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Saturday 16 December 2017

Fit-again Magpie Rob has reasons to smile

Rob Elliot. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Rob Elliot. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Having travelled to the Euro 2016 finals in France as a fan as he was sidelined by injury, Ireland keeper Rob Elliot is more determined than ever to make it to Russia in 2018, this time as a member of the playing squad.

But the 31-year-old, enjoying a run in the Premier League in the Newcastle United side, says he's taking it all in his stride, his career now backboned by a sense of perspective he gained from the serious injury which he sustained on Ireland duty, and woes at club level, which have made him a level-headed individual.

His status as first-choice with the Magpies this season is most welcome for the player who was denied a trip - as a player - to Euro 2016 due to injury, another blow for a keeper who was, at one stage, on his way out of the club.

"The two things," Elliot says when asked to sum up the issues which tested him, the reasons why he no longer worries.

"When I was told I wasn't needed at Newcastle which was fine, I could understand, I hadn't played for a long time,

"And the injury. The two things that have happened, I think what's the point? The two worst things that could happen to me - being told I'm not wanted and having a career threatening injury have happened and I've got through it, what's the worst that could happen now?

"I'm really lucky, I've got a lovely family and friends, I have a fantastic job and I play for a brilliant club. And I'm getting an opportunity to come away with my country. I'm going to have a bad game every now and again like every footballer does, but I think you learn to let it go quicker after the Huddersfield game," he says, referring to Newcastle's unexpected defeat to Huddersfield two weeks ago, the Magpies (and their keeper) bouncing back with last Saturday's 3-0 dismissal of West Ham.

"You let it go, you work on things, then Saturday comes around and you put it right and really savour it. It's really special at St James' Park when things are going well, it is the things that you always want to remember."

He still remembers his Euro 2016 experience. Out with a knee injury he picked up in a pre-tournament friendly with Ireland, he went to France with family and friends, stayed in an Air BnB, had a few beers, had his face painted and supported the team.

"The carrot of the Euros was massive to me at the time unfortunately that (injury) happened. There is an opportunity for the team to qualify for the World Cup. I've only just got back into the squad so there is no guarantees or anything," says Elliot.

"The opportunity is to challenge and show the manager in training, but first we look to the Georgia game and hopefully there is a positive result out there."

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