Rob Elliot took another step, or maybe a giant leap, when playing his first match since picking up the ACL injury that ruled him out of the Euros and Newcastle’s relegation run-in.
Only 534 were at St James Park to witness the goalkeeper’s comeback, as Newcastle reserves (Under 23s) beat Aston Villa 4-2.
Rob Elliot injured himself trying and failing to stop a goal in a friendly against Slovakia in March, nine months later his first touch was to pick the ball out of the net.
Villa scored in the first and last minute with Elliot largely a spectator, he could do nothing about the final goal of the match either but just before that made a great stop in a one on one.
The 30 year old though is looking on the positive and says that it is just over a year ago when he was nowhere near the first team, with Karl Darlow on the bench behind Tim Krul, whilst Rob Elliot was set to leave as his contract was due to be up.
However, after only 14 Premier League starts in four years at St James Park, Tim Krul’s injury (with Karl Darlow also injured) handed Rob Elliot an opportunity out of the blue.
There followed 21 Premier League starts last season and then a new long-term contract whilst recuperating, despite the signing of Matz Sels.
Elliot knows he will have to wait his turn but is looking to ‘crack on in the new year’.
With Elliot, Krul, Sels, Woodman and Darlow, what Rafa Benitez does in the summer with his goalkeepers is anybody’s guess.
“I just thought it was typical. I conceded just before I got injured and then I conceded again without touching the ball.
“It is a funny game as a year ago I was barely involved with the first team…so to be back playing, back involved with the first team and having signed a long-term contract…being part of the plans…I’m just delighted.
“I can’t thank people at the club enough for supporting me and getting behind me – just brilliant at a club where they really look after you.
“Nice to be back, nice to play in a game, nice to get right in my own head.
“I would like to crack on now and get back closer to the first team and just put the injury behind me.
“Being a bit on the outside I have seen the shift in the club and I’m even more desperate to be part of it – a really good place to be and I just can’t wait to be a part of it again.
“What’s nice is that we have got a team playing so well, Karl’s doing really well, so if I am waiting my turn it is because the team’s doing well.
“I want to keep getting stronger and stronger with (goalkeeping coach) Simon (Smith), really crack on in the New Year.”