Is Jamaal Lascelles a good choice for Newcastle United captain?
On Thursday morning, just one day before their first match of the season against Fulham, Newcastle United announced that Jamaal Lascelles was the new club captain. He replaces Fabricio Coloccini, who left for his native Argentina after eight years at the club. It is a huge statement by the North East side, as Lascelles is only 22 and has played just 21 times for the Magpies.
The last six months have seen Lascelles rise to become a prominent figure in the dressing room and has been one of the rare bright spots to emerge from Newcastle’s relegation season. After the side’s awful performance against Southampton in a 3-1 defeat, Lascelles came out after the match and delivered a frank interview about the team’s poor display.
He labelled the display ‘unacceptable’ and said the players at the club lacked ‘hunger’, ‘fight’ and ‘desire’. This struck a chord with the supporters and his team-mates alike.
Newcastle did not lose again after that match and it is believed that Lascelles’ interview played a part in that. In the modern game, it is easy to make empty comments in the press and not deliver on them, which was why this interview was refreshing.
Lascelles looks to be the perfect candidate for the captaincy as a result of the leadership he showed at the end of last season. He led by example and is respected in the dressing room. Some players would have been ignored if they made the comments Lascelles made after the Southampton game, but the young centre back certainly was not.
This battle cry is seen as the turning point that saw Newcastle players start showing heart on the pitch and Rafa Benitez was obviously impressed. The Spaniard had this to say after it was announced Lascelles would be taking the armband:
“We have a few players now in the squad who have the character to be captain, but Jamaal has proven himself to be a leader and a big personality in the dressing room and on the pitch.
“At the end of last season he really developed as a character and a man.
There are some concerns about the appointment with his inexperience the main one. It is a fair comment, but it is clear Lascelles has the leadership ability and the respect of his peers. These are more important than experience.
His predecessor had experience and the respect of the players, but lacked the qualities of a natural leader. In times of struggle, players couldn’t look for Coloccini for inspiration and the former captain used to be one of the first to crumble. This resulted in Newcastle collapsing more often than not after conceding the first goal.
The Argentine was a fair-weather captain, who looked the part when things were going well, but struggled to inspire if the tide turned. Lascelles has already shown that he can change the mood and get the side back on track, which marks him as captain material.
Within the Newcastle squad, there were not exactly many leaders last season. Benitez has gone some way to rectifying that this summer with Grant Hanley and Jesus Gamez both captains at previous clubs, although neither could realistically be considered for the armband this summer as they are not guaranteed a starting place. The lack of other options played a part in Lascelles being given the armband, but that is not to say the former Nottingham Forest defender won’t do well in the role.
The captaincy role has diminished in recent years, but it can still make a huge difference and the reaction of Newcastle fans already shows that Lascelles is a player they can get behind. It has become a cliché, but Newcastle is a unique club.
Rafa Benitez and Jamaal Lascelles have bought into that, with both understanding what is required to succeed here. As a manager and captain partnership, they could achieve great things together. For Lascelles, the fact he has been appointed captain by a manager with the pedigree that Benitez has will boost his confidence no end.
I think this is a great appointment by the club and marks the beginning of a new exciting era. The supporters hope that Benitez will stay at the club for the next four or five years at least and Lascelles could be his captain for the entirety of his reign. The centre-back is a born leader, but his ability on the field shouldn’t be underestimated. He is a very good defender and has the potential to develop into an England international.
Players thrive or shrivel when given the responsibility of the captain’s armband. I expect it to give Lascelles the confidence to take his game to the next level and the appointment is another sign that brighter things are on the horizon at St James’ Park.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Newcastle United
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