Matz Sels breaks silence on his battle to return to Newcastle's starting XI
Matz Sels has vowed to be patient at Newcastle United as he bids to force his way back into Rafa Benitez's team.
Sels was recalled for Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Birmingham City.
The goalkeeper, signed from Belgian club Gent last summer, hasn’t played a league game since September, when he was dropped after the club’s draw against Aston Villa.
Karl Darlow’s form between the posts since then has kept the 24-year-old out of the team.
And Sels was happy to get a chance at St Andrew’s, where Newcastle were held to a 1-1 draw in the third-round tie.
“I’m happy if I can play,” said Sels. “Now there is a return and we have to beat them.”
It was Sels’s first appearance since late November, when he was in goal for United’s EFL Cup defeat to Hull City at the KCOM Stadium.
“I try to work hard in training and show myself and make it difficult (for him to decide),” said the Belgium Under-21 international, who also faces competition from fit-again Rob Elliot.
“That’s what I try to do.
“It’s football. Karl’s doing well at the moment.
“As a goalkeeper, there’s only one position, so it’s normal.
“I have to be patient and see what the future brings.”
Daryl Murphy gave Newcastle an early lead against Birmingham.
But Gianfranco Zola’s side fought back and levelled before the break.
Benitez – who made eight changes at St Andrew’s –switched to a 3-5-2 formation.
The replay will be staged at St James’s Park on January 18, and Sels could again play in goal.
“We started the game with another formation,” said Sels.
“We had to adapt a little bit and trained all week on that.
“I think the first 20 minutes were good.
“We were leading 1-0. After that, they came at us, but I don’t think they had really big chances. Defensively, we were good.
“But it’s normal that you’re disappointed if you don’t win.
“Now we have a replay and have to beat them at home at St James’s Park. It’s an advantage to us.”
Sels says the FA Cup is important to United, though he has acknowledged that the Championship club’s over-riding goal is promotion to the Premier League.
Newcastle are second in the league ahead of Saturday’s game against Brentford at Griffin Park.
“It’s important, of course,” said Sels.
“You want to win every game as a football player. The FA Cup is really important. We will give everything to go through.
“He’s changed some players, but that is normal.
“The focus is on the Championship.
“It’s also good to let some players rest and give some other players a chance to show themselves.”
Benitez lost striker Aleksandar Mitrovic to injury in the game.
Mitrovic was stretchered off after suffering a gashed leg in a collision with Birmingham goalkeeper Adam Legzdins.
“He’s an important player for us, so hopefully he can recover as quick as possible,” said Sels.
“He’s a top striker and he’s scored a lot of goals.”
Meanwhile, Elliot – who has recovered from the serious knee injury he suffered on Republic of Ireland duty last year – played in Saturday’s Under-23 fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion.
The 30-year-old is now ready to challenge for a first-team return.
Winger Callum Roberts, this week loaned to Lee Clark’s Kilmarnock, scored the only goal of the game against Brighton at Little Benton.
Freddie Woodman, United’s fourth-choice goalkeeper, and midfielder Sean Longstaff have also joined the Scottish Premiership club for the rest of the season.