Newcastle United’s goalkeeper situation assessed amid ‘interest’ in Manchester United man

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A detailed look at Newcastle United’s goalkeeping department - including Martin Dubravka, Karl Darlow, Freddie Woodman, Mark Gillespie, Dan Langley and Max Thompson.

Two centre-backs, a left-back, a midfielder and at least one striker remain high on the agenda for Newcastle United as they look to strengthen during the January transfer window.

But what of the intriguing situation Eddie Howe is faced with as he assesses his goalkeeping options at St James Park?

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The former Bournemouth boss has four senior goalkeepers in his squad as well as possessing a number of promising young stoppers.

United - to much derision - opted to name all four senior keepers in their Premier League squad earlier this season and it looks like a quick win to allow one to leave as they look to clear space for new arrivals elsewhere.

The number one…for now

This month marks the fourth anniversary of Martin Dubravka’s move to Newcastle United.

After initially signing on a half-season loan, the Slovakian international was handed a surprise debut in a home game against Manchester United and rewarded then-Magpies manager Rafa Benitez with a man of the match performance in a 1-0 win.

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Since that remarkable introduction to life on Tyneside, Dubravka has gone on to make over a century of appearances for the club and has made himself a firm favourite with the St James Park faithful.

That is not to say Dubravka has been faultless during his time with the club and some United supporters have grown in frustration with a number of errors made during the current campaign.

NewcastleWorld has been told Dubravka is “very likely” to retain the faith of the United management between now and the end of the season.

Intriguingly, suggestions have also been made to suggest a move for a long-term number one in the summer is very much in the offing.

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Long-term links with Manchester United’s Dean Henderson are not without foundation and the once-capped England keeper is believed to have been discussed by the Magpies hierarchy.

The likes of PSG keeper Keylor Navas and Lazio’s Thomas Strakosha were also linked with United in the aftermath of the PIF-led takeover in October.

But with Aaron Ramsdale now seen as the strongest challenger to England number one Jordan Pickford, Henderson needs regular first-team football and a move to Tyneside could be perfect.

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich believes the Cumbrian-born keeper should consider a switch to St James Park.

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Speaking in November when links with Newcastle arose, Bosnich told talkSPORT: “From Dean Henderson’s point of view, he needs to start looking after Dean Henderson.

"Newcastle are a club who are on the go and on the move, but they are also in a perilous position right now.

"New manager. It’s important to get your spin right and the goalkeeper is the integral part of that.

"He should go and should go as soon as he possibly can."

January may be too soon for a move for Henderson - but a summer switch would leave Dubravka with a big choice to make over his own future.

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The reliable backup

It seems somewhat remarkable to discover Karl Darlow has been a Newcastle United player for seven and a half years.

Since Alan Pardew secured the double signing of the goalkeeper and current United captain Jamaal Lascelles in August 2014, Darlow has been relied upon by a series on Magpies managers.

Steve McClaren handed a Premier League debut to the former Nottingham Forest keeper in a 1-0 defeat at West Brom in 2015 and Rafa Benitez started Darlow in the final eight games of an unsuccessful battle against relegation.

Darlow has endured a mixed career ever since as he established himself as number one in United’s Championship-winning season under Benitez but the arrival of Martin Dubravka saw him utilised as backup to to Slovak stopper.

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That said, Darlow has rarely let United down when Dubravka has suffered injuries and his attitude has always won praise from the Magpies coaching staff.

At the age of 31, the Northampton-born stopper should be in his prime as a keeper and would attract interest if he was allowed to leave Tyneside.

Without ever really establishing himself as a long-term number one, Darlow is ideal backup - but a lot could depend on whether he is happy to see out his career challenging a regular starter.

Experienced support

Former Magpies academy keeper Mark Gillespie returned to Tyneside in the summer of 2020 after spells with Carlisle United, Walsall and Motherwell.

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The 29-year-old was seen as the ideal figure to push Martin Dúbravka and Karl Darlow, as well as allowing Freddie Woodman to spend valuable time out on loan.

At this point in time, Gillespie has made three appearances for his boyhood club and they all came in EFL Cup ties last season.

He is currently in the second year of a three-year deal and remains a popular figure in the United changing room.

It seems likely he will remain with the club as an experienced and reliable option - no matter who lies ahead of him next season.

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Now or never for Woodman

Had things been different, Freddie Woodman would be getting invaluable game-time with Championship title challengers Bournemouth after agreeing a loan move to the South Coast during the summer.

A foot injured suffered by Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow’s positive Covid-19 test meant the move was scuppered and Woodman returned to the Magpies to start in the first five games of the season.

A hip injury coincided with the return of Darlow and Woodman’s only other appearance in a matchday squad since he started a 4-1 defeat at Manchester United in September was as an unused substitute in last month’s 1-1 home draw with the Red Devils.

Speaking of his goalkeeping ranks last month, United boss Eddie Howe said: “In terms of the goalkeepers, I think we’ve got a really talented group of goalkeepers.

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“It was unfortunate that both experienced goalkeepers were injured and it probably meant that opportunities for one of the younger guys to go on loan was then potentially stopped.

“That’s something we will evaluate in January because we don’t want to harm anyone’s development.”

A loan move seems like with Bournemouth, Celtic and Sheffield United both touted as possible destinations for the former England under-21 goalkeeper.

But with Woodman turning 25 during the second half of the season, could a permanent move be beneficial to allow him to establish himself as a long-term first-choice goalkeeper and see a promising career finally start to flourish?

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Despite a long period of inaction, Woodman is still highly-rated within the game and he has attracted the interest of some big clubs in the recent past.

A career-defining decision lies ahead.

The young pretenders

Newcastle have several young goalkeepers looking to establish themselves in the Magpies second string.

It is believed Dan Langley led the way and was set to see his development boosted by a January loan move.

Several clubs in the Football League, Scottish Championship, National League and National League North had shown interest in the 21-year-old - but an injury that will rule him out until after the closure of the January window will see a temporary move away from Tyneside parked until the summer.

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Highly-rated England under-18 international Max Thompson appeared for the first-team in pre-season friendlies York City and Doncaster Rovers and recently penned his first senior contract.

The 17-year-old stopper told the club website: “It’s my dream to play for the club and this is a step closer to it, being able to sign that contract and knowing that you’re at that next level to try and push on.

“It’s been a good 16 months or so, since I came in as a first-year scholar. We had a good run in the FA Youth Cup, we’ve progressed to the next round this season as well, I’ve made my debut for England, then it’s been topped off with this contract.

"I hope in the future I can progress with Newcastle - that’s the main goal - and try to push towards that first team and eventually make my debut for Newcastle and play in the Premier League.

"Anything else that happens after that is a bonus.”

Should Langley move out on loan next season, Thompson seems likely to be first choice for United’s second string as he looks to continue his own development.

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