Newcastle United

Gareth Southgate should take notice of the impressive Karl Darlow

Tom McArdle
Dec 31, 2020, 6:45 PM GMT
Darlow has been in fine form this season
Darlow has been in fine form this season / Visionhaus/Getty Images
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All aboard the hype train, unless of course you are already on board.

As football fans we are no strangers to a bandwagon, and Twitter has made immediate post match analysis an opportunity to blast a player who has had a stinker, or ensure everybody knows that your team is full of world beaters. Maybe this is a justified bandwagon.

After a 0-0 draw against Liverpool on Wednesday evening, Newcastle fans were revelling in a performance that was actually pretty deserving of a point - a rare commodity this season.

This was in no small part down to the contributions of the man between the sticks - Karl Darlow.

The rest of the team no doubt played their part, but had it not been for his masterful positioning and reflexes, Liverpool would surely have left St. James' Park with all three points.

Darlow only made four saves according to the stats, but all were gilt-edge chances (particularly Mo Salah's) that you'd have backed the Liverpool forwards to put away. They probably would've done against a different goalkeeper.

With calls for a place in the England set-up, some Toon fans will likely be labelled delusional for even entertaining the idea. You can imagine the conversations in the pub, if we're ever allowed back: "Darlow?! For England? You must be joking?!"

Actually, I'm not.

This has not been some flash in the pan from the Englishman, he has been a consistent stand out performer for Steve Bruce's side.

Any fan that regularly watches Newcastle will tell you that he has often single-handedly kept the Magpies in games where, given how the rest of the team were performing, the opposition should be home and dry.

Making his Premier League debut in December 2015 after his purchase from Nottingham Forest, it was not until Newcastle's relegation to the Championship that he became a starter. Darlow enjoyed 34 appearances in his quest for the No. 1 jersey, particularly two penalty saves in one game against his old club.

The arrival of Martin Dubravka meant that once again Darlow found himself second fiddle. So it is perhaps a surprise to learn that Darlow turned 30 this year. The 'Peter Pan' figure has emerged from Neverland to finally get his chance in the top division after Dubravka's heel injury in August.

He has grasped it with two hands, already making 63 saves, the second highest in the league, with a save percentage success of 70.9%.

Admittedly his save percentage figure ranks him only eighth amongst his peers, but that is not an entirely fair reflection of his contributions. Darlow's save number is only three fewer than West Brom's figure (they are top of the list), and the same as Leeds.

Hugo Lloris has the best save percentage in the league
Hugo Lloris has the best save percentage in the league / Pool/Getty Images

His performance against Liverpool hailed praise from his manager on Wednesday. "Our goalkeeper's produced some great saves," Bruce said. "I'm really pleased for him. He is doing everything he possibly can to make that (No. 1) jersey his."

He certainly is, and has been doing all season. His 11 saves at Tottenham Hotspur spring to mind, where Newcastle somehow escaped with a point thanks to his brilliance.

Dubravka has returned from injury, but the Slovakian's return to the starting XI looks unlikely given Darlow's form.

It begs the question of why not for England? Gareth Southgate should stop persisting with the error prone Jordan Pickford and give the man who rejected an approach from Ryan Giggs to play for Wales, a chance for the Three Lions.

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