When Martin Dubravka broke his ankle in preseason training, we probably all had the same irrepressible sense of doom. The Slovak has been one of very few players to stand out since his sensational debut three years ago. Without him, we were left with only Karl Darlow who despite the occasional flash of brilliance in the Championship, wasn’t fancied by successive managers.

Since an inspired performance in our improbable draw at Tottenham on the opening day, the thirty-year-old former Forest man has become an immovable object in the Newcastle goal. His tally of eighty-one saves is the fourth highest count in the league and in spite of our awful season to date has seen him keep four clean sheets including one against the champions. Renowned goalkeeping analyst and author Justin Bryant even commented that he couldn’t tell Darlow and Dubravka apart. Praise indeed. That comment led Justin and I into discussion about why the two goalkeepers had similar styles. The answer is, prior to the appointment of Graeme Jones, the only real expert on the Newcastle United coaching staff, goalkeeper coach Simon Smith.

I first met Simon as a teenager when, shortly after leaving Sir Bobby Robson’s staff and following stints at Carlisle United and the Canadian national team, he was helping out at the non league club I played for. He was mid way through an argument with a non goalkeeper about hand position when I walked in on him saying “If someone is going to punch you in the face where do you want your hands?” I gestured out in front of me “Exactly, now if I’m going to strike a football at you at 70mph, where should they be?”

“Er, the same?” I answered nervously. Ten short minutes later he illustrated his point more literally and it took me a week to get the Nike tick off my forehead.

That experience, whilst both amusing and terrifying for teenage Woody, serves well to explain the similarities between our top two guardians: excellent footwork, a set position that presents their hands ready for a catch and excellent handling. Justin Bryant remarked that the pair reminded him very much of our best known goalkeeping duo – Shay Given and Steve Harper. The common denominator here – you guessed it, Simon Smith. There’s also Freddie Woodman who is having another excellent season out on loan. The goalkeeping department is and will remain our strongest area so long as he is in charge.

This all sounds fantastic but it’s Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United we’re talking about. We’re embroiled, whether the Bacon Meister is prepared to admit it or not, in a relegation battle. A new coach has come in and tried, against obvious resistance, to change the way we play and given us two wins in three. Karl Darlow has been our player of the season so far – a revelation – but perhaps the time has come to give Martin Dubravka the gloves back.

Am I a psychopath? Have I no loyalty? No and yes, I’d like to think so and I’m a fully paid up member of the Goalkeepers’ Union but I also remember how Dubravka won us games and points and has done so in almost every game he’s played for us. I remember how, after being awful in training for two weeks he produced the game of his career on his debut against Manchester United. It is that energy, that drive and the leadership we’ve all come to notice from him that we need so badly at the moment. I really like Karl Darlow as a goalkeeper. His handling is superb and his distribution is up there with some of the best but I just feel that some of the basic defensive errors that happen regularly could be prevented by goalkeeping decisiveness and clear communication – something Dubravka excels in. I also get a sense that Darlow is waiting for the inevitable. He knows he’s going to be benched sooner or later and as a result he’s chasing the game a little bit. I’ve been in his position and I can tell you that when a goalkeeper goes looking for work he makes mistakes. He was slightly impulsive for Aston Villa’s first goal (Shär’s fault all day but a work on point for Darlow) and in our win over Everton he misjudged a few crosses. Isaac Hayden’s goal line heroics against Southampton were born out of a handling error by Darlow. These aren’t huge mistakes but signs that he’s feeling the pressure. Dubravka’s excellent performance at Arsenal proves he’s fit and ready and for me, the time has come to put him back in.

Follow me into a dream, nay a fantasy. It’s June, we’ve survived the drop. Our rotund leadership are still in place (come on, we’re not in Narnia). We’ve got three goalkeepers all ready for Premier League football. Darlow has been excellent in what must be described as his break through year. Dubravka is still one of the best in the league and Woodman has returned from a successful spell at a Championship club and could make the step up. Who do you sell?

Follow Woody on Twitter @woody7689