Meet Mark Gillespie, the 30-year-old goalkeeper who’s not played for three years vying with Karius to play cup final | The Sun

MEET Mark Gillespie, the 30-year-old Geordie that may be tasked with keeping Marcus Rashford and Co quiet during next weekend's Carabao Cup final.

The little known goalkeeper has been at his boyhood club since the summer of 2020, but you may be forgiven for having let his time at St James' Park pass you by.

That's because Gillespie hasn't actually played in a game for the Toon since a penalty shoot-out win over Newport County two-and-half years ago.

At various points he has found himself stuck behind the likes of Nick Pope, Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow.

But with Pope suspended following his red card against Liverpool, Dubravka cup-tied after featuring in the competition for Manchester United, and Darlow out on loan at Hull; Gillespie may finally have an unlikely shot at glory with his boyhood club.

All that stands in his way is blunder-ful former Liverpool keeper Loris Karius – best known for his Champions League final mistakes against Real Madrid in 2018.


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With many assuming that Karius will be the man to play, Eddie Howe made sure to namecheck Gillespie when asked about the situation yesterday.

He said: "Nick is really disappointed, as we are for him. He has been magnificent for us.

"He does not deserve to miss the game but it is what it is. Nick misjudged it and it hit his arm. I think it was harsh and the referee could have given a yellow card.

"We have Loris and Mark who have trained really well this season, Both are fit. Behind the scenes, they play every day. I have no doubt they are in condition to play the game."

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But how exactly has Gillespie got to this point?

The Newcastle-born stopper joined the Magpies at the age of eight, but would move on to Carlisle aged 16 in 2008.

He broke into their first team in League One, before becoming their undisputed No1 after relegation to League Two.

Gillespie enjoyed his first special League Cup moments while playing for Carlisle against Tottenham as a 20-year-old in 2012 – earning praise from Andre Villas-Boas and veteran stopper Carlo Cudicini.

Having made great saves from Iago Falque and Ryan Mason during his side's 3-0 defeat, Gillespie said: "After the game Carlo Cudicini said ‘good luck’ to me, and I got his shirt, which was nice of him.

"Their manager also said well done and they are all great role models to look up to. You look at the quality they had on display and you would love to be playing against that regularly. That’s what we have to aspire to."

In 2017 he left Brunton Park for fellow League Two outfit Walsall, penning a two-year deal.

He lost his place mid-way through his first season, however, with Liam Roberts taking his place.

Gillespie was on the move again in 2018, signing a two-year contract with Motherwell.

He went on to make 67 appearances for Well over two seasons despite having initially been No2, earning his place as first choice stopper.

The 6ft 3in ace earned praise from former Fir Park stalwart Graeme Smith during his time north of the border, who said ahead of a clash with Rangers: "From what I’ve seen of the keeper so far this season he has been really impressive.

"He makes big saves at big times in games and that’s what Motherwell will need if they are going to get a result. He’s made a difference and has been playing well."

Gillespie's move to Newcastle, initially as No3 goalkeeper, followed in the summer of 2020 – and early on he had some encouraging involvement.

He played three times in the League Cup during his first campaign, deputising for the injured Dubravka and regularly making Steve Bruce's matchday squad.

But those opportunities soon dried up, and Gillespie has only even been named on the bench once this season.

Despite that, Karius is the only man standing between him and a starting berth at Wembley.

Since his blundering Champions League final heartache nearly five years ago, things haven't gone swimmingly for the German.

The 29-year-old played 67 times on loan over two seasons at Besiktas – conceding 95 goals despite his team's status as one of the biggest in Turkey.

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He then played just five times for Union Berlin in the 2020-21 season, before returning to Liverpool and not even being named in their squad last term – eventually leaving on a free to sign for Newcastle.

Karius is yet to debut for the Toon, but will spend the next week battling with Gillespie to start at Wembley next weekend, hoping to shake off those cup final cobwebs of five years ago.

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