Martin Dubravka has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season, but his biggest challenge has come from recent shooting practice in his garden with girlfriend Lucia.
The Newcastle No 1 tore his medial knee ligaments the week before the country was plunged into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the injured keeper has been forced to be creative with his rehab from home.
But through a combination of help from his partner and a home rehab session prepared with Newcastle’s medical staff, Dubravka is now close to being back and ready for action – whenever that might be.
The Slovakian told Sky Sports News: “Lucia and I are both trying to do something different to make it interesting for us both. We train together every day and I think we have both turned into personal trainers for each other.
“It’s mostly fitness stuff and staying in shape, but a few days ago we tried to do some ball work to have some fun. It was very different from normal training with my team-mates, but I’m just glad we have a garden to try and do things like that.
“The important thing is to not just lie down on the sofa and do nothing. I was doing that a few weeks ago just after I got injured and it’s not fun!”
The 31-year-old injured his knee in the 1-0 win at Southampton last month, but bravely battled on to help Newcastle to a victory that all-but ensured their Premier League safety.
Back-up ‘keeper Karl Darlow was set for a run in goal as Dubravka recovered, only for the season to be postponed.
“It wasn’t a serious injury so I only needed a few weeks to recover. It might take a little longer as I have been doing my rehab away from the club and by myself.
“Some of my team-mates make the joke that the lockdown is all because of me, because I didn’t want to miss any games and I want to be back out on the pitch.
“At the same time though we know how difficult it is for all the people around the world and the pandemic is the most important thing of all. We want people to be safe. But for me personally what’s happened has given me more time to recover.
“I spend a lot of time on social media with the medical guys. They made a program for me and sent me links to the things that I should be doing for the first couple of weeks.
“But now I can make my own gym program. Thankfully I’m on the same one as my teammates now so I can join in with them remotely. I’m nearly there.
“I need to get out and do some running but it’s difficult. I’m trying to hide myself at home but I can’t really run around the house.”I got a bike but I couldn’t move it in myself so Lucia had to carry that in and set it all up for me as well.
The Newcastle dressing room is a tight-knit group, and Dubravka, who signed a new six-year contract earlier this season, said their group chat has kept him going at times.
“Social media is crucial,” he added. “We have a big group chat and we are always checking on each other and giving each other tips and advice.
“We are creating some competitions between us as well. Sharing videos and stuff, and you can’t imagine how many nominations I have had from the lads to do challenges.
“I couldn’t do any of them as I was lying on my back with my knee up but they kept asking me to do push-ups, pull-ups, kicking the toilet roll up in the air – but I couldn’t get myself off the sofa.
“It was very frustrating but funny at the same time! It’s so important to stay strong and have a laugh in these difficult times.”
Dubravka’s top-three saves of the season
Martin Dubravka has made 177 saves in the Premier League this season – that’s more than any other goalkeeper. Arsenal’s Berndt Leno is 13 behind the Slovak on 104 in second place.
So we asked the Newcastle keeper to name his top-three saves this season:
3. Wolves away in January, from Raul Jimenez. “This one was a reaction with my leg. A cross from Traore on the right and I had to react from 2-3 yards, I think it was Jimenez or Neves, I can’t really remember as it happened so quick. I think that laid a platform for the team to go on and make a point. I love the saves that help us achieve something.”
2. Scott Dann header in the 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in February. “It was a corner from the left side, and header but don’t know who from. I managed to get it over the crossbar. It happened very fast.”
1. A save from Gary Cahill in the same match. “It was a great header from Cahill I have to say, it stuck in the air and I had to really reach far. One of the best I’ve ever had in my career, probably my best save in my time at Newcastle.
“Sometimes you are so focused you don’t know how you made the save. Sometimes my teammates ask me after a game how I made a certain save and I can never answer them because you are so focused in the moment you cant remember.
SOURCE: SKY SPORTS