Why Jamaal Lascelles is happy to do Rafa Benitez's '˜dirty work' on the pitch for Newcastle
Rafa Benitez appointed Lascelles as captain on the eve of the season.
The 23-year-old, a vocal player, showed his leadership qualities late last season as the club fought to stay in the Premier League.
And Lascelles – who will make his 50th appearance for the Championship club against Brentford today – admits it is unusual for someone his age to be leading out players, like 33-year-old Daryl Murphy, who are 10 years his senior.
“The modern captain leads by example rather than the dirty work of talking to players and digging them out,” said Lascelles.
“But if you have a balance and can do both, it is ideal.
“Earning the respect of players is hard. I am 23. Telling Daryl Murphy and Matt Ritchie, who have been there and done it.
“I am pretty sure when I am 30 I won’t have a 23-year-old talking to me like that!
“Sometimes I think I wouldn’t have it, but it is just the person you are.”
Lascelles has a close relationship with Benitez.
United’s manager will often pass messages to the players through Lascelles, signed from Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2014.
“I am always in his office,” said the England Under-21 international.
“He calls me in, passes messages to the players and talks about what we can do in games and training.
“He is an easy person to speak to. He can have a laugh, but knows the time to work. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, he will stop training and say ‘you should have done this’.
“He puts things in your head to think about. He is the best manager I have had.”
Benitez “tested” Lascelles in pre-season before appointing him as captain following the summer departure of Fabricio Coloccini.
“I thought he did test me a few times,” said Lascelles.
“A few pre season games he asked me questions. He asked a few of the boys about me being captain, and the boys backed me and said I was a big character.”
Lascelles has made more starts – 26 – than any other player so far this season.
But the Derby-born player is not craving a rest.
“I would rather play as long as I am fit,” said Lascelles. When I get picked, I’ll play my hardest.
“I talk a lot and before games. I am on to the players and talking and shouting. Maybe he wants me in there for that reason too.”
Second-placed Newcastle – who beat Brentford 3-1 at St James’s Park earlier in this season – were given an unexpected lift ahead of their visit to Griffin Park when third-placed Reading were surprising beaten at home by Queens Park Rangers.
Lascelles was texting his team-mates during the match at the Madejski Stadium.
“I was screaming at the TV shouting ‘defend, defend!’,” said Lascelles.
“We can’t control what these teams around us do, but if they are dropping points, it is in our favour and I was happy with that results.
“I am sitting there in my front room watching it and texting the lads.
“I always watch the other teams. I was just saying ‘good result’ to get our minds on stretching our lead. We want the others to be losing.
“We can’t focus on others. We have to do our own jobs.
“We set our standards high. We are not satisfied. We want to be top and we want a gap. We know what to do to get there and have to do the work to get there.
United have lost two of their last three Championship games.
“I think positive,” said Lascelles. “I go into games thinking we will win without being complacent or arrogant.
“I know my players and the manager, and we have a team of winners and people who give their all.”