Given what our Number One has done for Newcastle United over the past couple of years, pronouncing Martin Dúbravka’s name correctly is probably the least we could do.
Signed to shrugs of shoulders and frantic googling in January 2018, Martin Duh-BRAW-ka has been nothing short of a revelation since Rafa Benitez ushered him through the door at Benton and into successive relegation scraps.
We all know what came next: that debut against Manchester United and a string of performances that had Mags purring and labelling him (stop reading, Tim Krul) as ‘the club’s finest goalkeeper since Shay Given’.
The 2018/19 campaign – which ‘Big Martin’ played every minute of – saw our man in nets keep an impressive 11 clean sheets. Newcastle had the seventh best defence in the league by shut-outs last season, more than high fliers Wolves (9), Arsenal (8) and Manchester United (7) by some distance. His highlight reel to date views like a hazy comic book tale of yore: all floating athleticism and rebound reflexes.
True, Dúbravka is a fine shot-stopper, but he brings a vocal presence that those he replaced – Karl Darlow and the lesser spotted Rob Elliot – lack. He marshals a defence impeccably, and as such was one of the key reasons for Benitez’s 10th and 13th placed finishes. He’s loud when he needs to be, but can also be serene and calming – a vital quality at a basket case club like ours.
And so, the vultures began to circle in the summer with European giants such as PSG and Juventus, buoyed by oil money and Champions League ambition, linked repeatedly.
So news this week that our Slovak sensation has penned a new six-year deal is a welcome bit of good news, in an otherwise grim season.
A cynic will likely argue this is simply to ramp up his fee should United slip through the Premier League trapdoor. Possibly, but tying Dúbravka down long-term – hopefully the first of many such contract extensions over the coming weeks and months – is a positive move and the club deserve credit.
A focused Martin Dúbravka is a huge asset. Now all we need is to learn to say his name right…