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Newcastle United player of the season admits impossible situation if loses his place again

4 weeks ago
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Older fans will remember the days when the top tier clubs in England had a first eleven and pretty much that was your team week in week out, unless injury or a serious lack of form came along.

Plus with only one substitute (I don’t go as far back to the days when they had no subs…), it was very limited for other players to get even a limited number of minutes off the bench.

One season I remember, when Liverpool were all conquering in the seventies, they won the league and used only 14 clubs in total.

Contrast that with the situation now, even Newcastle United have already used 19 different players in the seven Premier League games so far. Indeed, most PL clubs use 14 players in most matches, never mind 14 all season. As a further extreme, after project restart last season, clubs often used 16 players in a single match with five subs allowed on a temporary basis.

What you find these days is that pretty much all the players in a Premier League squad get the chance to impress at some time, even if only as a sub. That was never the case in past decades, so few opportunities for others to get chances to impress if not in the regular first eleven.

Totally different these days…apart from one position of course.

Carlo Ancelotti dropped Jordan Pickford last weekend to take him out of the firing line but instantly said he would play next game against Man Utd after missing Newcastle, Ancelotti claiming that he had regularly rotated goalkeepers at previous clubs. This is very much a one-off though, Premier League clubs and those elsewhere still almost always have a first choice goalkeeper and that is that. Unless injured or make countless blunders like Pickford has, they never get dropped.

Which brings us to Newcastle United, Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow.

Back in 2017/18, Rafa Benitez wasn’t happy with Rob Elliot and dropped him, Karl Darlow played then 10 Premier League games in a row from November 2017 to February 2018, then out of nowhere Martin Dubravka was signed on loan and after making his debut in a 1-0 win over Man Utd, became number one for the next two and a half years playing 88 PL games in a row.

The flipside of course is that Karl Darlow hadn’t played a single PL game for two and a half years…only to be then suddenly thrown back in the deep end with Dubravka sustaining a pre-season injury this summer.

Taking the baton from Dubravka, Karl Darlow has continued the heroics, making more saves than any other PL keeper this season.

However, with the day drawing closer when Dubravka will be fit again, what then?

Asked about this eventuality and possibly been replaced by the Slovakian, Karl Darlow says in that situation he would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to stay at Newcastle, the keeper declaring: ‘I couldn’t resign myself to being number two again. The ambition is inside me and I have the confidence in my ability to be a number one somewhere…’

Goalkeepers can obviously usually play on longer than outfield players but aged 30 it is a pivotal time for Karl Darlow, as it is of course for Martin Dubravka who turns 32 in January and surely won’t settle for being number two either.

For Newcastle fans, it is very reminiscent of the Steve Harper situation, a very good keeper who played number two to an outstanding one in Shay Given.

Could Harper have gone up that level with regular top flight football, could he have ended up as England number one, with not great competition in the position as time went on.

Karl Darlow has still only played 26 Premier League matches in his career, after the seven matches this season, there is talk of England already…little surprise when Jordan Pickford is the number one. Nick Pope is struggling this season at Burnley, whilst third choice is Dean Henderson who now finds himself pretty much in the position Karl Darlow is talking about, Henderson is in the England squad now due to an outstanding season as number one on loan at Sheffield United, now back at Man Utd he has zero PL minutes this season behind David De Gea.

Talking about England, it would be the ultimate dream for Karl Darlow BUT if he ends up not playing for Newcastle United once Martin Dubvavka is fully fit, then he has no chance: ‘I just want to leave the window open for it to happen. I know I have ability and, if I can get a good run of games and get on some good form, then there is potential for that to happen. I would love nothing more.’

With Freddie Woodman excelling at Swansea on loan again this season, Newcastle United have an embarrassment of riches in terms of goalkeepers.

Karl Darlow must have heard plenty about Steve Harper and comparisons made, indeed Harper is of course part of the coaching team now at NUFC.

What would Steve Harper do if he had his time again and if indeed Dubravka ends up back in the team as number one when fully fit, what would Harper advise Karl Darlow to do???

It will be fascinating to see what will happen when it becomes a choice of Martin Dubravka or Karl Darlow for Steve Bruce, a real case scenario of irresistible force meets immovable object.

When you look at the problems many other Premier League clubs have had when their first choice keeper gets injured, Bruce is in a very lucky position.

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Karl Darlow talking to The Mail:

“It is nice to feel the responsibility, I have been desperate to play.

“This is an opportunity for me to show what I can do and, after that, it’s a decision that will be taken out of my hands.

“As long as I know I have done as much as I can do. then that’s OK, but I couldn’t resign myself to being number two again.

“The ambition is inside me and I have the confidence in my ability to be a number one somewhere and, if the situation comes around where I am going to be a number two for a long period, then I would do my best to come back as a number one.

“There would be no bigger achievement [than to be picked for England] and I just want to leave the window open for it to happen.

“I know I have ability and, if I can get a good run of games and get on some good form, then there is potential for that to happen.

“I would love nothing more.”

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