There’s patience. And then there’s patience.
Rob Elliot has had to be patient at Newcastle United. And then some.
I just want to play for Newcastle as many times as possible and just enjoy it because it’s an amazing clubRob Elliot
But that patience looked like it would go unrewarded a few short months ago when the goalkeeper was ready to reluctantly leave St James’s Park in search of first-team football.
That was then.
Now, Elliot is indispensable to head coach Steve McClaren, whose side takes on Watford at Vicarage Road tomorrow in a third-round FA Cup tie.
The 29-year-old was handed an unexpected chance in October after Tim Krul suffered a season-ending injury with Holland.
Second-choice Karl Darlow was also injured at the time, so Elliot was next in line.
The Republic of Ireland international – who could yet go to Euro 2016 in the summer – hasn’t looked back.
Elliot has been outstanding in often trying circumstances.
For his part, the likeable player is just happy to be “being a part” of the team having been on the fringes for much of his four and a half years at the club.
“It’s obviously great to be playing – to play for Newcastle in the Premier League is massive,” he said.
“To play in this run of games, and hopefully contribute to helping the team, is great.
“Not just being a stand-in, being able to develop into a keeper that’s helping the team and being a big part of it.
“That’s all I want, really. I just want to play for Newcastle as many times as possible and just enjoy it because it’s an amazing club.”
Elliot’s one-year-old son Max is a Geordie, having been born on Tyneside.
And Greenwich-born Elliot feels at home in the city.
“I say it a lot, but I’m very happy here,” said Elliot, signed from Charlton Athletic in 2011.
“My family are here, and I feel part of it. My son was born here, and it’s all he knows.
“It’s something that I’ve wanted for a long time. I’ve had to be really patient – three years sitting on the sidelines – but I think maybe that’s helped me now I’ve got my chance.
“I said I needed a run in the team – I didn’t just need one game.
“It’s 10 or 11 (games) now, and hopefully I can keep on getting better to help the team.
“When you’re not a part of the team, you don’t always feel a part of it.
So personally for me, it’s just great to be playing, and hopefully I can help us climb the table and get some success.”
Success for United right now would be Premier League survival, but FA Cup success was one of the team’s pre-season objectives.
And Elliot doesn’t think Newcastle’s league plight – the club is 18th in the division and two points adrift of safety – should stop it having a go in the cup.
“The FA Cup is the FA Cup for me,” said Elliot, in the team beaten 1-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last weekend. “I can only speak for myself, but I think the FA Cup should be as important as the league.
“It’s a massive competition, and it breeds confidence if you do well and go on a cup run.
“It’s another opportunity to play for Newcastle and bring a bit of success to the club.
“I think a cup run would be unbelievable, especially in a city that’s crying out for one.
“We know it’s a tough game against Watford – probably one of the toughest places to go in the Premier League at the moment – but we just need to go there and make sure we take what we did at Arsenal into the Watford game.”
Elliot feels a cup win would give the team much-needed momentum going into back-to-back home games against Manchester United and West Ham United next week.
“It can snowball, and that’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “I think it’s an important competition, and hopefully we’ll be able to kick-start things there.
“It’s a tough, tough game, but if we can come through that, it’ll be a real positive.
“We obviously want to win, and if we can get a result there and get through to the next round of the cup, that’s just going to breed confidence for the Man United game on the Tuesday.”
Maybe ironically, given his importance to the team’s hopes of staying in the league, McClaren could even rest Elliot – who is carrying a thigh problem – at Vicarage Road.
But for the first time in his United career, he’d be the first name on the teamsheet of most fans.