All aboard the hype train, unless of course you’re already on board.
As football fans, we’re no strangers to a moving train, and Twitter made immediate post-match analysis an opportunity to blow up a player who had a stench, or make sure that everyone knows your team is full of drummers from around the world. Perhaps this is a justified moving train.
After a 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Wednesday night, Newcastle fans were reveling in a performance that actually deserved a point – a rare commodity this season.
This was in large part thanks to the contributions of the man between the sticks – Karl Darlow.
The rest of the squad undoubtedly played their part, but without his masterful positioning and reflexes Liverpool surely would have left St. James’ Park with all three points.
Darlow made just four saves by statistics, but all of them were golden chances (especially Mo Salah’s) that you would have backed Liverpool forwards. They probably would have done against a different goalie.
With calls for a place in the England setup, some Toon fans will likely be labeled delusional for even entertaining the idea. You can imagine the conversations in the pub, if we are ever allowed to come back: “Darlow ?! For England? Are you kidding ?! ”
In fact, I am not.
It was not a flash from the Englishman, he has always been a remarkable artist on Steve Bruce’s side.
Any fan who watches Newcastle on a regular basis will tell you that he has often kept the Magpies on his own in games where, given the performances of the rest of the squad, the opposition should be at home and dry.
Making his Premier League debut in December 2015 after his purchase from Nottingham Forest, it wasn’t until Newcastle’s relegation to the Championship that he became a starter. Darlow has had 34 appearances in his quest for the No.1 shirt, especially two penalty saves in a game against his former club.
The arrival of Martin Dubravka means that once again Darlow finds himself second violin. So it may come as a surprise to learn that Darlow turned 30 this year. The character of “Peter Pan” left Neverland to finally have his chance in the first division after Dubravka’s heel injury in August.
He grabbed it with both hands, already making 63 saves, the second-highest in the league, with a 70.9% winning percentage.
Granted, his save percentage only ranks him eighth among his peers, but that doesn’t fully reflect his contributions. Darlow’s backup number is only three less than West Brom’s (they’re top of the list), and the same as Leeds.
His performance against Liverpool received praise from his coach on Wednesday. “Our caretaker produced awesome saves, ”Bruce said.” I’m really happy for him. He does everything he can to make this jersey (# 1) his. “
He certainly is, and has done all season. His 11 Tottenham Hotspur saves come to mind, where Newcastle kind of escaped with a point thanks to their brilliance.
Dubravka has returned from injury, but the Slovakian’s return to the starting XI looks unlikely given Darlow’s form.
This raises the question of why not for England? Gareth Southgate should stop persisting with error-prone Jordan Pickford and give the man who rejected an approach by Ryan Giggs to play for Wales a chance for the Three Lions.