Eddie Howe has backed Martin Dubravka to plug the sizeable gap left by Nick Pope as Newcastle’s first-choice goalkeeper faces up to four months on the sidelines.
Magpies head coach Howe’s worst fears over the shoulder injury which Pope suffered during Saturday night’s 1-0 Premier League win over Manchester United have been confirmed, with the 31-year-old due to undergo surgery which will sideline him for four months and leave him in a race against time to make England’s Euro 2024 squad.
However, the £10million man’s misfortune – he dislocated his left shoulder as he dived in an attempt to save a Sergio Reguilon shot – will open the door for his deputies Dubravka, Loris Karius and Mark Gillespie with the Slovakia international, who came off the bench at the weekend, the man first in line to replace him starting at Everton on Thursday evening.
Howe said: “We really believe in Martin and I’ve always had that high opinion of him.
“Yes, we brought in Nick – we wanted to build competition for places, we wanted to build a squad that we felt could really carry us to great success – but Martin is a high-class goalkeeper.
“He’s a brilliant shot-stopper himself, he’s very good with his feet and his distribution, so no hesitation about bringing Martin into the team and I hope he does really well.”
Newcastle have been linked with a move for former Manchester United keeper David de Gea in recent days, but Howe insisted no approaches have been made.
He said: “We have not made any inquiries or any decisions about our recruitment leading into January.
“This is a chance for the goalkeepers we have at the football club to consolidate their positions, and that will be the same for every other position at the club.”
Howe had earlier confirmed that Pope is awaiting a final decision on the way forward, but that surgery was inevitable.
He said: “We anticipate he’ll be operated on – there’s no doubt he needs an operation – so he will be out for a period of time.
“The operation hasn’t happened yet, but we’re thinking roughly around four months, so it’s a big blow to us, but one that we expected after the game.
“He’s naturally down because at this stage of the season where we have so many games, huge games coming up – he’s got, obviously, the Euros ahead of him as well, which he was determined to try to be involved in, and there’s still chance of that for him.
“But I think his main determination is to come back for us, and you never know what situation we’ll be in at that stage of the season, so it could be a lot worse for him.”
If Dubravka represents experience, 17-year-old midfielder Lewis Miley is at the opposite end of the scale, but will run out at Goodison Park also having benefited from an injury crisis which has thrust him into the limelight.
Miley’s last three starts have come against Chelsea, Paris St Germain and Manchester United, and he has revelled in the responsibility handed to him.
Howe said: “It’s not bad, is it? I’ve never seen a 17-year-old do that. But nothing totally surprises me from what we saw pre-season.
“I just hope he continues to go from strength to strength, and I see no reason why he can’t keep the high levels he has already shown.”