Wednesday, 6 March 2013
Rob Elliot: A young keeper on the Rise – The luck of the Irish
When asked to write a piece on who I felt was a young up and coming goalkeeper, I thought look no further than a fellow who recently been given his first Premier League chance. After regular Newcastle United number one Tim Krul suffered a nasty ankle injury in their recent Europa clash, in walked young reserve keeper Rob Elliot. As much as a young keeper understudy tries not to sit on the bench wishing bad luck on their senior keeper, the reality is that deep down a little part of them dreams of a tiny “break” after often spending countless months if not years waiting for that final chance to hit the pitch and show their wares.
For young 27-year-old Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot, he is a true football journeyman, playing in all four divisions of English football as well as the Conference National League. Elliot first appeared on the football landscape by playing for little known non-league side Erith Town based in the London Borough of Bexley.
From humble football beginnings, Charlton Athletic approached Elliot in 2004 and he began living out every child’s dream of playing professional football for a club he supported from an early age. During his first season, Elliot was shipped off on loan to Bishop’s Stortford and then to the Notts Country Magpies where he debuted in the Football League.
A further stint with Conference National side Accrington Stanley proved a little more fruitful for the 6ft 3in lad, impressing many after his penalty stop secured their promotion. His return to Charlton saw a familiar goalkeeping tale of spending countless games on a cold bench waiting for the chance to shine and impress. It is a predicament that is rarely encountered by field players as they can always grind out some pitch time in the reserves or youth leagues.
Eventually Elliot’s time at Charlton materialised after playing third and ultimately second fiddle to number one club keeper Nicky Weaver. As Weaver’s form began to fade like an old grocery docket, Elliot was finally given a chance to impress the Addicks faithful. A bright start to his keeping campaign snowballed and management then provided what every keeper yearns… a contract extension.
A big Premier League break came when Newcastle United came knocking on Elliot’s door in the summer of 2011. His move to St James’ Park and the black and white stripes of the Magpies commenced with a memorable debut against Nottingham Forest in a League Cup game.
The odd thing about Elliot being at Newcastle is that he is an Irish national. With Newcastle United team sheet resembling more exotic names than a French patisserie menu, having the services of an English born Irishman as your number two goalkeeper could be a seen as a steadying influence in an otherwise cosmopolitan outfit.
For now Elliot is doing a handy job filling the huge shoes left by Krul’s absence, but already is showing plenty of purpose and dedication to the cause after narrowly going down to League Cup winners Swansea at Liberty Stadium on the weekend just past. The Magpies dominated the game in the second stanza, but a comedic like mix up at the back saw Luke Moore capitalize on a regurgitated ball to awkwardly stab it slowly over the goal line. The loss was in strong contrast to the result at home the week earlier as they thumped table foes Southampton 4-2 in Elliot’s debut game.
For now I will be watching Elliot’s progress with interest as he aims to raise his club’s position on the ladder and ally the fan’s fears of a spot in the relegation zone. On paper the Magpies team boasts far too much class to see it slip down to the Championship, but class counts for nothing when teams battle to stay in the EPL. I’m not sure how much influence and time the young Rob Elliot will have to impress the St James’ faithfull, but often learning a bit of background and journey of a relative unknown in the Premier League ranks gives more perspective to the daily grind and challenges facing a stand in keeper.
Fingers crossed he grabs a clean sheet for his efforts.