Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow relishes his role as a villain

‘I just love upsetting rival fans!’: Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow relishes his role as a villain and wants to be the guy who ‘ruins everybody’s day’… and reveals his dream of an England call-up

  • Newcastle’s Karl Darlow wants to be the guy ‘who ruins everybody’s day’
  • Darlow says there’s no better feeling than opposition supporters hating him 
  • The shot-stopper has ambitions of getting a call-up to the England squad 
  • Darlow says it’s special his grandfather – Ken Leek – also played for Newcastle 

One of Karl Darlow’s most treasured football memories is being taken to watch Leicester City by his grandfather.

The late Ken Leek was a centre forward of repute for Leicester and part of the celebrated Wales squad that reached the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup, only to lose to the mighty Brazil.

‘We used to go and see Leicester and the receptions he got were amazing,’ recalls Newcastle goalkeeper Darlow. ‘The other former players would say to me, “If you are half as good as your grandad, you will be OK”.’

Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow says that he relishes ruining the day for opposition fans

What is poignant for Darlow is that his grandad briefly played for Newcastle in the early 1960s and scored a hat-trick on his debut. Darlow, 30, has had a longer, more difficult journey to Steve Bruce’s first team but is finally making his own mark.

‘It’s special that he played here,’ he nods. ‘It makes me very proud and it’s nice that I am following suit.’

Darlow has turned down two approaches to play for Wales. His ambitions are to represent the country of his birth, England. On current form, it does not seem an unrealistic thought.

Darlow, who has turned down two approaches from Wales, is eager to be called up by England

‘It’s the one thing that as a child you want to do,’ Darlow tells Sportsmail.

‘There would be no bigger achievement and I just want to leave the window open for it to happen. I know I have ability and, if I can get a good run of games and get on some good form, then there is potential for that to happen. I would love nothing more.’

Darlow’s own star has risen slowly since joining Newcastle from Nottingham Forest in 2015. Having played 34 games of the 2016-17 Championship promotion season, he battled for the No 1 spot with Rob Elliot before Martin Dubravka arrived from Sparta Prague to take the shirt.

As such he did not play a single Premier League game over the course of the last two seasons.

The 30-year-old has made some excellent saves as he has enjoyed a run in the Newcastle side

He admits he may well have left had the right offer come along but injury to Dubravka in pre-season has given Darlow an opportunity. He has taken that chance.

Performances in the draw at Tottenham and the home defeat by Manchester United have caught the eye in particular.

So far this season, he has made 34 saves in seven Premier League games and his save percentage of 74.4 is the second best in Europe.  

‘It’s nice to feel the responsibility,’ he says. ‘I have been desperate to play. Being patient is part of being a goalkeeper but I had to learn that. I was No 1 at Forest so I had to adjust here — it’s not nice.’

Darlow once said he likes to be the guy who ‘ruins everybody’s day’. ‘Yeah, I want to be the villain,’ he laughs. ‘That’s the job of the goalkeeper. You have to pride yourself on that, especially when the fans are in.

‘You don’t get any better satisfaction than coming off the pitch knowing you have upset thousands of opposition fans. That’s what that quote was about.’

Released by Aston Villa as a teenager, it was former Manchester United coach Eric Steele who recommended him to Forest.

It was during his four years at the City Ground that he formed a friendship with England fast bowler — and Forest fan — Stuart Broad.

It is a friendship that has endured to this day, even if the conversation is not always the most cerebral.

Asked if the two have shared insights into the pressures of elite sport, Darlow laughs: ‘No, we have never got that deep — our chats are mainly about gaming! Football Manager or Call of Duty.

Darlow felt that he could have dealt better with an effort from Wolves’ Raul Jimenez recently

‘It’s not that sort of intellectual conversation that you may have hoped for! It’s mainly Call of Duty at the moment.

‘We are on the same team and have worked quite well together. He likes to be the plotter and captain. He sets things up and I carry them out. I go in head first and straight at it!’

Living in the Northumberland countryside with girlfriend Lucy, Darlow has no interest in a glamorous life. The last international break was spent walking in the Lake District.

An uber-analyst of his own game, he has had time to reflect on a goal recently conceded to Raul Jimenez of Wolves that he may well have saved.

‘I wouldn’t call it a mistake but I maybe could have done better with it,’ he says. ‘I don’t need the media to come out and criticise me. I know anyway. I will have watched back every goal-kick, cross and shot.

‘I do over-analyse but a lot of goalkeepers are like that. We want to be perfectionists.’

Darlow saved a penalty from Bruno Fernandes during Newcastle’s defeat to Manchester United

Like others in his trade, Darlow gets frustrated that the mainstream television stations don’t have goalkeepers on their panels of analysts. Being criticised by right backs and central defenders can irk.

He explains: ‘There are things that happen in the run-up to a goal that could be explained to people in more detail than someone saying, “He should have saved it”. It could be analysed a bit better than it is at the moment.’

A student of other goalkeepers, Darlow believes Manchester City’s Ederson has set new standards with the use of his feet. Once a centre half, Darlow is nevertheless not keen to imitate. ‘I was more of a head it and kick it player,’ he laughs. 

‘But I watch the others on the TV and see what bits and pieces I can pick up. Goalkeeping has come on massively in the last 10 or 15 years so you have to keep learning if you don’t want to be left behind.

‘The way Ederson came in with his feet and almost changed the game with his passing, and the way he comes for crosses and punches — that was something I felt I could add to my game.

‘Shot-stopping wise, you look at (Tottenham’s) Hugo Lloris. These guys are the best in the world. Ederson’s kicking technique and his driven balls — rather than just a big hoof — are brilliant. The way he does it is unbelievable.’ 

Manchester City’s Ederson and Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris are both  inspirations for Darlow

Darlow is determined to remain Newcastle’s first-choice even when Martin Dubravka is back

Darlow’s own priority is ensuring he remains Newcastle’s first choice when Dubravka eventually returns. He has signed a new contract and sees his future at Newcastle. Even so, his view of the long term is clear.

‘This is an opportunity for me to show what I can do and, after that, it’s a decision that will be taken out of my hands,’ he says.

‘As long as I know I have done as much as I can do then that’s OK. But I couldn’t resign myself to being No 2 again.

‘The ambition is inside me and I have the confidence in my ability to be a No 1 somewhere and, if the situation comes around where I am going to be a No 2 for a long period, then I would do my best to come back as a No 1.’

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