Tim Krul has a message for Newcastle United fans as he pushes for promotion with Norwich City
Thirty-three games gone. Thirteen to go. A 46-game Championship season is tough and tortuous.
Yet Tim Krul’s taking Norwich City’s campaign in his stride.
Krul has been on an even longer journey since a fateful night in Kazakhstan in October 2015 when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Holland.
It was to be almost 16 months before Krul played another competitive first-team game.
There have been ups and downs along the way for the likeable goalkeeper, who left Newcastle United last year after 12 years on Tyneside.
But Krul, unquestionably, is back where he belongs – between the posts.
And Daniel Farke’s Norwich, two points clear at the top of the division, hope to be back in the Premier League next season.
“I’m 30 years old and I love playing,” said Krul, who spent most of last season on the bench at Brighton and Hove Albion.
“I played a lot of games at Newcastle, and went to Brighton challenging (Mathew) Ryan. I went on deadline day. From the moment I stepped into that building, he was nearly man of the match every single game. That’s obviously the life of a goalkeeper.
“I had a really good conversation with Chris Hughton near the end of the season. He said ‘you’re fully fit, you’ve trained every day – go and show people you’re back and you’re not a No 2’.
“I had a couple of options to be on the bench in the Premier League, but I love the game too much I want to show people that I’m back after my injury.
“I didn’t want my career to fizzle out and be someone who sits on the bench. To have played 33 games was what I was hoping for and I knew what I was capable of.
“It’s really exciting to be part of something positive and winning games.”
The sole focus at Carrow Road is promotion.
And Krul, having been pushed out through the “back door” at St James’s Park, would love to walk back through the front door with Norwich for a Premier League game next season.
“The fans need to know it wasn’t my choice to leave,” said Krul. “If we go up, that would be a game I’ll be looking out for – to be back playing at St James’s Park.”
Rafa Benitez, United’s manager, didn’t give Krul an opportunity when he returned from loans at Ajax and AZ Alkmaar. Instead, he was told to train at the Academy while he looked for a new club.
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“I didn’t want to leave Newcastle through the back door after all the amazing things we’d been through,” said Krul.
“Unfortunately, in football, it happens like that. It shouldn’t have happened that way, but it did. I will always love the club. It will always have a special place. My missus and little one are from there.
“Football doesn’t always go the way you want it to. I had 16 managers in my time at Newcastle, and Benitez was the one who wanted his own kind of goalkeeper, and I wasn’t in his plans.
“Then again, it gave me a new challenges and new opportunities. One kind of negative thing, in my eyes, turned into a positive. I’ve really found the hunger to show everyone that I can perform at the highest level.”
Krul has needed that hunger to overcome the physical and mental challenges of the past few years.
“It’s a massive smack in the face going from playing every four days to literally being on the sofa for months and being out injured for 12, 13, 14 months,” he said.
“It’s horrible. If you have a little ankle injury, you’re back in four weeks. You don’t lose your sharpness.
“To be out for more than a year, that definitely takes a big chunk out of, and it’s something you have to cope with mentally. It’s part and parcel of being a sports player.
“Professional football players have to deal with injuries. When you’re 27, you’re hoping not to have something like that.
“The good thing is with a goalkeeper you have a few years to turn it around. I always knew I would come back and the hunger to prove people wrong is stronger than ever. A lot of people said ‘he’s not the same after his injury anymore’, and all that kind of malarkey has pushed me harder in the gym than ever.
“I’m fitter than I’ve ever been and obviously more experienced and mentally stronger after what I’ve had to cope with. I’m 30 and still have years ahead of me – fingers crossed I’ll be back in the Premier League next year with Norwich.”
Krul remains thankful to Newcastle for giving him the opportunity of a lifetime.
The club signed him from Den Haag in 2005, and a year later Krul, memorably, kept a clean sheet on his debut away to Palermo in the UEFA Cup.
“If you take all the points that have happened over the last 10 years, I can only be thankful for Newcastle giving me that opportunity,” said Krul.
“And I’m thankful to Norwich for giving me that platform to show myself and be part of something really exciting with a lot of amazing talent in the team. There are a lot of rough diamonds in the team, and it’s nice to help their development and obviously get the results on the back of it.”
Krul, having missed so much football, is enjoying every minute on the field.
“Of course things are always easier when you’re winning – don’t get me wrong,” said Krul. “It’s a different mindset to being in a relegation battle.
“It’s so different to being on the bench. You’re working so hard during the week to have that release on a Saturday. It’s just exciting with the 13 games left, starting with Bristol City on Saturday.”
Krul made his league debut for United during the 2009-10 Championship campaign.
“I’ve seen how well it went with the experienced players at Newcastle,” he said. “It was an amazing team with the Ameobis, Nolans, Smiths, Bartons and Steve Harper.
“You need that in your team, and we’ve got that here at Norwich. Everyone in this team has one aim, and that’s to get promotion to the Premier League.”