Jamaal Lascelles – Hail to the Chief
When Isaac Hayden glanced in the 94th minute header that nicked three points on Saturday, it was a triumph for three central defenders playing in Black and White: Federico Fernandez, Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles had been outstanding throughout.
With 70% possession and a corner count of 10 to 1, Chelsea had been on the front foot, except for a few brief moments, from beginning to end.
Concentration, discipline and courage were there in abundance as the three gladiators, with the impeccable Dubravka behind them, drew the sting of the Chelsea front line.
At the heart of that defence was the returning captain, Jamaal Lascelles. How good it was to see him back for his first Premier League start since the injury he picked up against Bournemouth on the 9th November.
Having had a run out against Rochdale, Lascelles looked fit and hardly seemed to break sweat all night (in a good way!). By the time he was pulled in the 80th minute Tammy Abraham must have been sick of the sight of Jamaal, only once did he give him the slip when Dubravka and Ritchie between them had to save the day.
Lascelles has become an integral part of this club, wearing the captain’s armband with distinction on the pitch and representing the club with dignity off it. From time to time he comes in for criticism but it’s when he’s missing that we really appreciate what a presence he is at the heart of this team.
When Jamaal Lascelles came to the club he looked raw and first impressions weren’t good but that quickly changed in the dark days of drift and surrender under McClaren when, as a lone voice, Lascelles spoke out against the apathy and resignation of a demoralised dressing room and the lack of commitment from the club’s senior players. For such a young man, at the beginning of his Premier League career, it was a massive risk.
However, it was a risk that paid off, Lascelles was rewarded with the captaincy under Rafa and for the next two seasons went from strength to strength. Such was his form there were calls for his inclusion in the England 2018 World Cup squad. That wasn’t to be.
However, his progress was rewarded by the club with a lucrative six year contract in November 2018, one of the conditions of which appeared to be having to say nice things about Mike Ashley! The 18/19 season saw a dip in Lascelles’ form, albeit from a high standard. Perhaps he’d begun to believe his own headlines, perhaps he had half an eye on a big money move, perhaps the flattery of Ashley had diminished his stature.
Lascelles has only just turned 26, for a central defender he is entering his prime. The next few years should be the very best of his career. If he continues to play as he did on Saturday there will be other clubs who will covet him and an owner who might want to cash in.
But there are some players who belong to a club and never quite do it when they get a move away. I think that Jamaal could be one of those players. At Newcastle he is the captain, a player of stature, a player who has earned his stripes, he’s a someone. If he moved to Arsenal or Chelsea or Man U he would be just another player rotated in the squad, there to make up the numbers.
But if he stays at the Toon and sees out that contract he could be the rock on which a promising team is built and become a Geordie legend. It was plain to see on Saturday that the leader was back at the top of his game and we looked so much better for it. Hail to the Chief!
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