentration every so often, however I do think Lascelles is well equipped to represent England at a senior level, and I hope not just for the players sake, but also that of our club that Lascelles is rewarded with the call-up he desperately deserves.
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