Former Newcastle United defender Pat Howard believes that Magpies captain Jamaal Lascelles is finally at ease with being a leader.
The former Nottingham Forest centre-back was named as United captain ahead of last season’s successful promotion challenge and led the club into the Premier League.
Lascelles started the season on the bench after undergoing a hernia operation at the end of last season.
However, an injury to summer signing Florian Lejeune in the first game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur saw the 24-year-old back in the action sooner than expected.
Since then, he has again established himself as the mainstay of a United defence which has conceded just 36 goals in the Premier League this season, despite struggling against relegation.
Howard, who captained Newcastle himself in the 1970s, says he initially wasn’t sure Lascelles could cope with skippering the team and trying to establish himself as a Premier League player, but is happy that the former Nottingham Forest player has grown into the role.
He said “I think the armband has weighed heavy on him, even last season when the club were in the Championship.
“It’s tough because things aren’t brilliant at the moment and they are obviously battling against relegation.
“His position is a vital position, you have to be able to organise those around you and I always feel you have to be a very good talker.
“But you have to look after your own game, not just the other, and I think he struggled with that at first.
“It’s a tough job being a captain, being a young captain is even tougher so there has to be a level of maturity in there, which I think he has.
“But I really like him as a player and as a captain.
“His game is good, he’s strong, he reads the game well and he is good in the air.
“He has grown into the captaincy and he is developing very well as a Premier League defender”
Howard joined Newcastle from Barnsley in 1971 and went on play in an FA Cup Final in 1974 and the League Cup Final two years later, before leaving for Arsenal in 1976.
He was handed the captaincy by Joe Harvey in 1975, shortly before the Magpies legend was replaced by Gordon Lee in the St James Park hotseat.
Looking back, Howard believes he can appreciate how Lascelles must have felt when Magpies manager Rafa Benitez named him as his captain – and the buzz it must have given him..
“I remember it clear as day to be honest” said Howard.
“Joe Harvey called me into his office and said ‘Pat, I am making you captain of Newcastle United’.
“For me, wow, that was a real bonus because I was doing well, playing every week and to be chosen to be captain of this club was beyond belief.
“Everyone knows what Rafa Benitez has done in the game, so for him to show such belief in Jamaal, at such a young age, would have done wonders for the player’s confidence.
“It was like that for me under Joe as well.
“It was an honour and I know exactly how Jamaal would have felt when Rafa Benitez told him that he would lead this great club.”