Jamaal Lascelles's Newcastle contract, THAT Mike Ashley comment and what he really wanted to say
It's a big deal. But it's also not a big deal.
Jamaal Lascelles has signed a new six-year contract at Newcastle United.
The deal doesn't change much for the club – Lascelles was already contracted until 2023 – but the contract reflects his status as captain and brings his salary closer to that of Jonjo Shelvey, the top-earner at St James's Park.
All good. Lascelles has been a pivotal figure – on and off the field – under Rafa Benitez.
With the deal signed, the defender spoke, at length, to the media on Thursday.
Lascelles faced some awkward questions, especially on the escalating anti-Mike Ashley protests from fans angry at years of under-investment. He was also asked about the proposed boycott of next month's home game against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
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"I understand the fans' frustration – they want more from the club," said the 24-year-old. "Newcastle have done so well over the years and won trophies and played higher up the table, so that expectation is still there with the fans and we do understand that.
“But we can't control that. All I'd say is as a player, when 52,000 Geordies get behind us at St James's Park, it gives us such an uplift, it really does and I think that's exactly what we need right now."
Lascelles is right. The players do need the fans more than ever.
However, one comment – Lascelles' description of Ashley as a "nice guy" in response to a question about last month's meeting at a Ponteland restaurant – provoked a backlash on social media.
Lascelles, probably, should have sidestepped the question – manager Benitez is very careful in answering questions about protests and Ashley – but a lot of what he said made sense. He gave an honest player's perspective on the unrest and unhappiness on Tyneside. Clearly, he feels "negativity" is having an impact on performances.
The defender, speaking ahead of tomorrow's home game against Watford, had no problem with protests and chants against Ashley – he wasn't asking fans to stop demonstrating – but he wants unity inside St James's Park for 90 minutes.
Supporters can be united in wanting better for their club – and at the same time be united behind Benitez's team.