Jamaal Lascelles grew up just five minutes from Pride Park but his biggest memory of being on the Derby County pitch is when he ‘rugby-tackled one of the fans’.
Playing for Nottingham Forest, a Derby fan ran onto the pitch and went to attack Forst player Kelvin Wilson, so Lascelles intervened.
Taking stick from the home supporters, Jamaal Lascelles says ‘It revs me up a bit to be honest’, and certainly he and Chancel Mbemba looked in control for pretty much the whole 90 minutes as Derby struggled to get a shot on target.
The Newcastle defender’s dad is a local celebrity having played basketball professionally for Derby Storm, with Jamaal possibly heading in the same direction until Forest recognised his promise after Lascelles and his teammates kept 40 clean sheets in one season at youth level.
Early days yet but unless anything dramatically changes, it looks like the Mbemba/Lascelles partnership will be the mainstay in Newcastle’s defence this season, give or take a matches where Rafa uses his squad.
Going into the weekend, the Newcastle Manager said that he would regularly make changes to his team to ensure competition and fresh legs – but he did point out that he sees a lot more changes on the wings and up front because the physical demands are not as tough at centre-back.
Hopefully keeping clean sheets and playing regularly behind the two centre-backs will also help grow Matz Sels’ confidence further, the relationship between the keeper and his central defenders always a vital one.
One thing with Rafa, is that we know that sentiment and/or cowardice will play no part in his team selections.
Last season saw big name players such as Wijnaldum, Mitrovic and Shelvey all dropped, whilst this time he dropped Captain Jamaal Lascelles after only two games.
So no chance of Rafa Benitez picking players just because it is ‘their turn’, every time a player steps on the pitch they will have to have earnt it.
“It (stick from Derby fans) revs me up a bit to be honest.
“Being at Nottingham Forest when I was younger, it is always nice to come to Derby and get the three points.
“I had loads of friends and family at the game…I only live five minutes around the corner!
“I think the last time I was on this pitch, I rugby-tackled one of the fans, because he’d run on the pitch and started swinging for Kelvin Wilson. So I can’t imagine they’re too fond of me but that’s football for you!
“I wasn’t into football that much when I was little kid, I was more into basketball, I used to play (football) for my local team, at Chesapeake, and we actually kept 40 clean sheets in a season, so I probably got noticed by Forest then.
“We got the goal early on and we just killed the game off. We know that we don’t need to go and get another, we can defend and stay compact and because of that, they were open and so we managed to go and nick another.
“It’s a tough league and Derby, credit to them, they came out and put on a good show, but we put in a professional performance.”