Whilst we are waiting on the confirmation of our latest addition to the back line I thought it would be an idea to take a look at Jamaal Lascelles – whose arrival has been kept relatively under the radar by virtue of his one year loan back to the Championship.
Jamaal Lascelles is a 21-year-old Derbyshire born central defender standing at 6’2”. He came through the youth system at Nottingham Forest and was subject of an underhand approach for his services by Everton in 2010. This resulted in a fine for the Toffees and a warning to Lascelles over his conduct. Clearly then, he has been highly rated for some time. He broke into the starting line up in the 2013-2014 season following a loan spell at Stevenage. He signed a 4-year deal in 2014, swiftly followed by an alleged failed 4 million pound bid by QPR being turned down. Later that year, our very own Magpies swooped for the services of Lascelles and his teammate Karl Darlow for a combined fee of 7 million pounds.
A condition of this deal was an understanding that the two players would go back to Forest on loan for one season. Lascelles’ form was hit-and-miss last season largely mirroring Nottingham Forest’s results. In mitigation, it can be pointed out that manager Stuart Pearce made a point of not playing Lascelles for a while, as he wanted to focus on the future of the club’s playing staff. Once Lascelles was given run in the side, it’s fair to say that his form picked up. It’s also fair to say that Stuart Pierce does not have the best reputation as a manager and his mismanagement of what should have been a promotion chasing Nottingham Forest will no doubt have contributed to Lascelles’ poor form at times. This can be evidenced by virtue of Forest leading the Championship table early in the season only to slump to 13th place by January following two victories from 20 games.
The following criticism was levelled at Pearce by Danny Mills: ”Pearce always starts well but goes off the boil. He is very predictable. After 10 games people work him out. I’m not surprised it has happened for him. Stuart Pearce came into Manchester City and had a fantastic ‘Honeymoon Period’ and then went wrong – and did the same with the England Under-21s. He comes in, everyone says ‘wow, it’s Stuart Pearce, legend! Psycho’ and all of that and he has that instant respect. He gets teams going but after a while, players aren’t stupid, they’re not naive and they start to suss him out. He doesn’t have the depth of football ability to back it up. Actually, he is not a great coach, he’s not a great tactician, he’s not a great motivator and he struggles with big players who question his authority.” …..Ouch….
At 21-years-old Lascelles is still young and whilst he has potential, he has not displayed the same kind of promise that the similarly aged Chancel Mbemba has done. Whilst we expect Mbemba to be pushing hard for a place in the first team from the word ‘go’, Lascelles is expected to be more of a squad player that we will need to give controlled Premier League exposure to in order to develop him and unlock that potential. Here is what Stuart Pearce had to say about him and teammate Karl Darlow;
“They are both outstanding lads, without question. Their character is first-class. However, I don’t think they are ready yet to go straight into the Premier League. Both the club and the fans will have to give them time and encouragement. They are potential rather than the finished article. Darlow more or less played in my first-team regularly, but Lascelles not quite so much. He will require a bit more time. However, from their point of view the move is ideal. They weren’t about to play for a Premier League club staying at Forest, but now hopefully they are. Though I fell out with the chairman over the deal, I told both lads they were going to a fantastic football club with passionate fans. I knew that from first-hand experience.” Maybe Pearce is qualified to make that judgement, maybe not – but nobody has seen more of Lascelles than Pearce in recent times, so i’d be inclined to listen to what he has to say in that respect.
It seems Steve McClaren and co. are still looking to sign an established central defender on top of the Chancel Mbemba signing and with the debatable ability but none the less experienced presence of Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor already at the club, it makes sense to assume Jamaal will be back up during his first season with us, ready to make the step up when the contracts of Coloccini and co. expire next summer.
I have heard one or two people mention that this lad may be trouble due to an allegation of assault made against him. This brought back memories of the perennial Nile Ranger troubles further staining the reputation of our club however it was an unwarranted allegation and Lascelles cannot be described as anything other than a good young pro with good character. A statement released by the CPS in April this year: ”Following an in-depth review and careful analysis of the evidence we have taken the decision to discontinue the case. Once we had received and viewed CCTV evidence first-hand, it became apparent that this did not show that the defendant had been responsible for the injuries sustained by the victim.”
In the meantime, we have definitely picked up a promising defender in Lascelles, who is home grown and English (good for squad quota if we ever reach the European competitions again) and has represented England in all of the youth levels. He is considered one of the best young defenders in the Country. A scouting ‘source’ for the Daily Mail has this to say about the lad; ”When I watched him play he had an extra yard of pace for balls in behind him. He could pass and play and build from the back. He was a good size, elegant and composed. Newcastle have got a bargain.’‘ Mr Lascelles has featured regularly so far during Newcastle’s pre-season games and has looked reasonably assured and solid when tested. Certainly one to watch, who should be pushing our first teamers hard before long if he keeps his head down and continues to work hard to improve.
Finally, a word by the man himself; “It’s been excellent so far (since he joined the Newcastle squad). Everyone has been really welcoming, the staff are great and even though I have only been in a day or so, I feel really settled already. Training has been really hard and intense. We did running and fitness testing on the first day, followed by a lot of ball work in the afternoon – possession and passing drills. It’s been tough but everyone looks really sharp. I made sure I kept in shape over the summer. I only came up here for one day last year – to sign – and then was back to Forest straight away. But now I properly feel like a Newcastle United player. I can’t wait to get going, to really get stuck in to training and to play some matches.”
Follow Jamaal Lascelles @Lascelles16