1st Team Goalkeepers: Tim Krul (24), Rob Elliot (26), Steve Harper (37)
Last season was Tim Krul’s breakthrough season. He’d got first team opportunities in the past and showed signs of ability, but he really came of age during Alan Pardew’s first full season in charge. The goalscoring exploits of Demba Ba and later Papiss Cisse were credited with firing the Magpies to their best finish since 2004, but Krul’s performances deserve to be mentioned as a key part of the success. In the early part of the season, he was simply sensational, pulling off incredible reflex saves on an almost weekly basis. At the other end, the goals kept coming, but without Krul’s contribution they wouldn’t have earned as many points as they did.
One long standing criticism of Krul was his tendency to have a rush of blood to the head and do something ill-advised, but last season there was a maturity to his play. Uncertainty and jittery-ness look to be a thing of the past and he has become one of the best keepers in the league – a fact backed up by (not unwarranted) calls for him to start at Euro 2012 ahead of Maarten Stekelenburg for the Netherlands. If Newcastle are to build on the progress of last season, Krul needs to maintain that high standard of performance and there’s little reason to think he won’t do that.
A sign of just how much Krul has developed is Pardew’s willingness to let the highly rated Fraser Forster join Celtic permanently. At one point, it looked like the Englishman would challenge Krul for the starting place, but the Dutchman has grabbed the number one jersey and wasn’t going to let it go anytime soon.
Nowadays, Newcastle have the option of youth or experience in reserve. Steve Harper is closing in on 20 years at the club. For much of that time, he has found opportunities limited but he’s a very solid back up. He’s not the most agile goalkeeper in the league, but he does the basics well and useful to have around the place. Last year it looked like he might move on in search of more first team football, but after a spell on loan at Brighton, looks happy to stay.
Rob Elliot is the more youthful option. Signed last season from Charlton, he has yet to get an extended run in the first team, with just one league cup appearance to his name. He’s got plenty of experience under his belt, so if he is called upon, there should be little to worry about for the Toon Army faithful.