JAK Alnwick is facing a “game-changing” few weeks at Newcastle United.
The 21-year-old goalkeeper is set for a run in Alan Pardew’s side with Tim Krul and Rob Elliot injured.
Alnwick – who came off the bench in last weekend’s 2-1 win over Chelsea after Elliot suffered a thigh tear – will make his full debut in this evening’s game against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
The Hexham-born player’s future had looked to lie away from St James’s Park a few weeks ago.
But Alnwick – who is out of contract at the end of the campaign – can earn a new deal at Newcastle over the coming weeks, according to manager Alan Pardew.
“I think Jak knows this is a real game-changer for him,” said Pardew.
“It can be seven games, roughly, he might have in that goal, and it’s a great opportunity for him.
“Who knows? After five or six we might be kicking ourselves that we didn’t give him one (a contract). It might have been cheaper!
“The ball is very much in Jak’s court, and that’s where it will stay until such time as the two goalies come back and we make a decision.”
Pardew feels Alnwick is confident – but not cocky – and he’s hopeful he can handle the responsibility.
“He’s been very good in training,” said Pardew.
“Everyone who interviewed him after the game will say he’s a humble guy. He’s got no delusions of grandeur, but he also believes he’s ready.
“Although he’s very young to be goalkeeper of Newcastle, he’s confident he can do the job and lets hope he can.”
United are unable to bring in a goalkeeper on an emergency loan because Karl Darlow is fit and available – even though the 24-year-old is on a season-long loan at Nottingham Forest.
Alnwick will be backed up by 17-year-old Freddie Woodman, son of goalkeeping coach Andy.
“We have two fit professionals, and until you’re down to one you can’t call that emergency loan on,” said Pardew.
“Freddie Woodman is one, even though he’s 17.
“Karl Darlow can’t be called back, so that rule is wrong. If every other club can have an emergency loan, and we can’t purely because we’ve got a player whose out on loan for a year doesn’t make sense.
“I think that is going to be looked at.”
Elliot is due back in the New Year, while Krul (ankle) should be fit by mid-January.