Rafa Benitez has praised Jamaal Lascelles for stepping up to the plate at Newcastle United – on and off the pitch.
Lascelles said the relegation-threatened club’s players needed to show more “heart and desire” on the pitch after last weekend’s defeat to Southampton.
I was really pleased, because he (Lascelles) was saying what everybody is thinking outside.Rafa Benitez
The defender had come off the bench at the St Mary’s Stadium, where Benitez’s side were beaten 3-1.
And the result left United second-bottom of the Premier League – and six points adrift of safety – with half a dozen games left to play.
Captain Jonjo Shelvey – who will lead Benitez’s team against his former club Swansea City this afternoon – refused to speak to the media at the St Mary’s Stadium.
And 22-year-old Lascelles’s bold and candid comments were welcomed by fans.
Newcastle manager Benitez said: “I was really pleased, because he (Lascelles) was saying what everybody is thinking outside.
“We know that we have to give everything. We know we have to do better and we know that we have to show character.
“Maybe in some games we are not doing what everybody is expecting.
“Quite possibly, also it is not just to say these things because the is key on the pitch. He is sent to do his best, and he is not scared of the challenge or what he has to do.
“I think he is really good, really positive. What we are expecting from them is to tell the right things and the right things on the pitch. “
Steve McClaren, McClaren’s predecessor, felt the dressing room was too quiet during his ill-fated tenure.
And Benitez added: “We need characters – people telling others what to do and after going on the pitch, saying: ‘listen. Follow me. Do that’.
“I think that they are doing that at the moment.”
Lascelles – who replaced the injured Steven Taylor at half-time against Southampton – is expected to return to the starting XI against Swansea.