Newcastle star explains why he is happy to risk being unpopular with team-mates

By North-east correspondent Harry Sykes

Jamaal Lascelles has revealed he had been bursting to criticise his team-mates following Newcastle’s failings this season.

The 22-year-old defender pulled no punches with a no-holds-barred assessment after Rafael Benitez’s team slumped to a 3-1 defeat at Southampton nine days ago to leave their Premier League status hanging by a thread.

Lascelles fronted up again in more favourable circumstances following Saturday’s 3-0 win over Swansea and reflected upon the effect of his strong words the previous week.

“The boys had a kick up the backside after last week’s loss to Southampton,”Lascelles told Match of the Day. “Everyone knows we’ve got the talent, but today we showed how good we are and we stuck to the gameplan. It’s a massive result for us.

“I thought I might get stick in the changing room after I had a go at my team-mates. I was going to say it sooner or later. The frustrating thing is we should have been playing like that earlier in the season.”

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

The former Nottingham Forest defender laid the blame squarely at the door of the players as he told Radio Five Live the players “need more heart, more desire” and “bigger characters on the pitch, players who care and are going to get after each other”.

Supporters have universally commended Lascelles’ honesty and insight as he emerges as a strong dressing-room presence in what has been a wretched campaign.

Newcastle’s win over Swansea keeps alive their hopes of retaining their top-flight status and they will overhaul 17th-placed Norwich if they beat Manchester City on Tuesday night.

In other Newcastle news, Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has paid tribute to a former colleague from his St James’ Park days.