By Russell Edge
Newastle United manager Rafael Benitez has urged centre back and club captain Jamaal Lascelles to keep his focus amid the attention he is receiving.
The 23-year-old has been the Magpies’ hero for two weeks running, with match winning headers against both Swansea and Stoke City.
He has also been a key player in the heart of defence, with his performances key the club’s run of three successive victories which have rocketed them into fourth place in the league table.
His form has been recognised by the national media, with suggestions that Gareth Southgate could look to include him in the national squad.
However, Benitez insists that he cannot allow the plaudits to go to his head, and says that he must continue to perform in the same fashion if he is to improve as a player.
The Newcastle boss told the Chronicle: “When you are doing really well, I say to them it’s important to concentrate on their jobs.
“I have years of experience. It’s the most difficult thing. You are doing well and everyone is praising you, sometimes if you are young you lose your focus.
“I had another conversation with him. It’s quite easy for me to tell him, ‘You have to keep working hard’, because he was doing it anyway.
“He’s someone that has the potential and has to keep working the same way that he’s working and he will improve.”
Despite being club captain, the Spanish manager demonstrated that no one is guaranteed a place in the starting XI after Lascelles was left out for the club’s opening fixture against Tottenham.
However, injury to former first choice centre back Florian Lejeune has seen the former Nottingham Forest man reinstated and has repaid his manager’s faith with a series of impressive performances alongside defensive partner Ciaran Clark.
Benitez will be hoping that the defender can continue his fine form when the Magpies head down to the south coast for their clash against Brighton on Sunder afternoon.
In other Newcastle United news, Lascelles has revealed he had a huge argument with his fellow players.