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Opinion

Top 10 Newcastle United Goalkeepers

2 weeks ago
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Who are the top Newcastle United Goalkeepers?

In a new feature on The Mag, we are featuring a different NUFC Top 10 each day.

A bit of nostalgia, stimulate a bit of debate / argument.

When I was asked to submit an article for The Mag on it’s current Top 10s feature, I was torn. I’m sure everyone will have wanted the strikers, I in part fancied managers, but I have to admit, I got whimsical and melancholy when I realised the Newcastle United Goalkeepers were up for grabs. How could I not.

As it was my position as a kid (to no great level I might add) and a position I was relatively decent in and I have to say, enjoyed it. You have to be a slightly odd sort of fellow to actively want to sit in front of a ball being belted in your direction but I always felt quite happy when I was picked for teams at school. This was until being brought crushingly down to earth when told “Yeah, you’re going in goal” and only given the most fleeting of run outfield at the end of games. That was until team captains started to actually pick me on merit – “Paul’s canny in goal” came my way on more than one occasion. Little victories as a kid are important.

A few notable saves stick out in my memory, the odd diving at players feet to collect the ball when as a skinny chap coming up against some aspiring brick sh.thouses of lads, that I really should have been thinking better of it, but I still remember it with fondness, despite the odd clattering.

The one save I made that made the other kids minds up about picking me as ‘keeper every time was when the whole group of outfield players had lost track of an opposing player and to a man they lay down on the deck and I heard one shout “It’s alright, Patta will save it”. Not only did I do just that, with the whole opposition bar their goalkeeper committed to attacking me, I had the simplest of tasks in chucking the ball to someone for an easy assault on the now totally unguarded stopper. Fun times indeed.

As an aside, I still recall the moment when I first went from playing in front of the old fashioned “Jumpers for goalposts” and standing in an actual full size goal. “This is bloody massive, how in the hell do those professionals save anything in this thing?” And I was one of the taller lads at school.

Ok, here goes. I’ve gone in a rough chronological order from the start of my time supporting the club and I also must confess from the outset, I’ve only come up with 9 rather than the requisite 10 players. I simply couldn’t just chuck any goalkeeper in with this lot that sticks in my mind as much or that left a lasting impression. Either that or they simply weren’t very good. You won’t find any Mike Hoopers or John Karleses on this list.

Pavel Srnicek (1991-98, 2006-07)

Where do you start? The legend that was. Despite being somewhat suspect on crosses, he was a good ‘keeper and a terrific out and out shot stopper- a true goalkeeping reflection of The Entertainers that Kevin Keegan built. The sight of him in that blue/black mishmash goalkeeping jersey (still got mine) reminds me of the mid 90s era as much as any Les Ferdinand bullet header, Andy Cole goal or David Ginola piece of silky skill. Pav was most certainly a Geordie.

Shaka Hislop (1995-98)

The weaker points of Pav’s game were the strong points of Shaka’s. I don’t remember him being particularly great at shot stopping but due to his sheer physical presence, he was good in the air. We’ve been blessed with some good pairs of goalies throughout my time supporting Newcastle and in Srnicek and Hislop we had another two you could rely on.

Shay Given (1997-2009)

Outstanding goalkeeper and a stalwart for over a decade. If only we could have put up a better defence in front of him. From the moment we benefited from the mackems not being able to afford the £1.5m transfer fee (ha!) from Blackburn Rovers, we never had to worry about the goalkeeping position. Better claiming crosses than most remember for someone not so tall (although this was his clear weak point), he’s simply the best shot stopper I’ve seen. Just don’t ask him where Dublin is.

Steve Harper (1993-2013)

We were really lucky to have been blessed with not one but two really good Premier League quality goalkeepers in Shay and Steve. Would have made far more appearances at club level if he’d been a bit more selfish and actually left NUFC and would possibly have got international recognition. That and the fact that he had to contend with forcing out Shay Given. It was nice to be present in a good crowd for his Testimonial in 2013 after nearly 20 years at the club.

Tim Krul (2006-17)

His emergence from nowhere was the biggest surprise. Since making his brilliant debut in a fantastic 1-0 win against Palermo in the UEFA Cup (because both Given and Harper were injured) the lad proved to be one hell of an all round goalie and made the position his own, with his peak performances coming in the 2011/12 season where such displays played a pivotal part in getting the club to a surprise 5th place in the Premier League.

Rob Elliot (2011-20)

A likeable ‘keeper and seemed a nice enough guy and better than he was given credit for. Simply suffered from Tim Krul being absolutely undroppable for long spells.

Martin Dubravka (2018-Present)

The current number 1 and a real bargain in the days of over inflated prices. After the misadventure that was Matz Sels, Rafa Benitez realized quickly that not only was Sels not good enough in the Championship but that as soon as promotion was achieved, a more worthy goalkeeper would be required. Ever since his debut performance against Manchester United in 2018 I’ve always felt confident with him between the sticks.

Karl Darlow (2014-Present)

I have to confess, when he first arrived I thought he was a bit lightweight and I had my worries when he was called upon. That said, he’s proved over the last year that he’s a more than adequate deputy for Dubravka with genuine debate as to why Dubravka should come back into the side at all with Darlow’s performances being so good. It’s clear which should be first choice but it’s good to know we have two top class goalkeepers as we did when we had Given and Harper fighting it out to be top dog.

Fraser Forster (2006-13)

A bit of a cheat this one as he didn’t make a senior appearance for the club but our failure to bed him into first team football was the gain of Glasgow Celtic and then Southampton. Sold for a paltry £2m (plus later resale bonus when going for £10m from Celtic to Southampton) this was a big missed opportunity. We may have had Tim Krul performing heroics and the likable Rob Elliot as back up but Forster was one youth prospect that should have been utilised.

So there you have it. Over the course of 25 years (that I can realistically remember) of following the fortunes (or misfortunes) of this club, I have to say we haven’t had to worry about the Newcastle United goalkeepers. A few of them won Championship titles and appeared in cup finals, or were involved in some epic European adventures and some could easily have gone on to bigger and better things, but for all their collective quality over such a long period, none of them were in goal when we won something.

You may notice that I haven’t actually ranked them 1-10 or best to worst, that’s because I simply value their contribution to whatever our cause was at the particular time they played for us. If I were pushed for a top three it would have to be Shay Given, Martin Dubravka and then Tim Krul.

None of the nine let us down and genuinely seemed to respect the club and it’s fanbase and for that regard they have one very important thing in common, they were very memorable and worthy players to have appeared in our goalkeeping jersey representing Newcastle United.

Minus a trophy, I’ll take that ..

(Previously in these featured NUFC Top 10s – You can go back and see the Top 10 Goals and Strikers)

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