Rafa Benitez was right about this at Newcastle United
Rafa Benitez was right.
Just over two years ago, Benitez was preoccupied with signing another goalkeeper.
At the time, I felt that there were other areas which needed strengthening first, as Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot were more than capable Premier League level. The club also had Freddie Woodman coming up through the ranks.
Benitez, though, was right. The club’s former manager spoke of Dubravka’s “experience” after he joined from Sparta Prague, initially on loan, in January 2018. Benitez said: “He’s very agile and he can play with his feet.”
Dubravka hasn’t missed a Premier League fixture since making a memorable debut against Manchester United at St James’s Park.
And, unquestionably, Newcastle United will miss Dubravka as he recovers from the knee injury he suffered against Southampton last weekend. It will keep him out until next month, at least, and there are fears that the 31-year-old could miss up to eight league and cup games.
Since making his debut, Dubravka’s been calm and composed between the posts. Dubravka’s a phenomenal shot-stopper and a very good kicker. He’s also a leader and organiser.
The Slovakia international has made more saves (117) than any other Premier League so far this season, so Darlow, set to deputise for Dubravka, could be set for a busy few weeks.
Darlow was in goal for last week’s FA Cup win over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns, and he spoke about his long wait for a league game after the tie.
“Martin’s done an excellent job, so, as a goalkeeper, you know sometimes you there, but I’m 29, so I’ve still got a while left,” said Darlow. “A bit of patience, and I’ll carry on working hard and stick at it.”
Darlow will be between the posts for Saturday’s home game against Sheffield United – and the March 21 FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City.
Elliot, meanwhile, has had an even longer wait for a league game.
Darlow’s wait is over, and it’s up to the 29-year-old to show that the injury won’t signal the end of the club’s campaign.