When Jamaal Lascelles joined Newcastle United from Notts Forest in August 2014, there was no hint as to the chapter that lay ahead for the Derby-born defender.
There was no fanfare, no real rumours and it had the likes of me trawling the internet to see what Lascelles was about.
Was he any good? Was he getting a game for Notts Forest and were the fans even bothered that we were spending a fair wedge on him and their goalkeeper Karl Darlow? I guess at the time it may have been a case of sour grapes from their fans but with the pair going back to Forest on loan, it reeked of a strange deal for all because of the banana skin effect it could have had.
As it happens, both players played the season at Forest before joining us the Summer after when the loans expired.
Not expecting a lot, Lascelles’s first proper match for us aside from a League Cup game against Northampton, was a cameo from the bench and a tonking at Man City in October 2015. Scraps were fed to him afterwards before his eventual first start under Steve McClaren at the back end of January 2016. A season where the conveyor belt that Mike Ashley had bred, was eventually found out with team spirit almost non-existent.
Lascelles really came to prominence when he kicked off big style publically on the pitch when a half-hearted performance by most of the team at an away game in Southampton had him muttering expletives and questioning that not one player cared about the predicament that Newcastle was in. It was something that then new boss Rafa Benitez saw as a great quality for the young Lascelles and after the obvious relegation was realised, he was made club captain ahead of the championship season of 2016/17. It is a role that he has excelled in.
Helping us to the championship title whilst putting off surgery for so long, this season has seen Lascelles improve again with performances that will definitely have been rewarded with England honours if he was playing for one of the top clubs. Even if he was in someone like Spurs reserves sides, he would have been picked, such has been his game and his absence from the national side is more down to the political game of avoiding the North East than anything else.
Recently though, he’s been cottoned on by the prying media who don’t like us Northern clubs to have star talent as potentially settling stories have emerged in the media that have linked him with almost every club in the top six. With no substance or quotes for them to go off, it’s all designed like an unofficial version of tapping up and hopefully, Lascelles realises that being stuck on the bench at the likes of Chelsea for a few quid extra a week, doesn’t release the same adrenaline as helping an underdog to victory.
There’s no reason, aside from a Mike Ashley plot to finish around 17th and pocket the Sky cash, why we cant improve year on year here and give the likes of Lascelles or any upcoming pro the ambition or financial stability they want in life whilst achieving their footballing ambitions. Hopefully, they realise the grass looks different from the other side.