There is no doubt Martin Dubravka will be Newcastle’s number one goalkeeper going into next season, but his deputy is not so certain.
Dubravka has been a revelation between the posts since arriving in January 2018, and has firmly become a fan-favourite.
But who should be understudy to the Slovakian international?
Karl Darlow – contract expires June, 2020
Karl Darlow made just one EFL Cup appearance for Newcastle this season – a 3-1 defeat at former club Nottingham Forest.
How long he will be happy to warm the bench for Dubravka, remains to be seen. He is entering the final year of his contract, and it will be interesting to see if a new deal is forthcoming.
MORE NEWCASTLE STORIES
His problem is, no matter how settled he feels, he could end up in a Steve Harper scenario.
Harper played second-fiddle to Shay Given for years, which led people to question his ambition. Darlow will not want to be known for the same thing.
At 28, he is reaching the peak years for a keeper. As a result, it could be make-or-break time for him.
Would a guarantee to be Dubravka’s back-up be enough to keep him? The answer is debatable, but the offer should be made to him anyway.
Verdict: Retain, and offer an extension.
Freddie Woodman – contract expires June 2020
Freddie Woodman has been a frustrated figure at St James’ Park over the past season.
Despite being on the bench for much of the winter due to a Darlow injury, he was disappointed not to have gone on loan.
The politics behind the decision were thought to be due to him not signing an extended deal, but it left him in no-man’s-land.
The result has been rumoured interest from Arsenal, where his dad is on the goalkeeping coaching staff. But swapping a part-time role at Newcastle for the same in London seems very much a sideways move for him.
The player needs minutes on the pitch, and he will get that on a season-long loan at a Championship or League One club.
Newcastle should see him as their keeper for the future, and offer him a deal that tells him that. It will not take a fortune to keep him, so that, with the prospect of a year as someone’s number one, should be enough to make him happy.
Verdict: Retain, offer him improved terms, and send him on loan for next season.
Rob Elliot – contract expires June 2020
It is hard not to feel sorry for Newcastle’s forgotten man Rob Elliot.
Beset by injuries, it is hard to point to a time when he ever let Newcastle down. Yet every time he made the position his own, a new set-back would cost him his spot.
Again, like both Darlow and Woodman, he is entering the last 12 months of his contract. But at 33, he needs to be playing football, which is unlikely to happen at St James’ Park.
A consistent performer when fit, he would be a great acquisition for any Championship club.
It would suit everyone concerned to let him leave for a nominal fee, and enjoy the final years of his career.
Verdict: Release on a free in appreciation of his years of service at the club.