Martin Dubravka has revealed the dressing room mentality that has clawed Newcastle United through a long hard winter and on to the brink of safety in the Premier League.
Many observers and pundits wrote the Magpies off in December after failing to beat Norwich City on a night which left them rock bottom of the table and six points adrift of safety after 14 matches. Just 17 games later, Eddie Howe’s side are 10 points above the relegation zone and could be effectively sure of top-flight football if they beat Leicester City at the weekend.
That in itself is a remarkable feat given many had pinpointed the last game of the season at Turf Moor against Burnley as a potential winner takes all. As things stand that could be a dead rubber affair.
When asked if it was ever deemed a Great Escape after failing to win any of the first 14 games, Dubravka told Chronicle Live: “We’ve only ever looked at it one way. Where we were and where we are now? We’re enjoying our time.
“If we play like we know we can, like Wolves, by the time Burnley on the last day comes we will be safe. We just want to give something back to the fans. They have served up an incredible atmosphere.
“They enjoy St James’ Park from the first minute. By the time Burnley is here on the last day, everything is done and we can enjoy it.”
Newcastle could actually find themselves in with an outside shout of a top 10 finish if they play their cards right in the last seven matches. But again Dubravka, as one of the dressing room’s elder statesmen, knows the best approach.
Ahead of the clash with Leicester, Dubravka said: “We just want to win our next game. “It’s always our mentality: ‘Prepare well for the next game’. Not looking too far ahead. It’s in our hands now.
“And we’ve shown the quality we have, OK, we could probably be controlling the game a bit more, and create more chances but that’s sometimes what the Premier League can be like. You have to defend more and adapt when games get tight. We did that against Wolves and we’re happy.”
That victory over Wolves piled pressure on the bottom three. And both Burnley, who lost at bottom club Norwich, and Watford, beaten at home to Leeds, choked on it. Dubravka, who knew a performance to fans was owed after the 5-1 loss to Tottenham, said: “It’s great because we were at it from minute one. “We tried to control the game. It was a great reaction from us. We knew that the game against Spurs our best so we felt that we had to react.
“We controlled the game and we were much more dangerous than them. I think it was a solid performance from us.”
Leicester will arrive on Tyneside for Easter Sunday for a sold out fixture with Dubravka well aware that Newcastle’s relegation worries are starting to evaporate into the spring air in Newcastle.
Dubravka said: “The preparations are always geared towards the next opponent. We want to play our football for the fans, that’s what we look at. We’re now in a position where we don’t have to think solely about the relegation battle.
“Yes, we are still there but we are also enjoying the moment again. After three defeats it was a difficult moment for us but the reaction was good.”