Jamaal Lascelles feels he’s learning every day at Newcastle United – and edging closer to his Premier League debut.
Lascelles joined Newcastle from Nottingham Forest last year, but was loaned back to the Championship club.
I just want to be doing the best I can and hopefully be playing.
The defender finally made his United debut in last month’s Capital One Cup win over Northampton Town.
Lascelles is now looking to make his league debut for the club.
The 21-year-old – who partnered Mike Williamson against Northampton – is behind Fabricio Coloccini, Chancel Mbemba and Steven Taylor in the central defensive pecking order at St James’s Park.
But he feels the competition for places will bring the best out of him over the coming weeks and months.
“The staff haven’t set me any targets, but I have my own personal ones,” said Lascelles.
“I just want to be doing the best I can and hopefully be playing.
“We have great competition at centre-half with the likes of Coloccini, Taylor and Williamson, but if I work hard, then hopefully I can play.”.
Lascelles, capped by England at Under-21 level, is watching Coloccini and the club’s other defenders closely in training.
“I watch not just Coloccini, but the others – Taylor, Williamson. I watch them really closely in training,” he said.
“I’m the youngest, so experience-wise they might have the edge on me, so it’s really important for me to watch what they do and see how they are around the place.
“It’s really beneficial for me as I’ve only played two full seasons at Nottingham Forest.”
United head coach Steve McClaren – who briefly worked with Lascelles during his time in charge at the City Ground – wants his team to play from the back.
And that suits Lascelles, who added: “I’m strong and fast, but I will do whatever the coach asks.
“I’d prefer to get the ball down and play, but if they tell me to kick it, I’ll kick it. I just enjoy playing football.”
Lascelles has admitted to some “frustration” at the delayed start to his Newcastle career.
But he has joined the club a year older, and wiser, after another season in the Championship with Forest.
“It was quite frustrating, but also exciting that I knew I was going to Newcastle United,” he said. “I was always playing with a smile, but now I’m here it’s just proving to be brilliant.”