Karl Darlow will not let Newcastle down if he finally gets the chance to fill Martin Dubravka’s sizeable boots, according to Steve Bruce.
Magpies boss Bruce was ready to throw the 29-year-old into the Premier League firing line for the first time since February 2018 but the coronavirus outbreak prompted the suspension of fixtures for at least the rest of this month.
Darlow thought his opportunity had arrived when Dubravka, who has 79 consecutive top-flight games under his belt, was ruled out for at least a month with medial ligament damage, but will now have to remain patient as the enforced lay-off allows the Slovakia international extra time to recover.
Bruce said: “Darlow’s been waiting all these years… Look, he’s played in the cups and played very, very well.
“We’re very, very fortunate that we’ve got three or four good goalkeepers. The kid at Swansea [Freddie Woodman] – who we’re monitoring – is doing very, very well.
“Karl is very, very decent. I see him every day. He’s a very good goalkeeper, so if he gets his chance, I have no problem that he’ll be a very good deputy for him.”
The circumstances may be very different but Newcastle’s first team coach Steve Harper knows all about waiting in line to pull on the gloves at St James’ Park.
Harper, who enjoyed a two-decade playing career on Tyneside, spent much of the best part of 12 years of that serving as Shay Given’s deputy.
In all, he made 199 senior appearances for the club before moving on to Hull, where he worked under Bruce, in 2013.
Asked if Harper would be able to empathise with Darlow over his lack of league football, Bruce said: “He went three or four years – yeah.
“At the time, he was an absolutely terrific goalkeeper. I remember him having a spell [on loan] at Huddersfield where he was talked about as the next England goalkeeper.
🎥 Goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka spoke to NUFC TV after his outstanding debut against @ManUtd this afternoon.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) February 11, 2018
“I think his loyalty towards the club maybe got in the way of his own personal career, because he could quite easily have been a number one anywhere else. He loved the club that much.”
Darlow’s last top-flight outing came in a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on February 4, 2018.
Former Sparta Prague keeper Dubravka kept a clean sheet on his debut in a 1-0 win over Manchester United a week later, and has been the man in possession ever since.