Rob Elliot reflects on tears and triumph of a rollercoaster 16 months at Newcastle

Rob Elliot
Rob Elliot

First came the tears. Rob Elliot, for the first time in his Newcastle United career, was playing week in, week out.

And he was playing well, though the team was struggling.

Told he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, the goalkeeper broke down in front of the doctor.

Elliot knew what it meant. It meant an operation and months of hard work before he would be ready to take to the field again.

Even after all that, he wondered if he would be the same player on his return.

“It was really tough,” said Elliot, who suffered the injury on international duty with the Republic of Ireland in March last year.

Rob Elliot

Rob Elliot

“I had the injury. The doctor told me it was the ACL. I remember the tears came. I couldn’t really help it.”

The tears, however, quickly dried up. And Elliot then got to work.

“After that, I thought ‘it’s done – there’s nothing I can do about it’,” said the 31-year-old, who could make another pre-season appearance in tonight’s friendly against Bradford City at Valley Parade.

“I spoke to the club doctor (Paul Catterson) – who’s brilliant – and said ‘look, I want the operation done as soon as possible’. You know it’s going to be a long time, but the quicker you get the operation, every day you’re getting better and better.

It was really tough. I had the injury. The doctor told me it was the ACL. I remember the tears came. I couldn’t really help it. After that, I thought ‘it’s done – there’s nothing I can do about it’.

Rob Elliot

“When you haven’t had the operation, you’re just lying there with a broken knee.

“It was brilliant. The club got the operation sorted. Touch wood, since then I’ve only got better and better. Obviously, now, I don’t even feel like I’ve had an operation.

“I never thought I’d be able to train and play every day and not think about it.

“You hear all these things about the injuries and I think some lads are more unlucky than others. But, touch wood, I’ve managed to make a complete recovery. It hasn’t been an issue since.”

Rob Elliot

Rob Elliot

Elliot had a long wait for a game when he returned to fitness late last year.

By then, Karl Darlow had the goalkeeping jersey. And he wasn’t going to let it go.

Darlow was outstanding over the course of United’s Championship-winning campaign.

Elliot, however, did get an unexpected opportunity with three games left last season.

And what an opportunity it was.

Elliot returned to the starting XI for what turned out to be the club’s promotion-securing game against Preston North End in late April.

And he was between the posts for the title-securing win over Barnsley in late May.

As happy as he was to finally be back on the field, Elliot still felt for Darlow.

“He’s a great lad, and we’re good friends,” said the Greenwich-born player. “We socialise together outside of it. We went to the cricket together to watch England. He’s good friends with Mark Wood and knows (Stuart) Broad.

“We both understand football and how quickly it can change. I was gutted for him, because he really did deserve to be there at the end.

“But his attitude was amazing. He’s a real credit, and he’s an unbelievable goalkeeper. He’s brilliant. He’s one of the best I’ve played with. I think that shows the type of squad we’ve got.

“We were all disappointed at some point last season, but you stick together and help the lads.

“You do your job for the team whether it’s three games or 30-odd games. You help each other along the way.”

Elliot now hopes to get the chance to pick up where he left off in the Premier League.

“It’s nice to know you can do it at that standard,” he said. “You want to improve on it. It felt like I was getting better every week.

“Obviously, the injury happened, but on the flipside, I feel physically and mentally stronger from the injury.

“You’re hoping you can really get going and push on even more.”