Rob Elliot has “exceeded expectations” this season filling in for the injured Tim Krul.
And Steve McClaren has revealed Newcastle United will look “very closely” at the goalkeeping situation in the summer after hailing Elliot’s impact on and off the pitch.
The 29-year-old has impressed since taking over from the club’s No 1 stopper following the Dutchman’s season-ending injury.
That is despite a thigh injury, which has seen Elliot play through the pain barrier for the team’s cause, helping Newcastle pick up seven points in three unbeaten games.
He was third choice at the start of the season behind Krul and summer signing Karl Darlow and almost went out on loan.
But now he is the first name on the team sheet.
Asked whether Elliot has shown he could have a long-term future at the club, McClaren said: “I think the goalkeeping situation is definitely one we’re looking very closely at.
“We don’t have to decide now, but coming up, and certainly by the summer, it will be a crucial one.”
On Elliot’s impressive form, McClaren added: “Exceeded expectations, yes.
“He’d been injured for a few months at the start of the season so we’d not really seen him but he’s been excellent and gained us points, he’s vocal and good in the dressing room as well.
“We don’t like to mention it much, but we’ve got four or five long-term injuries, which we could have done without.
“I think there’s eight on the treatment table at the moment and could be nine with Papiss [Cisse] so we’ve had our problems with injury.
“People have to step in and be ready, goalkeepers, outfield players, and Robbie has been ready.”
Krul suffered a cruciate knee injury on international duty with Holland.
But the form of Elliot has lessened the blow and McClaren has praised the Republic of Ireland international’s impact on the pitch and training ground.
The head coach, speaking ahead of today’s game with Everton at St James’s Park, added: “The experienced players are vital, and that’s whether they’re playing or not.
“The likes of Mike Williamson and Rob Elliot, we like them around because their standards on the training field are very good.
“That’s what you need, and they set the tone and the standard for others to follow.
“When Willo was away and Rob was injured, we didn’t really have that.
“We’ve got more of that now to support the likes of Jack, Moussa and Colo, who are probably the seniors or the leaders.”
McClaren says the more experienced players have a real sense of what the club is about and what is needed to survive at the top level.
“Absolutely. They know it,” said McClaren.
“And it’s not just the club, but the Premier League.
“It’s a tough league. It’s not a complicated league – you need certain ingredients.
“Robustness is one of them, experience, character, being a winner.
“They have that, and you hope that will spread to the young players coming through.”
Elliot agreed a four-year deal when he joined from Charlton Athletic in the summer of 2011.
It was recently revealed he has signed a new long-term contract with the club.