With the World Cup around the corner, it’s time for speculation to start over who can force their way into Gareth Southgate’s squad for the plane to Russia.
I must admit that I’m guilty of bigging up players myself, having written only last week why Ryan Sessegnon deserves a chance at the world’s biggest tournament this summer.
While I’m tipping the Fulham left-sided player for Russia, I may as well go the full hog and make another recommendation to the England boss.
Gareth, if you’re reading this, it’s worth looking at Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles. Like Sessegnon, he may be uncapped, but at least he’s playing in the Premier League…
The centre-back was a rock at the back as the Magpies beat Manchester United at the weekend, rising out of the relegation zone to 13th in the Premier League table.
When he is playing, he has a remarkable influence on the Magpies’ backline, lifting the whole Newcastle team.
He is a leader at the back and it’s obvious why Rafa Benítez made him captain and thinks so highly of him.
“He has a great attitude, he is working on his leadership as a captain so I think it’s quite positive for the team. Still he can improve things,” the Spaniard was quoted by the Newcastle Chronicle last month.
“But in terms of mentality, character, he is someone who is going in the right direction and that is the main thing for us and the club because you don’t have too many centre-backs around with this presence and this character.
“If he continues learning things, he can be an important player in England.”
While it’s unclear whether the Newcastle boss means Lascelles can be key player in England as in the Premier League or the national team, what is clear is that he sees him as having great potential.
And that will largely be because of how key the 24-year-old is for the Magpies.
When he’s started, they’ve played 21 games, winning seven, drawing six and losing eight. When he isn’t in the starting line-up, they’ve played six, won none, drawn one and lost five.
That’s 27 points from a possible 63 with Lascelles starting and one from 18 when he doesn’t.
In terms of goals conceded, they let in 19 in those 21 when he starts, conceding either one or zero in 18 of them. In the six when he hasn’t started, they’ve let in 17.
Of course, Lascelles isn’t entirely responsible for all of their results, there are ten other players out on the pitch and the quality of opposition changes from game to game, but there’s an undeniable correlation between the Magpies’ results and their captain being on the pitch.
If he were to go to the World Cup, as someone who is currently uncapped, there would be undoubtedly questions as to whether he could cope with it mentally and deal with the pressure.
The 24-year-old is certainly unafraid of making big claims anyway, suggesting Manchester United failed to turn up when Newcastle beat them at the weekend.
“They have got some great players, but I don't think United turned up,” he told Sky Sports.
“We have played against Arsenal and Man City and you can really see the quality and one mistake or a lack of concentration and a goal will go in.
“I don't think they were at it from the start of the game – a lot of their players went missing.”
What’s more, he’s not afraid to upset the apple cart. Earlier this season, he fought with team-mate Mo Diamé during a training session because he felt the Senegalese midfielder wasn't pulling his weight.
“It's my job to tell people,” Lascelles told the Daily Mail.
“If I didn't I wouldn't be wearing the armband. If I wasn't pulling my weight I would expect to be told. So I am not worried about upsetting anybody.
“Afterwards you shake hands and what happens on the training pitch stays there. We are both men. If something needs to be said I am not going to bite my tongue just because I may upset someone.
“I don't want to fight with my team-mates but I will do what is best for the team. I want to win.”
England players are often accused of not caring. Fans want players who will fight for the shirt, and that’s undoubtedly Lascelles. With the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling currently in poor form and failing to properly make a mark while representing the Three Lions, the Southgate revolution should continue by giving the Newcastle captain a chance.
Tammy Abraham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jack Cork and Dominic Solanke are just a few of those given their England bows by Southgate. Lascelles should be among the next to get a go.