Tim Krul will step up his comeback for injury on Friday after playing his first game in a year.
The Newcastle goalkeeper is on loan at Dutch side Ajax as he recovers from a cruciate knee injury picked up on international duty last October.
Krul signed a one-year extension to his Magpies contract before returning to his homeland in the summer to continue his rehab at the Dutch giants
And after playing 90 minutes for the club’s second string against Utrecht II, he feels there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
“I am glad I made 90 minutes after all this time,” Krul said. “Playing games is the most beautiful thing there is.
“I’ve had a really tough year, I have just been in the gym.
“You need to be mentally tough but I’m glad that there is light at the end of the tunnel…and now to play in a stadium once again, beautiful.
““As the game continued I felt more and more comfortable. I am already looking forward to Friday’s game (against Telstar), then I hope to make more steps.”
Krul will continue to play for Ajax’s second string, but hopes to push for the first team soon and show head coach Peter Bosz he can be called upon if needed should anything happen to first-choice goalkeeper Andre Onana.
“I must show that I am fully fit again,” added Krul. “It has been a very serious injury.
“Your rhythm and sharpness. It still takes a little longer than I actually had hoped but that’s just the reality.
“I’m still in the process to become even fitter and I will continue to work every day to get that edge.
“I train very well with (Ajax goalkeepers) Andre Onana and Diederik Boer. Onana is very sharp and good and I just have to be ready when the coach needs me.
“I look at myself right now, the season is long and you never know what happens.
“I have to grab as many minutes. There are so many games to come. If the coach says he needs me, I have to show who Tim Krul is.
“I know who that is. I just need that really good feeling as I am still recovering – but I’m getting closer.”
Krul was allowed to go out on loan with Newcastle well-stocked for goalkeepers. Rafa Benitez has Karl Darlow, Matz Sels and Freddie Woodman at his disposal, with Rob Elliot closing in on a return after a knee injury.