From Rags To Riches
Written by Newcastle Utd
Rob Elliot, who has worked his way up from non-league football, will face superstar Samuel Eto'o on Thursday night - and he cannot wait
By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Managing Editor
As the 2004/05 season kicked off, Charlton's teenage goalkeeper Rob Elliot found himself out on loan at non-league outfit Bishop's Stortford in a bid to gain some first team experience.
That same summer, Samuel Eto'o signed for Barcelona, a move which was to prove the springboard for the Cameroon international to become one of the greatest strikers of the modern era.
Fast forward nearly nine years and the pair will face each other on Thursday night as Newcastle take on Anzhi Makhachkala in a Round of 16 first leg tie.
And their respective paths to the Luzhniki Stadium, in Moscow, could not have been more different.
Elliot also had temporary spells at Accrington Stanley and Notts County before establishing himself as the Addicks' first choice stopper and securing a switch to Tyneside in August 2011.
In contrast, Eto'o won almost everything on offer at Barca, repeating the feat at Inter Milan before switching to big-spending Anzhi.
And while he still may be coming to terms with turning out on the European stage, Newcastle's keeper is relishing pitting his wits against one of the best in the business.
"That is the highlights of playing at this level," the stopper told nufc.co.uk.
"Facing the highest paid player in the world, one of the greatest strikers who has won the Champions League with two different teams. To test yourself against someone like that is what you want to do.
"It's about keeping solid, doing what you need to do and hopefully I won't be seeing too much of him because he won't be getting many chances.
"You get into football for moments like this but it will be a bit surreal. When I look back and think about where I've come from, to getting the opportunity to do this, it's strange but great."
Anzhi have been in impressive form so far this season in the Europa League.
Yet to lose at home - and only conceding once in the process - makes the Magpies' task an unenviable one, but Elliot sees no reason why they cannot get a positive result in Moscow.
"It's going to be tough," he admitted.
"They are a top team with a lot of money and have bought some brilliant players.
"It's probably fair to say that we will be the underdogs in this leg, but I think that's good for us because we can just get on with our game.
"We are a hard-working team, we have shown some good form away from home in the Europa League and that will stand us in good stead.
"To know that we've got to take them back to St. James' Park next week will give us the inspiration to try and get a result out here."