The Newcastle 'keeper has been out of action since picking up an ACL injury in March
Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Rob Elliot insists that he has a future at Newcastle United and says he's been given assurances from manager Rafa Benitez that he will be considered for selection.
Elliot has been out of action since the end of March after suffering an ACL injury which ruled him out of Ireland's Euro 2016 campaign last month.
Since the injury, Benitez has brought in another goalkeeper to the team, Matz Sels, and now looks to create competition between the remaining two 'keepers in the squad - the injured Tim Krul and Karl Darlow.
Elliot, however, says that he is firmly in the Spaniard's plans.
"He phoned me when the club signed Matz and said 'I'm really happy with you, it’s good competition. But I like you as a goalkeeper so don’t worry'.
"I told him that competition was good, it only makes you better. It was nice of him to do that he didn’t have to, he could have waited until I saw the transfer. It’s good that he’s brought me over [to Ireland] and it’s good that he’s told me that he likes me as a 'keeper but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to come back into the team.
"Matz and Darlow are two very good young goalkeepers and obviously Tim [Krul] has got great experience and he’ll be back at a similar time to me. It’s going to be a tough fight for all of us. I suppose whoever gets the best of the jersey at the start of the season, it’s up to the rest of us to fight for it."
Rafa Benitez took training at Carton House yesterday afternoon ahead of Newcastle's clash with Bohemians. Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
The injury couldn't have come at a worse time for Elliot, who had been a regular in the Newcastle squad in place of Krul and had even played two games under Benitez against neighbours Sunderland and Premier League champions Leicester City.
"It was really frustrating because he’s a top manager - he’d obviously managed Real Madrid before he’s come to us. That says a lot about his calibre.
"I have to say, he’s been brilliant with me and he’s kept me involved loads. He brought me over here [for Newcastle's friendly with Bohemians] with the group which is great for my confidence because I feel like I’m part of his plans when I come back.
"I went to see the surgeon for my three month check-up and he said he was really pleased. So hopefully looking at an October return. Getting on the pitch is brilliant as well because you can do football related recovery instead of just being in the gym.
"There’s no chance [that I'll be back for the start of the season]. It was a complete ACL rupture, so it’s a minimum of 6 months. Because my injury was the best it could be, I’m looking at a six month return. That’s the best news I could have hoped for so, touch wood I’m back on track. Just looking for a return in October and doing everything that I can to get back fit.
"We’ve got three top keepers in Tim, Mats and Darlow so it’s not going to be easy getting a game here. It’s important to get as fit as I can while I’m injured. In terms of the manager he’s been brilliant with me. He’s kept me involved in the group. He spoke to me quite a lot. Being 30 and being a senior player,you’ve got to take on some responsibility with the new lads and the younger players."
Elliot says he knew before he hit the ground that it was a serious injury. Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Elliot picked up the injury on duty with Ireland and says that the recovery is going along smoothly.
"I knew [it was gone straight away] yeah. I mean it’s amazing how quick something can look but how slow it feels in your head. I’ve got a picture of myself halfway in the air holding my knee. I hadn’t even landed. I knew then it was bad.
"Obviously when the doctor did the test on my knee in the room after, he told me it was my ACL. I got quite emotional but I think that was probably the best thing. I got everything out of me that I needed to then.
"You just have to get on with things. It’s football, you know? I’m 30 years old and that was my first major injury and was the first time I had had surgery. A lot of footballers aren’t as lucky as that. I have to make sure that I do all the right things now so that when I come back that it’s another 10 years of injury free and playing.
"In the gym I can do pretty much everything. It’s just the twisting and turning, because it’s the ACL and the way it holds your knee, moving from side to side is the biggest issue.
"In terms of the gym we do a lot of strength training and starting to build-up outside really basic goalkeeping drills. That slowly get better as the months and weeks go on. Hopefully 2-3 months I’ll be back out training looking to start a game at some point."
With the World Cup qualifying campaign getting underway this fall, Elliot has set his sights on breaking into Martin O'Neill's squad once again.
"The international side of things will come from the club, so you’ve got to get it right with the clubs’ first and the national will follow. I just have to prove myself again and get back involved.
"Obviously we’ve got a great calibre of keeper. There’s a few that missed out and they're all top keepers anyway. I just have to get my head down and do well for Newcastle and hopefully it will follow."
Bohemians host Newcastle United in a friendly at Dalymount Park today at 2pm. Tickets (Adults €15, concession, €10, juvenile €5) are available from tickets.ie and from Dalymount Park.