From one big keeper decision to another: Steve Bruce facing second HUGE Newcastle United goalie call

Newcastle United images posted to social media show Martin Dubravka back in training at the club’s Benton training base - and his return to the fold puts Steve Bruce is another awkward goalkeeping situation.

Newcastle United’s No.1 spot has been more changeable in recent years than it had been for a long while.

Three men have held the spot down as their own in the space of the last six months, something probably not seen since it was Karl Darlow, Matz Sels and Rob Elliot were fighting it out in the Championship under Rafa Benitez.

While Darlow won out eventually in that race, he was soon hanging on to his first-team pick by a thread when United’s former manager turned his attentions to an unknown quantity from the Czech top flight.

United, truthfully, have barely looked back. The arrival of Martin Dubravka, THAT Manchester United debut and countless point-saving performances saw the Slovakian, signed from Sparta Prague initially on loan, become the undisputed United No.1.

Injury has, however, put that dominance in doubt in recent seasons, with Dubravka missing much of last season and an early chunk of this one with an ankle injury.

And now, having already changed Darlow in for ‘injured’ Freddie Woodman, Steve Bruce is facing up to the prospect of yet another tough call, with Dubravka back out on the grass.

Here we take a look at the situation.

What was wrong with Martin Dubravka?

Dubravka underwent surgery on a foot injury which plagued him last season and throughout Euro 2020 this summer. He then subsequently suffered an infection following surgery.

In his own words, speaking in July, Dubravka said: “I have been feeling pain in my leg since last December.

“This was probably due to the fact that last year I had a torn tendon, so I loaded the foot differently.

“I was constantly feeling uncomfortable in my football. The pain escalated, getting more and more intense. In the end, it turned out to be a fatigue fracture, and surgery was necessary.”

What has Steve Bruce said about his possible return?

Speaking to BBC Radio Newcastle prior to United’s clash with Leeds, Bruce said: “He’s coming along nicely. Thankfully, the wound that was badly infected has gone.

“He’s hoping he’ll be back on the grass next week, so that’s a bit of good news.”

Who has played Newcastle United’s games this season?

Freddie Woodman started the season as Newcastle United’s goalkeeper, having been called back at the last minute from a proposed loan move to AFC Bournemouth in the summer.

Woodman started each of the Magpies’ first four games of the Premier League season against West Ham United, Aston Villa, Southampton and Manchester United. He also started and saved a penalty in the ultimately shoot-out defeat to Burnley in the Carabao Cup.

Darlow, on the bench for the Old Trafford clash, was reinstated for the Leeds United fixture last Friday, having fully recovered from Covid complications.

What has happened to Freddie Woodman?

Speaking to Sky Sports news prior to the Leeds United match, Bruce confirmed: “Unfortunately, Freddie hurt himself on Wednesday diving in a shooting drill, so the decision was easy.

“Freddie hasn’t made it. He wasn’t quite ready.”

Freddie Woodman of Newcastle United saves a penalty in the shootout during the Carabao Cup Second Round match between Newcastle United and Burnley at St. James Park on August 25, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

When will Dubravka likely return for United?

You’d imagine, having just got out on the grass, that this weekend’s trip to Watford will prove too soon for the Slovak.

However, the trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers cannot yet be ruled out, and then again the home game with Tottenham Hotspur after the international break would likely have given the player plenty of time to get back up to speed.

Will Bruce trade in Dubravka for Darlow?

Last season, despite the player getting back up to fitness, there was a reluctance for Dubravka to be brought back by Bruce, who showed loyalty to Darlow, having seen the player grasp his opportunity between the sticks with both hands.

It remains to be seen whether Bruce will again be so loyal to the player, especially with United’s plight so dire early on this campaign. He may also have learned lessons from his Dubravka call last season, which, when brought back, made a huge difference to United defensively.