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Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez defends Jamaal Lascelles’ decision to say Mike Ashley is “a nice guy”


Lascelles made the comments after signing a new six-year deal with the club where he also called on supporters to show a united front following their difficult start to the 2018/19 season

Rafa Benitez has urged Newcastle fans not to be angry with Jamaal Lascelles after the captain described unpopular owner Mike Ashley as “a nice guy”.

The defender’s comment was part of his plea to the Toon Army for a united front as he signed a contract extension with the club on Thursday.

Lascelles signed a new six-year contract with the club

This attracted criticism on social media with supporters planning a series of fresh protests against the controversial sportswear magnate’s 11-year tenure in the coming weeks.

Benitez will send his side into Premier League battle with Watford at St James’ Park on Saturday still looking for a first win of the season and hoping there will be no backlash against such an influential member of his dressing room.

The Spaniard said: “We met Mike Ashley – and they didn’t know him – for a dinner that was supposed to create a good atmosphere, so his first impression is something that you cannot control.

“But I think his message, apart from that that you can have an opinion on, is just try to keep everybody together, try to work hard.

Newcastle fans have wanted Mike Ashley away from the club for years

Newcastle fans have wanted Mike Ashley away from the club for years

“The fact that he signed an extension means that he cares. I think he was trying to be positive, trying to send the right message to everyone.

“Okay, there are things off the pitch you cannot control when you meet one person at a dinner for a couple of hours. It’s not that you are having an opinion about what has happened in the last 11 years.

“He’s not trying to do that. It’s just a moment and that’s it.

“You have to understand that he’s a young player and he had this first impression. It doesn’t mean that he will not give everything on the pitch. That is the main thing that we are expecting from him.”

Newcastle are without a win all season

Newcastle are without a win all season

Benitez revealed he had had a brief conversation with Lascelles on the matter on Friday morning and is hoping it will not prove a distraction ahead of a key game.

He said: “It’s about us doing what we have to do to win a game against Watford and if Jamaal mentally is ready to do that.

“That is what I’m expecting from him, just give everything and make sure the rest of his team-mates work as hard as he is working already.

“The main thing for us is to get three points tomorrow and then if he said this or that, it doesn’t matter. I said to him, ‘If you score the winning goal tomorrow, everybody will be happy’.”

Source : TalkSport

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