Newcastle: Why Jamaal Lascelles should be in the England squad for the World Cup in Russia
With Newcastle’s Premier League survival all but confirmed, RealSport take a look at one of their star performers this season, captain Jamaal Lascelles.
Matt Ritchie will likely steal the headlines after firing home a 68th minute winner against Arsenal at St James Park at the weekend. The result sees Newcastle sitting comfortably in tenth position with 41 points, a second season in the Premier League since promotion last year all but confirmed.
The heartbeat of Newcastle this campaign has not been their traditional heralded number 9, or any attacking player for that matter. Instead, Jamaal Lascelles, whose commanding defensive displays will provide England manager Gareth Southgate with food for thought this summer, has cemented himself as a Geordie favourite.
Displays beyond his years
The 24-year-old’s performances have been, at times, masterful. At such a young age, and at a club with such demanding expectations, the former Nottingham Forest man has looked gracefully at ease in one of English football’s most notorious pressure cooker stadiums.
Standout performances have prompted rumours suggesting Chelsea are preparing a £30m summer swoop with lucrative wage offer to prize Lascelles away from Tyneside. The London club reportedly believe the defender can fill the void left by John Terry, which, if true, is a big complement to the young defender and his ability.
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez is hopeful Lascelles is content to remain in the North East understanding the importance of his captain in ‘Project Newcastle’.
“He’s happy, training well, he’s improving, he’s focused. You can’t stop speculation about players, but I was talking with him for a while last week and the focus is just trying to improve his game. I think at the moment he knows he has to continue progressing and learning, but he is quite happy here.”
An understated performer
Lascelles, who arrived on Tyneside in 2014, also played second fiddle to Matt Ritchie in the headline stakes after Newcastle’s season-defining result against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United last February. Rafa was under pressure, his Newcastle team hadn’t won at home since the previous October.
Lead by their captain, Newcastle triumphed in a hectic game, accompanied by a raucous St James’ Park atmosphere. Tyneside held a collective breath as wave after wave of Manchester United attack rained down, but their young captain, alongside goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, stood firm to deliver a priceless victory. Lascelles, the beating heart, remained assured on the ball throughout, his big game temperament coupled with a canny ability to rise to the occasion when needed clear for critiques to see.
The Newcastle ace’s rhetoric post-beating United was considered, his analysis of his side’s victory and how it had been achieved showed maturity and a knowledge of the game beyond his formative years.
“In the first-half they were making a lot of mistakes, passing the ball around but it was down to our pressing. We were aggressive, and they didn’t like it. You could see their centre halves on the ball and they didn’t really know what to do with it. We set up really well, and we matched up really well against them.”
England have a dearth in the leadership department. Harry Kane aside, Gareth Southgate’s young Lions lack character, something Lascelles could provide by the boatload. The comments above should ring a cord with England’s boss, who likes his teams to press, making things uncomfortable for sometimes more talented opposition.
Under Benitez, Newcastle have made the most of what they have got at their disposal, and their willingness to listen to the Spaniard’s instructions has paid off, Lascelles epitomises this. He listens to his manager’s demands, and that is why he continues to impress.
That he plays his football in the North East (an area criminally overlooked by England managers in the past) should not deter Southgate from picking Lascelles, he has developed into one of the league’s most consistent central defenders and deserves his place on the plane to Russia this summer.
What would it say about England’s selection policy if the youngest captain in the Premier League fails to receive the call? Southgate, if he decides to leave Lascelles at home, would strike a damaging blow against meritocracy, and another dangerous step towards big-club bias.
Should Jamaal Lascelles be heading to Russia? Let us know in the comments section below.