Jamaal Lascelles responds to questions on Newcastle protests, Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez’s future

  • Lascelles understands ‘frustration’ of fans at club’s position
  • United’s captain says players need backing more than ever
  • Lascelles believes under-fire Newcastle owner Ashley is a ‘nice guy

Jamaal Lascelles has pleaded for “unity” at Newcastle United – as fans plan fresh protests against Mike Ashley.

Lascelles yesterday signed a new six-year deal at the winless club, which is second-bottom of the Premier League.

United’s first 10 games have been played out against a backdrop of protests against owner Mike Ashley, who didn’t back Rafa Benitez in the summer transfer market.

There are more demonstrations planned for the club’s forthcoming home games.

Supporters, angry at years of under-investment, want Ashley to sell up. Lascelles, Newcastle’s captain, says he understands the “frustration” of fans. However, the 24-year-old has called on supporters to stay behind the team.

“I understand the fans’ frustration – they want more from the club,” said Lascelles.

Jamaal Lascelles.

Jamaal Lascelles.

“Newcastle have done so well over the years and won trophies and played higher up the table than we’re playing now, 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.”

Asked about the mood around the club, Lascelles said: “What do I think? I think it doesn’t help. We’re footballers.

“We concentrate on our jobs, and we try to be as professional as we can in our jobs.

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.

Jamaal Lascelles

“Things around the football, around the training ground, around the games, we can’t control, but you always hear little things and things get out into the press, and it just creates a negative mess.

“I’m not saying it’s the reason for us not winning games, but I’m pretty sure at any club around the country, if you’re always hearing negativity, it creates a bad picture. We’re not in control of that.”

The Magpie Group, formed from a network of supporters’ groups, has called for a boycott of next month’s televised home game against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Lascelles, however, wants fans to be inside St James’s Park backing the team.

“In anything, the only way things will run smoothly is if everyone sticks together,” said Lascelles.

“Ultimately, everybody wants the same goal, and, ultimately, we’re the only people who can affect it. We cross the white line.

“I do understand the frustration – I get it – but I also do know how powerful the fans can be and how infectious they can be when they get behind us getting us going.

“When I look up and see my flag up in the stand, it makes you think ‘wow’.

“I’m not saying it’s the fans at all, but we’re on the subject. A few times, they might sing about Mike Ashley, which they’re entitled to do – that’s completely fine – but just as players, it does make an impact when they are always behind us.”

Lascelles met Ashley last month when the billionaire took Benitez and his players out for a meal

“It’s the first time I’ve met him, and I think he’s a nice guy,” said Lascelles.

“We were sat around the table, having some food and a couple of drinks, and he just seems like a normal person. We just talked about normal stuff. That’s what we did.”

Benitez’s contract expires next summer, and the 58-year-old will wait to see if he is backed in January’s transfer window before making a decision on his future.

“Me, personally, as long as he’s here, Newcastle will keep going up and up,” said Lascelles, who was handed the captaincy by Benitez two years ago in the wake of the club’s relegation from the Premier League.

“To be honest, I didn’t know there was uncertainty about him not being here.”