It is now only three weeks until the first pre-season friendly (Hearts on 14 July) and 10 days until pre-season training begins (3 July) – but one Newcastle star is trying to get a head start on the rest of the squad, following a difficult second-half of the promotion season.
Jamaal Lascelles came in for a fair bit of criticism after Christmas, as his form slipped and he really struggled in some games.
Never the quickest player or most comfortable when in possession, these weaknesses were especially highlighted at times in the promotion run-in.
The players strengths – ability in the air, confidence, commitment and strong in the tackle, but he didn’t look the same player.
However, once promotion was achieved with Jamaal Lascelles having played in 43 of the 44 Championship matches so far, it was then revealed that he had been playing ‘through the pain barrier’ for five months with a hernia problem. Surgery followed and the player missed Cardiff away and the title decider against Barnsley.
The Newcastle Captain has returned to the training ground two weeks early as he wants to give himself the best possible chance of both making the team and then being able to quickly adapt to the Premier League once again.
With Ciaran Clark arguably Newcastle’s player of the year and Florian Lejeune expected to shortly transfer from Eibar to Tyneside, at least one of them won’t start the season, unless Rafa goes with three/five at the back…
Regardless of that, Lascelles is impressively showing his commitment to put himself in the best possible position pre-season.
Hopefully this attitude will be present throughout the squad, with current players and new signings, as Newcastle face a tough challenge ahead.
Jamaal Lascelles talking to NUFC TV:
“I have not really been able to have time off, the first three weeks after my operation I was only walking and after that I was light jogging.
“I had been given a programme to do and so I have just stuck to that – I went away on holiday with my family to Barbados and was still doing my programme there.
“It has just been ticking over really and now I’m getting back in, getting the hard stuff out of the way.
“Everyone knows about the operation I had and so I just thought I should come in and get some extra training in – because after Christmas I wasn’t really getting the condition that I wanted to be at.
“The Premier League is a completely different level and standard, so I just want to make sure that I’m ready and want to be leading by example.
“It (recovery from the hernia operation) has been fine and it’s nice to be able to run, or even just get out of bed, without the pain.
“I have been working hard with the physio and it’s nice to be getting back to feeling myself again, now I am looking forward to getting started.
“This is more than a head start, it is about making sure that I’m fine because my conditioning wasn’t right before (when playing with an injury), as I wasn’t able to sprint properly and it takes it out of you.
“I think you play how you train, so I just want to make sure I am above myself for when we start back.”