EDDIE HOWE has backed Martin Dubravka to step into the breach caused by Nick Pope’s four-month injury absence, and dismissed suggestions that Newcastle United have been considering a move for free agent David de Gea.

Pope dislocated his shoulder during last weekend’s home win over Manchester United, and requires an operation that will keep him out of action until around early April.

The England international’s absence is the latest injury blow suffered by the Magpies, and is a major setback given the quality of his performances in the season-and-a-half since he moved to Tyneside from Burnley.

A number of reports this week claimed Newcastle were interested in a move for de Gea, who remains a free agent following his summer departure from Manchester United, but Howe insists there has been no suggestion of any contact with the 33-year-old Spaniard.

Instead, Dubravka will start at Everton tomorrow evening after coming off the bench to replace Pope at the weekend, with Howe confident the Slovakia international is capable of stepping in for the whole of his fellow shot-stopper’s injury absence.

“We’ve not made any enquiries or any decisions about our recruitment leading into January,” said Howe, who does not expect to have any of his injured players returning for tomorrow’s game at Goodison Park. “This is a chance for the goalkeepers we have at the football club to consolidate their positions.

“We really believe in Martin and I’ve always had that high opinion of him. Yes, we brought in Nick – we wanted to build competition for places, we wanted to build a squad that we felt could really carry us to great success – but Martin is a high-class goalkeeper.

“He’s a brilliant shot-stopper himself, he’s very good with his feet and his distribution, so no hesitation about bringing Martin into the team and I hope he does really well.”


Pope has had a series of scans since damaging his shoulder on Saturday night, with the tests confirming the need for surgery.

“He’s (Pope) had a couple of appointments, visiting specialists,” said Howe. “I’m awaiting final news on what’s going to happen, but we anticipate he will be operated on. There’s no doubt he needs an operation, so he will be out for a period of time.

“The operation hasn’t happened yet, but we’re thinking roughly around four months. It’s a big blow to us, but one that we expected after the game. As soon as you see the dislocation, we were fearing the worst really.”

Pope suffered a similar injury while playing with Burnley, and was sidelined for around five months, but the firm hope at the minute is that the 31-year-old will be able to return before the end of the season.

Not only will Pope miss a host of important matches for Newcastle, his absence will also hamper his chances of forcing his way back into the England squad for next summer’s European Championships in Germany.

Having been excluded from Gareth Southgate’s last two squad selections, Pope would have hoped to use the remainder of the campaign to press his claim for a place on the plane to Germany ahead of either Aaron Ramsdale or Sam Johnstone. Instead, he will be desperately hoping to make it back for the final month or so to influence Southgate’s thinking.

“I think he’s (Pope) been in the best form that he’s been in since he came to the football club,” added Howe. “How is he? He’s naturally down because it’s at a stage of the season where we have so many games.

“We’ve got huge games coming up, and he’s obviously got the Euros ahead of him as well, which he was determined to try to be involved in. There’s a chance of that for him, but I think his main determination is to come back for us and you never know what situation we’ll be in at that stage of the season.

“We were thinking of him in that situation because it was another strange injury for us. There was no reason for that to happen in that moment, but with Fabian (Schar) blocking the shot in front of him, I think his dive was slightly different than it would usually have been. Unfortunately, we suffer another injury to a big player.”