Tim Krul opens up about his long journey back to fitness ahead of his return to Newcastle

  • Krul has come through a demanding few months with loan club
  • Goalkeeper fully fit after putting knee injury behind him
  • AZ battling to win play-off and qualify for Europa League
  • Holland international avidly followed United in Championship

Tyneside was buzzing. And so too was Tim Krul on the other side of the North Sea.

The last time Newcastle United won promotion to the Premier League, Krul was in the thick of it.

Back then, he had just broken into the first team.

This time, he was in Holland preparing for the KNVB Cup final with loan club AZ Alkmaar.

Krul’s had a busy few months.

After a more than a year of painstaking rehabilitation, the goalkeeper’s hardly stopped since joining the club, who take on FC Utrecht at the AFAS Stadium tonight in the first leg of a play-off final tonight.

Tim Krul

Tim Krul

The winner will earn a place in next season’s Europa League.

It’s been game after game, game after game.

He’s played 14 regular-season Eredivisie fixtures and more in cups and play-offs.

It was just what Krul, a half-season loan at the Dutch club, needed after a tough few months.

I can imagine what the buzz was like. There’s a major future ahead of the club again with the way it’s going at the moment. I still get social media messages off fans keeping me up to date. That’s good.

Tim Krul

Krul, however, has still followed the fortunes of Newcastle closely.

And the 29-year-old – who ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament playing for Holland against Kazakhstan October 2015 – was delighted to see his team-mates get over the Championship finishing line late last month.

“I’m buzzing with it,” said Krul, signed from Den Haag in 2006.

“There have been a lot of games to follow. That week when Newcastle beat Brighton and Huddersfield and drew against Reading, that week gave us a bit of breathing space.

Tim Krul

Tim Krul

“It gave us the confidence to everyone involved.

“It was so nice to get over the line, and to win it in this manner in front of your own fans.

“I watched it from afar, but I know what it feels like from the time under Chris Hughton.

“I can imagine what the buzz was like.

“There’s a major future ahead of the club again with the way it’s going at the moment.

“I still get social media messages off fans keeping me up to date. That’s good.

Tim Krul

Tim Krul

“My wife is from Newcastle, and the whole family keeps me up to date.”

Krul – who famously came off the bench to save two penalties for Holland in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – could only watch in frustration as United fought to stay in the Premier League.

“We’re talking about October 2015 – a lot of things have happened since,” said Krul.

“It was so hard when it happened.

“I was away with Holland. You’re on top of your game playing for your country away at Kazakhstan on an artificial pitch with about five minutes to go. And then that happens.

“It was difficult at the time, even not realising what effect it could have on everything.

“Of course, I’ve had injuries over my career, but you’re back in a month or a few weeks. You don’t lose your sharpness.

“When you have an injury like this, you kind of have to start from scratch. That’s how it felt.

“It was quite difficult, because in your head you still think you’re the same but your body has changed.

“That was a major fight I had to win.

“Obviously, that was in October, and seeing Newcastle in a relegation battle was hard.

“You’re still on your own. You have to go to the gym on your own, and the boys are grafting against relegation. That was hard as well.

“Obviously, the only thing I wanted was to get back on the pitch and be helpful and win us points again.”

Krul was loaned to Ajax last August, but he wasn’t fit in time for the start of the season and the form of Andre Onana kept him out of the team once he had fully recovered from his knee injury.

The move to AZ allowed Krul to get games and “close the book” on the toughest period of his career.

“When we were relegated, the opportunity came to get my sharpness back at Ajax,” said Krul.

“It seemed like a great opportunity to get that kind of experience as well at a massive team.

“It didn’t quite work out with me not yet being fit and Ajax winning a lot.

“With Ajax winning, it was normal that they didn’t want to change the team. January came, and my only objective was to get games and sharpness.

“I just wanted to play, and AZ gave me that opportunity.

“I started in February, and three months later I’ve played more than 20 games.

“It’s been a hard couple of months, but really enjoyable getting back on the pitch.

“You can do as many hours on the training pitch as you want, but game play is something else.

“I’ve always been a game player. I’ve had the chance to play Europa League again and a cup final in Holland, some big games.

“We’re still fighting for the play-off for the Europa League.

“It’s been everything I needed.”

AZ were beaten by Vitesse Arnhem in the KNVB Cup final.

“It would have been amazing to walk away with the prize in the cup final, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“At the end of the day, I can close the book on that injury at the end of the season.

“That’s been a major objective.”

Krul’s objective now is to help AZ – who finished sixth in the Eredivisie table – qualify for the Europa League.

“We have two big games,” he said.

“Europe’s at stake against a very good team.

“We want to finish the season on a high.”

* See tomorrow’s Gazette for a chance to win a signed pair of PEAK goalkeeping gloves worn by Tim Krul.