In our third edition of ‘Player Insights’ we take a closer look at our man between the sticks, Martin Dubravka.
Dubravka was born in Slovakia in 1989, into a family which had a history of containing goalkeepers, with both Martin’s father and grandfather occupying this position on a football pitch.
He was a very loud and energetic child taking interest in both Football, and Ice Hockey from a young age. Although there was a pressure from his family, especially his Grandmother for Dubravka to take up football, the Slovakian himself insisted he had more of an intention to take up Ice Hockey.
This was until a freak accident at a family BBQ, in which Dubravka was chopping wood with a machete. He slipped and placed the machete into his leg.
According to doctors, he was lucky the blade was not centimetres higher as he would not have been able to permanently recover from the injury. This freak accident placed Dubravka on the path to football.
This path began in the Slovakian league. Dubravka joined local team Zillna, in which he spent five years. He made his debut in a 5-2 win in 2009, however was not the clubs first choice keeper until Dusan Persic sustained a long-term injury in the following season.
Dubravka was then thrusted into the starting line-up and went on to make 26 appearances across the campaign, winning the championship in his first full campaign.
In 2014 Dubravka was promoted from the Slovakia youth team, to the Senior team whilst also moving to fellow Slovakian team Esbjerg. Dubravka spent an additional two years at this club as the clubs first choice keeper before moving again, to Slovan Liberic. Dubravka spent one year at this club before Slovakia’s biggest club Sparta Prague came knocking.
Whilst representing Sparta Prague at club level Dubravka was quietly impressing for his national side, putting excellent performances in against both England, and Scotland in the World Cup Qualifying matches.
While Rafa Benitez was the manager of Newcastle United, he possessed an excellent scouting setup which allowed the Spaniard to perform extensive analysis into players which other clubs may have missed. Fortunately for the Magpies, no other club had serious interest in the Slovakian, allowing us to swoop in for the relatively unknown Martin Dubravka.
Life at Newcastle
The Slovakian’s debut at St James Park in January 2018 was an exceptional one, single-handedly keeping Manchester United at bay numerous times in part of a memorable 1-0 win.
Following Dubravka’s transfer to the Toon Army, we went on an impressive run, transforming our league position from one in fear of relegation, to a comfortable top half finish. There was no doubt that the upturn in results owed a lot to the recruitment of the 6’3 shot stopper.
The goalkeeper was initially signed on a short-term loan deal by Rafa Benitez, which made sense following the previous acquisition of Mat Sels, which did not work out as planned. In contrast to the Belgian, Dubravka was exactly the player that Newcastle required, and it did not take long for the Magpies to make the deal permanent in May, just four months after the initial signing.
At the end of the 2018 Dubravka was named Newcastle’s Player of the Year, following in the light of Shay Given, who also picked up the award when playing between the sticks in the North East.
In the current season Dubravka’s performances have reached another level, with his presence providing reassurance to all those in attendance at St James’. Dubravka has currently made the highest number of saves in the Premier League, owing to both his impressive performance, and his ever-present status in our starting eleven.
What the future may hold
For the sake of all Newcastle fans, I hope Dubravka can recover his form when returning from his current injury. The Slovakian is expected to be sidelined for at least four weeks, with an injury picked up against Southampton. This was initially going to mean that Dubravka would miss important games, including guaranteeing Premier League status in the league, whilst welcoming the Champions, Manchester City to St James Park in the FA Cup quarter final.
With the current suspension of English football, the impact of Dubravka’s exclusion remains unknown. The Slovakian would likely have been a monumental miss, however there is a chance he may not miss a single game, depending when we see football make a return.
In regards to Dubravka’s loyalty to the Magpies, he does appear very settled at the club. His current contract, penned only 6 months ago in November 2019 does not expire until 2025. While it comes as no surprise that he has been linked to huge European clubs such as PSG and Juventus, the small mistakes he makes, although in rare occasions may prevent these clubs from poaching the Slovakian in the very near future.
I personally hope Dubravka remains part of our club for the long-term, as it can be argued he is the most important player in our squad.
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