Martin Dubravka has had quite the start to life at Newcastle United.
In five appearances so far, he has kept three clean sheets, has a 100 per cent record at St James’ Park, and has already earned the affection of Magpies supporters.
When the 29-year-old joined from Sparta Prague on deadline day in January on an initial six-month loan deal, it was to little fanfare given that he was largely unknown on Tyneside.
Little more than two months later, supporters are already hopeful that Newcastle agree to pay the £4million it will take to turn the Slovakia international’s loan into a permanent move this summer.
His debut will go down in United folklore. He learned of his inclusion in the side to face Manchester United at St James’ Park on February 11 less than two hours before kick off - and he duly delivered a man-of-the-match performance with a string of excellent saves.
“I didn’t want to go off the pitch,” Dubravka recalled during an extensive interview with the official Newcastle United matchday programme.
“You could see we were very happy. You can hear the crowd. I didn’t want to go to the dressing room, but I wanted to celebrate with my team-mates.
“I wanted to stay a little bit longer and enjoy these feelings. That’s why you play football. It’s about the passion.”
Dubravka’s ability to play with his feet was obvious from the very first minute, as were the goalkeeper’s communication skills.
Immediately Dubravka brought a new dimension to the United side which Benitez felt they had been missing all season.
“They shout at me sometimes as well – that’s important, we need to do that,” Dubravka said of his own vocal nature, after Magpies captain Jamaal Lascelles revealed the goalkeeper was “bossing players around” within minutes of his first training session on Tyneside beginning.
“Sometimes you have to show them, so if they turn they can see you and they realise, and it helps.
“You need to find a way to show yourself, to the fans, the club. But I didn’t think of my debut in this way. I thought: ‘Just go on the pitch and play football.’ What I love.
“I’m happy that the debut against Manchester United was probably one of the best games I’ve played in. It will stay in my mind forever.”