In light of our new found philosophy on wage structure and youth development I wanted to write a few articles on what the future may hold for our squad, starting with goalkeepers.
To my knowledge we have eight on our books at the moment from first team to academy level at various stages of their career but that could all change come next season.
At this stage Tim Krul has all but solidified himself as the long term number one between the sticks for Newcastle and deservedly so. I think everyone would agree he has a bright future ahead of him and we should do everything possible to ensure that future is at Newcastle.
Steve Harper has been as loyal as they come and a more than solid keeper to boot. Unfortunately for Steve with Krul being on top form and the fact he is picking up knocks very frequently these days, chances to play are going to be few and far between in the future so who knows what that means.
I would love to see him remain back up keeper for the next season or so and be offered a player coach role to keep him at the club beyond his playing days. The talent of tomorrow could learn a lot from him and he is one of our own which would add to what we already have in our coaching department.
As for Rob Elliot, although he has only recently come into the club I believe him to be no more than a back up and short term solution in case Harper keeps picking up knocks or wants to move on. He was brought in for next to nothing and I would expect he won’t be around too long either.
Fraser Forster is a promising young talent who would be the ideal replacement for Harper and Elliot long term but unfortunately for us I think Forster’s ambitions exceed bench-warming. I would fully expect him to be sold either in January or the summer and best of luck to the lad.
Ole Soderberg has an uncertain future as far as I can tell. Rated as a good prospect and although still only 21 has been at the club for a few years now but from what I can tell Alan Pardew does not see him as someone who can step up to first team level. Time will tell where his future lies.
As for the academy prospects, to be honest I don`t know too much about them other than what I have read of match reports and the odd interview but we have three young keepers on the books all looking to follow in the footsteps of the previous crop and progress up the ranks in the next few years.
Jak Alnwick, Jonathan Mitchell and Alex Baird may be still in development stages and have a long way to go to being part of the first team squad but if the last lot are anything to go off chances are at least one of the three will make the grade and be someone to look out for in the future.
Alnwick may still be only eighteen which is a baby in goalkeeping terms but I would see him as the most promising of the three at this moment in time on the basis that he has been sent out on loan to gain first team experience at Gateshead.
From a couple of interviews in the last month or so I get the impression he could be the one to keep an eye on. Apart from seeming very focused and ambitious a major plus is he is a home town lad, his main goal being to become Newcastle`s number one in the future. Good to hear.
Jonathan Mitchell seems to be next down the list to Alnwick in terms of development. Still only seventeen with a number of appearances, albeit on the bench, for the reserves Mitchell seems to be next in line to get his opportunity to impress out on loan over the coming season or so.
Alex Baird, also seventeen, is a dangly looking Australian lad only at the club since early last year and apart from a few chances as a sub for the reserves has been playing at academy level. Noted for his shot stopping ability it will be a while before we see this lad but yet another one for the future.
So with everyone pretty much covered what does that mean for the future of the first team? Well with Forster more than likely on his way out, Harper coming to the end of a career and Soderberg fighting for a future it could mean a couple of seasons with Elliot being back up to Krul.
In the long term Tim Krul is looking like being the main man and hopefully so but as for who backs him up, if he keeps focused and progressing as he is I can see it being Jack Alnwick.
As for the reserves and competition keeping him on his toes it would be nice to see one of if not both Mitchell and Baird develop in the coming years, hopefully under the tutilage of Harper as a coach.
Whatever the future may hold in this department we can count ourselves extremely lucky to have one of the best goalkeepers in the league between the sticks for the foreseeable future.