Sport Soccer

Saturday 24 February 2018

Elliot hopes Magpies promotion can propel him back into Ireland No 1 shirt

Rob Elliot: ‘I have to be doing well for Newcastle’. Photo: Getty Images
Rob Elliot: ‘I have to be doing well for Newcastle’. Photo: Getty Images

Colin Young

Rob Elliot is targeting a run in the Premier League next season as Newcastle United's first-choice 'keeper and aims to re-launch his bid to regain the Republic of Ireland No 1 shirt when the World Cup qualifying campaign resumes.

Slaven Bilic's decision to drop Darren Randolph means Martin O'Neill's current goalkeeper will likely not have played for nearly two months when Ireland play their two friendlies in June, ahead of the World Cup qualifier at home to Austria.

Randolph has paid the price for his two errors which cost West Ham two points at Sunderland last month and, as Bilic appears to be seeing out his days with the London club, he has turned to Adrian to complete an unsatisfactory season.

Sheffield Wednesday 'keeper Keiren Westwood has again underlined his international credentials with another outstanding season at Hillsborough.

After today's meeting with Fulham, which could be repeated in the play-offs, O'Neill's former Sunderland 'keeper is hoping for three more wins to secure a personal return to the Premier League.

Westwood was superb in the play-off final 12 months ago, when Carlos Carvahal's side lost 1-0 to Hull City, but O'Neill selected Randolph for the Euro 2016 finals after dropping David Forde and the West Ham 'keeper has kept his place. Elliot missed the finals in France after he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during Ireland's 2-2 draw against Slovakia in March 2016, as he attempted to stop Miroslav Stoch's opening goal.

Almost a year later, Elliot returned to the Newcastle bench and then, with the team and young 'keeper Karl Darlow starting to wobble in their promotion chase, Rafa Benitez turned to the Greenwich-born Irish international for the Geordies' last two games and he will start against Barnsley for what could be a home title-winning clash. Chris Hughton's leaders Brighton are at Steve Bruce's Aston Villa.

So Elliot's season is just starting and after the summer, if they are still at St James's Park, he faces competition from Darlow, who quickly took over from Benitez's signing Matz Sels for most of the season while Netherlands international Tim Krul has been on loan at Ajax and then AZ Alkmaar for the past season.

"I have to be doing well for Newcastle United to get a chance with Ireland," said Elliot. "If I can be playing Premier League football, hopefully that will lead to good things with Ireland. You have to get one to get the other in my opinion.

"In one sense you think, 'Am I going to get a chance, am I going to play?' But in the other sense you realise, 'Well, I'm going to have to be at my best to play'. We have some top 'keepers - Matz, Tim, Karl and myself. You just have to back yourself and take your opportunities when they come and do your best to impress the manager.

"You don't know what the manager has planned. You could see Pepe Reina walk through the door and then it's like, 'Ah, OK, what's going on here?!' But it's like any club, you can never take a position for granted, especially with my previous history at Newcastle, I know things can change very quickly. I just have to keep working hard and hope that I do enough to get the nod whenever it comes around.

"You want to test yourself against the best and play against the best in the world every week. That's where you want to be - playing in front of a big crowd at St James's against the best players. When we are doing well, there is no better place to be. You want to be in that environment every week and that's what the Premier League means."

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