Now let me just say right from the off, I’m a big Jamaal Lascelles fan. He seems to get the club, the fans and most importantly, he’s got a great relationship with manager Rafa Benitez.
The club captain is in the best position in my opinion to be captain. I’ve always advocated a captain to be a centre back, a player who can see everything in front of him, organise the back line and build a platform for the rest of the team to perform. The problem in the Newcastle United team is certainly not the defence, in fact it’s certainly the best and most disciplined it’s been since Newcastle United were promoted to the Premier League in 1992. Now we are organised and will win more games with Jamaal than without, stats will back that up.
That said, I had to raise an eyebrow when it was announced that he’d signed a contract extension taking him up until 2023. Some of the comments he made regarding approaching his prime years and wanting to stay at the club for such a length of time are certainly encouraging but we all know this can change in the blink of an eye, or more to the point the opening of a transfer window. It’s the comments on the owner that were a little misguided:
“I think the meal (in Ponteland) was really positive, having a sit down meeting for the first time, hearing him speak and seeing what he’s like as a man. He’s a nice guy.”
I agree with the former but certainly NOT the latter. Sitting down and getting everyone together for a chat is all well and good, the problem is the ‘hearing him speak’ part. You can’t trust a single word that comes out of the owner’s mouth and it would be foolish of anyone to assume otherwise. As for being ‘a nice guy’? Ok, whatever, there’s countless strands of evidence to the contrary.
I hope Jamaal meant that Ashley CAME ACROSS as a nice guy and nothing more, as even the casual observer won’t label Mike Ashley as a ‘nice guy’. I certainly hope that it’s a case of a young 24 year old not knowing how to play the politics in a way that his manager would.
The manager is a master politician and wouldn’t label Ashley in an out and out positive light because he simply knows he isn’t. He will straight bat any probing questions, admit dialogue is progressing without being drawn into painting the owner in either a positive or negative light. MPs pay a small fortune to coach them in the arts of the diplomatic approach and Rafa Benitez is well schooled in it. Perhaps it comes with experience and Jamaal Lascelles will pick it up. Perhaps he was being totally honest, in which case he needs some of those diplomacy lessons.
Jamaal Lascelles later elaborated on BBC Newcastle’s Total Sport and said that it was simply how Mike came across at the meal last month and that was simply how he found him. I assume Ashley has honed his skills somewhat since ending up on the wrong end of a tribunal decision with both Kevin Keegan and Jonas Gutierrez, as well as when he was hauled before Parliament where his reputation (along with his cohorts) was firmly laid bare, as nothing but a misleading liar and far from ‘a nice guy’.
There are obvious motives to giving Lascelles a new contract but forgive me for suggesting that they aren’t because he’s a cracking player. He is of course but my thoughts immediately turn to the more cynical of nature.
Cast your minds back to when former manager Alan Pardew signed his eight year contract, eyebrows were raised and I’d say that the only reason that length of contract was offered was to maximise any compensation that Mike Ashley could receive should anybody have wanted the manager’s services and it’s similar for Lascelles. Back in the day, Alan Pardew was getting plaudits after his Manager Of The Year award with even talk of England calling. Ashley reacted by getting him tied down to a long-term contract that defied belief.
Fast forward to the here and now and by Mike Ashley sanctioning an extra year for Jamaal, the captain’s value escalates in value somewhat. If Jamaal was worth £45m last week, he’ll be worth £55m or more this week. An extra few grand a week is nowt compared to what can be raked in from a transfer fee. Then again, I did say I was cynical.
Everything stops at the top. At Newcastle, we have the Manager in place, we also have the captain.
Despite Jamaal’s contract extension and his impressions of the owner from the get together in Ponteland, we STILL don’t have the owner. His motivation has always been and always will be, money.