Miles Starforth: Newcastle United still in safe hands with Martin Dubravka
He couldn’t believe it, he really couldn’t.
After 284 minutes at St James’s Park, Martin Dubravka had conceded a goal on home turf.
And my son, then five-years-old, couldn’t quite believe it.
He thought the goalkeeper – who had kept clean sheets against Manchester United, Southampton and Huddersfield Town last season after joining on loan from Sparta Prague – was infallible on home turf.
And that’s the thing – every player is fallible, including Dubravka.
The 30-year-old was a player few on Tyneside thought was actually needed when he arrived last January.
Newcastle’s priorities, it was thought, lay elsewhere given that Rafa Benitez had Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot – two capable goalkeepers – at the club along with Freddie Woodman, seen as a future No 1.
Yet Benitez was right. United did need Dubravka.
The club needed him then, and the club needs him now.
Dubravka, of course, has had a difficult few weeks.
There was the mistake against Manchester United at St James’s Park early last month and the late error which cost Newcastle a point against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley two-and-a-half weeks ago.
Then there was Wolverhampton Wanderers’ controversial 95th-minute equaliser at Molineux last Monday night.
Yes, Dubravka was at fault. And yes, referee Graham Scott was also at fault for not penalising scorer Willy Boly.
Dubravka was fouled by Boly as he attempted to catch Adama Traore’s deep cross. The ball went through his outstretched hands and Boly headed home.
So the Slovakia international has made three high-profile mistakes since the turn of the year, but it’s hard to think of too many other errors over the past 12 months.
Had those errors been spread over the past year, then nothing much would have been said or written. But they’ve all seemingly come at once.
There has been criticism from fans and journalists alike, but there’s also been a lot of support for the Dubravka, an articulate and thoughtful player.
Dubravka, however, is his own worst critic.
“My family and my girlfriend, she knows me a lot in this case, because I’m really professional, so if I have just made one bad pass, I am very critical of myself,” said Dubravka last week frpom the club’s training camp in Spain.
“I’m trying to study from every game what I can do better.
“Of course, I have made some good saves and some games were not what they were supposed to be.
“I have made some mistakes, but I’m also a human being – I’m not a robot.
“Of course, I have made some mistakes, but the important thing is how you will look up for the next game, how you react.
“I can’t put my head down – the only thing I can do is to be focused about my job and stabilise my performances, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Dubravka – who sat out last weekend’s friendly against CSKA Moscow in Murcia – will be back in goal for Saturday’s home game against Huddersfield Town.
And one thing is clear – the club’s in safe hands with Dubravka in goal.