Newcastle keeper Elliott ready for season after mental battle

Oli Fisher

Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot is reaping the rewards of his mental strength as he attempts to re-establish himself as a Premier League player.

The 31-year-old spent almost 13 months on the sidelines after damaging knee ligaments while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland in March 2016, returning for the final three games of last season to play a cameo role in the Magpies’ successful promotion drive.

However, he has retained his place in the top flight and is relishing the opportunity simply to play regularly once again after an intensely difficult and lengthy spell out of action.

Elliot said: “Recovering from injury itself is sort of a mental battle – it’s the first battle you have to face when coming back from a long injury, just having the strength to do the little things.

“When you get back fit and are just training every day, you realise what a blessing it is when you can’t do it, so when you’re in the gym, you just try to work a bit harder and hopefully, you reap the rewards when you come back because you are that bit mentally tougher.

“You try to take the positives out of it, make the best out of a bad situation and that’s all you can do.”

Elliot’s efforts to reacquaint himself with the Premier League have needed a certain mental strength too with Newcastle having succumbed to successive defeats by Tottenham and Huddersfield in their first two games amid manager Rafael Benitez’s disquiet over the club’s summer rebuilding programme.

A 3-0 victory over West Ham last time out went some of the way towards steadying the ship on the pitch at least, although Benitez’s hopes of further arrivals during the final few days of the transfer window proved ill-founded.

The Spaniard has suffered discomfort of a different kind this week after undergoing surgery to address an infection and it is not yet clear whether he will be in the dug-out for Sunday’s trip to Swansea.

However, Elliot is confident the ball is now rolling for the Magpies.

He said: “After the Huddersfield game, you hold your hands up. It wasn’t good. But I thought we gave a proper performance against West Ham.

“It was a good response because we were getting a lot of stick, and I think it’s been unfair. It’s a good team, a great group that’s got us promoted.

“If we can keep performing like that, we’ll be fine. Hopefully we can replicate it and push on this season. That bit of pressure before getting the first win is gone and we can kick on.”