By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At the age of 26, and after proving himself with the likes of Charlton Athletic, Bishop's Stortford, Accrington Stanley and Notts County, Rob Elliot will finally make his Barclays Premier League debut on Sunday - and Alan Pardew believes it is fully deserved.
The Greenwich-born goalkeeper joined Newcastle in the summer of 2011 and has had to wait patiently for a shot at the big time, but Tim Krul's ankle injury will see him start against Southampton this weekend.
All six of Elliot's appearances for the Magpies have been in cup competitions but he has been impressive when called upon this season, particularly in the Europa League.
And Pardew has backed him to rise to the challenge of replacing Krul, who was hurt following a late tackle from Metalist Kharkiv's Jonathan Cristaldo on Thursday night.
"It's an issue that's not quite clear yet," Pardew explained when asked how long Krul was likely to be sidelined for. "On Monday we'll probably know a little bit more.
"The scan's showing that he's got a strain in there and we need to protect him, so he definitely won't play this weekend. How long he's out for, I don't know really.
"One door closes and one opens and for Robbie, it's a much-deserved door because he's really done terrific on the training ground here and played some Europa League games earlier in the season and cemented his place in the hearts of our fans.
"They know he's good enough and now there's an opportunity for him."
Southampton are currently one place above Newcastle on goal difference, with the sides level on 27 points each, and Pardew confirmed that Hatem Ben Arfa would play no part but hinted that Yoan Gouffran could be involved after recovering from injury.
The Saints surprisingly parted company with Nigel Adkins last month but have been in good form under his replacement, Mauricio Pochettino. and recorded a superb 3-1 victory over Manchester City in their last fixture.
"They've got a slightly different outlook about the way they play," admitted Pardew, who was manager at St. Mary's between 2009 and 2010. "I think the energy has improved, for sure, and they've got good players. Any team with good players is going to give you problems.
"It's a big game because we're at home and it gives us 30 points if we win. With 11 games to go that would be a decent target from where we were so we hope we get that."
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