Jamaal Lascelles man enough to deal with Newcastle United captain responsibilities

Jamaal Lascelles

Jamaal Lascelles

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Jamaal Lascelles says he’s big enough AND old enough to handle the responsibility of captaining Newcastle United.

The 22-year-old was handed the skipper’s armband by Rafa Benitez on the eve of the Championship season.

Lascelles will lead the club out against Huddersfield Town at St James’s Park on Saturday.

Newcastle, beaten 1-0 by Fulham in last week’s Championship opener at Craven Cottage, are looking to get their campaign up and running.

And Lascelles feels he has the attributes needed to lead United in what will be a challenging and demanding season.

“Age is just a number for me,” said Lascelles, signed from Nottingham Forest two years ago.

“If you’re a big enough character to deal with certain situations, you can deal with it.

“Maybe, at the start of last season, this team did lack a bit of personality, but I think it’s changed a little bit now. We’ve brought in some massive players.

“Just because I’m the captain, it doesn’t mean other players can’t lead each other on the pitch.

“We’ve got three, four or five players who could wear the armband as well.

“It’s nice to play with them and have them in the squad.”

Lascelles was honoured to be “trusted” with the captaincy by Benitez, one of the most respected and experienced managers in European football.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I can’t put into words how I feel.

“For Rafa Benitez to give me the armband, with the players he’s worked with, just shows how much trust he’s got in me.

“I makes me feel really pleased. I’m over the moon with it.”

Benitez tested Lascelles’ leadership credentials in pre-season.

Asked what Benitez had said to him, Lascelles said: “To start with, he literally just threw me the armband and let me get on with it.

“It probably was a test to see how I would cope and how the other boys would deal with me and take it on.

“To be fair, the boys have been really supportive. They’re behind me.

“Over the games, he’s been a bit more serious and asking me questions. Of course, I’ll grab it with two hands and take it on board.”

Lascelles captained Forest through to Under-21 level, though he admits skippering a team at first-team level is a “massive step up”.

“I’ve been at Nottingham Forest since I was eight, and from the age of Under-12s up until Under-21s I’ve been captain,” he said.

“It was just the first team that I wasn’t.

“Youth football, stepping up to the first team, is a massive step up. I’m literally so happy.”

Lascelles, loaned back to Forest the season before last, emerged as a leader in the latter part of last season as the team battled to stay in the Premier League.

The England Under-21 international came to prominence after April’s 3-1 defeat to Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium.

Then-captain Jonjo Shelvey refused to talk to the media after the game.

But Lascelles, unafraid to speak his mind, demanded more “heart, desire and character” from his team-mates in an interview that resonated with supporters.

Lascelles said: “Even when I signed for Newcastle, I didn’t think I’d be near the first team (in the first couple of seasons).

“When you looked at the players they had, I just thought ‘wow’.

“I managed to get on the bench, and it wasn’t until the last few games that I featured a lot. It just goes to show how fast things can change in football.

“After that interview at Southampton, I scored against Swansea.

“We went unbeaten and went really well for me individually.”