Jamaal Lascelles explains how he's matured at Newcastle United – thanks to Rafa Benitez
Jamaal Lascelles wants to get Newcastle United safe as soon as possible – so contract talks can start with Rafa Benitez.
Benitez – whose contract runs out in the summer – is expected to sit down for discussions over his future when the club secures its Premier League status.
Newcastle are 14th in the Premier League and seven points above the relegation zone ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Crystal Palace.
And Lascelles and his team-mates just want to get the job done.
“We’ll try to do anything we can to seal this manager down to a contract,” said Lascelles, United’s captain.
“If it means us getting the job done and getting as safe as possible, then excellent.
“We’ll just concentrate on our football and let the rest take care of itself.”
Lascelles, signed from Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2014, wasn’t in the team when Benitez succeeded Steve McClaren at St James’s Park just over three years ago.
Within months, Lascelles, then aged 22, was given the captain’s armband.
The defender went on to lead the team to the Championship title and a 10th-placed finish in the Premier League last season.
And Lascelles – who signed a new six-year contract at United in November – says he’s matured on and off the pitch thanks to the influence of Benitez.
“As a footballer, as a captain and as a man, I’ve really matured,” said Lascelles, who succeeded Fabricio Coloccini as skipper.
Lascelles came to prominence after coming off the bench in a 3-1 defeat to Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium three years ago.
The Derby-born player confronted one team-mate in the dressing room and delivered an honest assessment of what he felt the relegation-threatened team lacked in a post-match interview.
“He must have seen something in me that he liked,” said Lascelles.
“Since I’ve had the armband, he’s looked after me and helped me. He’s guided me in the right direction.
“I just follow instructions, and my personality and my characteristics do the rest. I thank him for everything I’ve learnt from him.”
Meanwhile, midfielder Sean Longstaff, ruled out for the rest of the season with knee ligament damage, has spoken about his recovery.
The 21-year-old said: “The recovery’s going well. I’m getting looked after every day, which is amazing. I’m in the best place possible to come back fully fit. It’s getting better every day. It’s getting stronger. It’s just about giving it time. That’s the only way it’s going to heal.
“It’s a little bit tough going from playing all the time and living the dream to being pulled out of it so quick. It’s about looking to next year and, for me, getting fully fit and back to where I was this year.”