Jamaal Lascelles believes Newcastle United are now in with a shout of staying up – after the players found their voices.
Lascelles scored in Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Swansea City.
The result moved the second-bottom club to within three points of Premier League safety, and a win over Manchester City at St James’s Park would see Rafa Benitez’s team move out of the relegation zone.
Lascelles had called for the team to show more “character, heart and desire” on the pitch in a passionate interview after Newcastle’s defeat to Southampton a week earlier. And the defender felt the team responded to those home truths.
“We showed fight and we got three points,” said the 22-year-old.
“Our focus is now on Tuesday. We’ve got to repeat that same fight and desire, which the fans want to see.
“The desire has always been there. You have it as an individual, and technically, we’ve got great talent, but we’ve not had the heart and fight.
“We have to show we’re giving 100 per cent, and we should have been doing it all season. That’s the most frustrating thing.”
Benitez – who inherited a quiet dressing room from Steve McClaren – has been looking for leaders since taking over United.
And the club’s manager has found one in Lascelles, who has been vocal on and off the field.
“I’ll always say what I’m thinking,” said the defender, signed from Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2014.
“If something needs saying, then I’ll say it. I think it’s important at this moment in time for harsh words.
“If not we’re going to be in a worse dogfight. I think what I said brought a big reaction. The way we played (against Swansea) ... we haven’t had that all season.”
Asked about the reaction of his team-mates to his comments, the England Under-21 international added: “I didn’t get many people talking to me about, but I think a few of them were thinking it but wouldn’t say it.
“Everyone knows what we need, it was just coming out and saying it. It’s there, that’s the most frustrating thing for me.
“Tuesday is a massive. I’m really pleased it’s at home, because the crowd were behind us and we’ll take that positive energy and crack on.”
Lascelles opened the scoring with a powerful header after losing his marker, but he didn’t celebrate the goal.
“I wasn’t going to celebrate at 1-0 – not until the 90th minute, when we had the game won,” he said.
“I was pleased to get the goal but more importantly for me as a defender was the clean sheet.
“Everyone worked hard around the pitch defending that position, and we’ve seen a lot of players talking which has helped massively. It’s nice to see a reaction. We have to keep it like that now.”