Newcastle: Watford eye £6m Darlow deal

Reports by The Mirror (18/4, p. 62) over the weekend claimed that Watford are showing a keen interest in a summer swoop for Newcastle" 24965 target="_blank">Newcastle United goalkeeper Karl Darlow, which should be considered the perfect opportunity for Steve Bruce to cash-in.

The Hornets have eyes on Darlow as they strive to secure a long-term replacement for Ben Foster, ahead of a potential return to the Premier League, with Xisco’s side sitting six points clear of the Play-Off positions ahead of visiting table-toppers Norwich City on Tuesday night.

Daniel Bachmann has been the accustomed number one at Vicarage Road since displacing Foster between the sticks at the turn of the year and has proven to be a solid option with 11 clean sheets and 11 goals conceded in 20 appearances in the Championship thus far.

Should Newcastle sell Darlow to Watford?

Yes, he won’t be needed

No, he’s too good to let go

No, he's too good to let go

Foster had opened the campaign as the go-to goalkeeper at Watford but fell out of the side due to a broken finger in January, after keeping nine clean sheets and conceding 17 goals in 22 appearances, and has been unable to regain duties since returning to action in March.

The 38-year-old could now face heightened competition for the position as Hornets chiefs weigh up a move for Darlow, with a potential £6m bid on the cards for the 30-year-old who is under contract at St. James’ Park through to the summer of 2025.

Watford are thought to be keen to offer Darlow a chance to stake his claim to their number one jersey, as he has the potential to serve as Xisco’s long-term option.

The Northampton-born shot-stopper had acted as Bruce’s first-choice earlier this term due to Martin Dubravka being sidelined with a heel injury, but has not featured in the Premier League since the Slovakian made his return against Wolves" 24961 target="_blank">Wolverhampton Wanderers in February.

Darlow was considered to be one of Newcastle’s most consistent performers amid a fight for Premier League survival after keeping four clean sheets in 25 games and producing stunning displays against Tottenham" 24956 target="_blank">Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.

But Bruce benched Darlow after a sub-par performance at Manchester United, and the Toon are now said to be open to selling the £25,000-per-week titan in the next transfer window with Freddie Woodman set to return from a second season on loan with Swansea City.

Newcastle would have four goalkeepers on the books next season if a deal to sell one of Bruce’s options is not secured, with Woodman potentially joining Darlow, Dubravka and rarely-seen back-up Mark Gillespie, who has only featured three times this season.

Watford firming up their interest in Darlow should thus be considered the ideal opportunity for Bruce and United to cash in on one of their options, as the 6 ft 2 titan has been unable to regain the role from Dubravka and was allegedly ‘angered’ by the manner of his axing.

There’s no doubt that Newcastle owe a great deal to Darlow for keeping them in a position where Premier League safety is achievable, having been “absolutely awesome” for the Magpies this season in the eyes of Sky Sports pundit Matt Murray.

But it would be unsustainable for Newcastle to have four goalkeepers on the books and while Darlow is entering the final years of his career, Woodman can still represent the Toon’s future having been magnificent while on loan at Swansea for the past two seasons.

After recording 12 shut outs in 43 Championship appearances last term, the 24-year-old – who has been linked with Arsenal previously – has kept 20 clean sheets in 41 games during the current campaign, two more than any other goalkeeper in the division.

If Woodman is to return to St. James’ Park, he would not be expected to simply settle for the number two position, and will leave Bruce with a decision to make between the young up-and-comer who represents the future or his current first-choice Dubravka.

Doing so would leave Darlow with nowhere to go on Tyneside, making Watford’s potential £6m bid all the more appealing when funds for summer signings are likely to be minimal.

AND in other news, Steve Bruce expects Newcastle to open talks to retain a £47,000-per-week brute…