PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Goalkeeper Stephen Henderson of Portsmouth fails to stop Mark Noble of West Ham scoring the opening goal during the npower Championship match between Portsmouth and West Ham United at Fratton Park on January 14, 2012 in Portsmouth, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
Within the ranks of Newcastle United supporters, there is very little confusion in the goalkeeping situation. During the pre-season open competition for the gloves, you could easily find those who felt Steve Harper was the #1, those that felt Fraser Forster was the #1 and those that felt Tim Krul was the #1. Late on in the summer transfer window, Rob Elliot was added to the situation, and there are 0 supporters who feel he is the #1. Since then, Tim Krul has emphatically laid claim to the gloves, Fraser Forster has gone on loan with option to purchase back to Celtic and Steve Harper has managed to wrangle one loan contract.
Add to the overall picture Ole Soderberg, who has managed only loan time with low-tier teams, the eventual arrival of Jak Alnwick and even further on the horizon there is 14 year old Freddie Woodman who has already had his debut with the Newcastle United Reserves. This sets the table for trying to figure out what happens moving forward.
At the end of last week, we were linked with ROI under-21 'keeper Stephen Henderson, which got me to wondering: where does he fit in? The underlying logic of the rumor works insofar as he is young, likely to be available for under-vaule and has potential sell-on value. The on-paper logic of the rumor escapes me. Let's look at the situation goalkeeper to goalkeeper:
Today, I read a rather perplexing rumor linking Tim Krul to QPR which has really no bearing on this discussion save for a slight comic break. I mean, I know QPR are a club with ambition, but please. Krul is the lynchpin of the goalkeeping discussion, however. I don't think that any of us are going to be surprised to see the Sky6 coming hard after Tim in the summer, but for this discussion we're going to operate under the assumption that he is a long-term part of the goalkeeping picture here. With the Europa League looking a very attainable goal at this point, the offer of European competition is minimized and Tim has (at least in the press) expressed loyalty to the club, so there is hope.
I have expressed my feelings about Steve before. I think the guy is legend for his loyalty to the club over his entire career, and I think he should get the chance to play whether that is on loan contracts or if he is sold on. I would hate to see him move permanently, but we owe him the same respect that he has given the club. In light of that, it is Steve's presence that perplexes me the most. Rob Elliott was brought in over the summer ostensibly to be the long-term backup to Tim Krul. Steve was on loan to Brighton and it looked like the whole situation was pretty clear. Then the Carling Cup happened. The fact that Stevie is still on Tyneside says one of two things: 1) The club have no confidence in bargain signing Rob Elliott, or 2) Either Alan Pardew or Mike Ashley hate Steve Harper.
I don't think that anyone who watched the 4-3 barely victory over Nottingham Forest in the Carling Cup will forget the awfulness that was Rob Elliot. He played two of the goals very poorly, looked unsure of himself, and made 0 further appearances in the cup following that match. His purchase was the source of as much confusion as his continued presence on the bench is for me. The fact that they have not loaned Harper out again says to me that they have no confidence in Rob Elliot as a backup... Elliot's ever-presence on the bench says that the management hate Steve Harper. If we could accurately discern the club's attitude toward Elliot, the entire mystery could be unraveled.
Fraser wants to move permanently to Celtic. Celtic want Fraser permanently. On the eye test, this looks pretty cut and dried, especially with Celtic holding a right-to-purchase at the end of his loan this season. Perhaps the only thing that could derail a Forster move to Celtic would be the sale of Tim Krul, which I'm assuming does not happen for purposes of this thought cloud.
Ole has gone from young project for the future to 21 year old on loan to Chesterfield. It would seem that he is the most readily replaced part of the discussion, but I doubt Stephen Henderson is interested in a move to sit behind Rob Elliot and Steve Harper.
Jak is 18 and will surely be looking for first-team consideration behind Tim as he considers his professional career.
Freddie is extremely highly rated by the club and is likely to be the goalkeeper of the future. Depending on goalkeeping moves over the next couple of years, that future may be sooner than later, but at this point, it's still a bit early for him to factor on this particular discussion.
What Happens In The Window?
Ultimately nothing, I expect. Long-term, I think European qualification makes a difference. I can't figure that Rob Elliott's time here is long. I wouldn't trust him in the league to rest Tim after a European match, and I certainly wouldn't trust him in Europe. Harps is clearly the better option in this scenario and if he stays on Tyneside there is no need to keep Elliot. Slightly longer term, it seems likely that we move Forster and Soderberg, and hopefully Elliot, which would allow us to potentially bring in Stephen Henderson over the summer as the #3 keeper... it's just a matter of if he would accept that role.
All of this discussion, of course, could be grain of salt- the match at which the scouting department were running the rule over Henderson was v. West Ham, who of course employ defensive target James Tomkins. It certainly could be a looking at one target short term (Tomkins) and viewing potential future purchase (Henderson) as a good bit of scouting budget savings.
My Long Term Guess Regarding GKs:
My feeling is that we don't sell Tim if we qualify for Europe, unless we get a former number 9 shirt type ludicrous offer from the likes of Tottenham (which I find unlikely. Their interest is surely real, but Levy likely won't overpay, I wouldn't think).
Ultimately, Forster, Soderberg and Elliot go, Harps is held hostage, we move for Henderson over the summer and it all looks like this:
- Tim Krul
- Steve Harper
- Stephen Henderson
- Jak Alnwick