Thursday 21 September 2017

Rob Elliot focused on Newcastle safety ahead of race to win Euro 2016 spot

Newcastle's Rob Elliot
Newcastle's Rob Elliot

Rob Elliot is hoping to end a difficult season by helping Newcastle retain their Barclays Premier League status and win the race for the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2016 goalkeeper's shirt.

The 29-year-old met up with the Ireland squad on Sunday evening hours after playing his part in a dramatic Tyne-Wear derby draw with fellow strugglers Sunderland, but with his club still in desperate relegation trouble.

Elliot will be able to take his mind off the pressure of trying to avoid the drop for a few days as he concentrates on the task of winning a fourth senior cap in their friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia over the Easter weekend in a bid to get the nod for this summer's finals in France.

Asked if helping to keep Newcastle up could help him edge past the likes of Darren Randolph, Shay Given and David Forde to claim the number one spot for his country, he said: "I hope it's an added bonus.

"It's nice to be away with the lads and trying to do well this week, but just for Newcastle to stay up is obviously my short-term priority because it's a fantastic club. We should be in the Premier League and we shouldn't be in the position we're in.

"Anything I can do to help us stay up and maintain our Premier League status, hopefully that will help towards the summer. But in the meantime, we just need to concentrate on our Premier League survival game-by-game.

"We have got eight games left and they are all massive, massive games now. That will go hand in hand, really."

Elliot, who had been hampered by a niggling thigh problem, might have left St James' Park last summer following the arrival of Karl Darlow to put pressure on he and number one Tim Krul, but the Dutchman's misfortune - he suffered a serious knee ligament injury back in October - opened the door and he has never looked back.

But for his efforts, the Magpies might well have emerged empty-handed from the Sunderland game, making the journey to Dublin with Black Cats defender John O'Shea slightly more awkward than it proved to be.

Indeed, O'Shea even bought his compatriot a beer as they waited to board the plane at Newcastle International Airport.

Elliot said with a smile: "I'd have bought him one if he could have let us get the winner.

"But it was nice to sit and have a beer with him at the airport because obviously it's a massive rivalry, it's a massive occasion.

"It was probably a fair result in the game, and it was nice just to sit and have a beer with him and have a nice chat about the events, and then get on the plane and come over here."

For all 10 days away with Ireland might give Elliot and O'Shea a little breathing space, there are still reminders of what lies ahead with both clubs having still to travel to Norwich, who are themselves still involved at the wrong end of the table, meaning reunions of sorts with international colleagues Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan in the weeks ahead.

Elliot said: "I haven't really talked to the Norwich boys about it yet, but I'm sure we'll have a chat about it. But it's such an important time of the season. We're here to concentrate on Ireland.

"We might have a couple of jokes, but it's so professional, when the game time comes up, I want to do the best I can for Newcastle and they are going to want to do the best they can for Norwich."

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