Rafael Benitez admits he understands why Newcastle defender Jamaal Lascelles was not used often under previous manager

The centre-back has become a key member of the Magpies' Premier League survival bid in recent weeks.

Rafael Benitez has claimed to understand why Steve McClaren decided not to use Jamaal Lascelles that often during his tenure, the Shields Gazette reports, despite the defender becoming a key member of the squad since the Spaniard took over.

The 22-year-old struggled for opportunities under the Magpies' former boss, making just three starts in the Premier League before McClaren was sacked after the home defeat to Bournemouth in March.

But under Benitez, the centre-back has not only been given more chances but he has seemingly also established himself as one of the men that is going to inspire the rest of the team to drag themselves away from danger. 

Nevertheless, the former Liverpool boss admitted that he could see why McClaren was wary of throwing Lascelles into the team too often.

"I understand that he is young, so when you have a centre back with more experience, and you are under pressure, you play the one with more experience," he told the Shields Gazette.

"Messi at 17, OK, you play him. But at centre-back, it is different."

The former Nottingham Forest man perhaps took everyone by surprise shortly after the defeat to Southampton last month by issuing a few home truths about the state of the squad. The statements arguably took plenty of courage given his age and lack of experience in comparison with some members of the side who have international caps.

But he has since backed the harsh words up by putting in a string of promising performances which appear to have motivated those around him to put in a similar effort to help Newcastle keep their heads above water.

And McClaren may now be looking on and wondering whether bringing him into the first-team fold sooner would have helped him keep his job.

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