Rafa Benitez was put in a new situation after this weekend’s win over Crystal Palace.
The presence of Gareth Southgate in the crowd at St James Park, prompting talk of exactly who he was watching for a possible England call-up.
Considering how average the Three Lions are these days, if you are an England fan then surely you wouldn’t be too upset if any player (apart from Harry Kane) made way for somebody else who was doing well in the Premier League.
In terms of guessing who Southgate was potentially interested in on Saturday, then you would probably come up with a shortlist of three: Andros Townsend, Jonjo Shelvey, and Jamaal Lascelles.
Rafa Benitez has been asked about the latter two and the possibility of them playing for their country.
He has the same underlying answer for both players, simply saying that they need to just concentrate on their club football and then something might happen if they are successful in that.
Rafa says that Shelvey has ‘the ability and quality’ to do it for England and it is easy to forget that in the months immediately before he moved to Newcastle, the midfielder was a regular in the England squad – getting starts and appearances off the bench.
As for Jamaal Lascelles, Rafa Benitez says that ‘he has the potential’.
The Newcastle captain has still only started 18 Premier League matches in his career so far, so no matter how well he is doing at the minute, the defender would surely be surprised to get a call-up. However, such is the average nature of this England squad and especially at centre-back, Lascelles will look at the likes of Harry Maguire getting his chance when he had less than 30 Premier League starts behind him.
Rafa Benitez on ‘Jonjo Shelvey for England?’:
“I think it is important for them the (England) manager is here, he (Gareth Southgate) can see something.
“Sometimes, when the team isn’t playing well, it’s hard to show what you can do.
“Jonjo has the ability and the quality to see the pass and the runners.
“And if you put him with better players, he’ll be even better, because he has the quality.
“If I was him now I wouldn’t be worried about that too much.”
…and Rafa talking to the Chronicle on ‘Jamaal Lascelles for England?’:
“I would be more worried about improving every week and try to be a little bit better each week. After that, things can happen.
“He has the potential, and he is a young English centre-back, there aren’t too many. He knows he has to improve.
“The way to do it is to train well and keep asking questions, to improve in every single exercise.
“It’s too early to talk about that (call-up for his country) but if England think he’s ready…fine.
“If not, he will stay here (in the international break) and improve, that will be good for us.”