THE life of a back-up goalkeeper is not an easy one.
Appearances, even in these times of managers often rotating their squads in the cups, are rare and yet they have to be ready to step in at a moment’s notice if form or injury affects a club’s No 1 goalkeeper.
Eldin Jakupovic, Steve Bruce’s first signing as Hull City manager in the summer of 2012, appreciates that point more than most. The Yugoslavia-born Swiss international has just 11 league appearances to his name at the Tigers, two of which came in the final month of this season when Bruce opted to rest first-choice Allan McGregor.
A subsequent injury to the Scotland international meant Jakupovic was suddenly thrust centre stage after four years spent largely in the shadows at Hull and he rose to the challenge.
His methods may have been unorthodox in the early stages at Wembley against Sheffield Wednesday when he dealt with efforts from Fernando Forestieri and Ross Wallace by punching the ball clear, but two clean sheets from three play-off games tell their own story.
Jakupovic, whose contract is set to expire at the end of next month, is understandably proud to have won a second promotion to the Premier League with Hull and is now keen to stick around for the return to the big time.
What he wants, though, is more security than the current one-year option that the Tigers have as part of his existing deal.
“I don’t know,” said the 31-year-old when asked about what will happen this summer with regards his future.
“I know the club have an option for one more year but, to be fair, I am not happy with just this one year.
“I have a family, the little one has to go to school. So, after one year, what then? The club know all these things and I hope that in the next 10 days we can sort everything out.”
Jakupovic first came on trial to the KC in the Spring of 2012 when Nick Barmby was manager. He had left Greek club Aris and wanted to move to England.
Barmby’s sacking a couple of months later looked to have scuppered those hopes, at least in terms of joining the Tigers.
But once at the helm, Bruce revived the East Riding club’s interest and Jakupovic duly signed a two-year contract.
It has not all been plain sailing over the intervening four years and he had two spells out on loan at Leyton Orient in League One during 2014 after falling down the pecking order at Hull following Steve Harper’s arrival.
But, crucially, Jakupovic stayed loyal and this past season has seen not only a big role in the play-offs but also a man-of-the-match display against Arsenal in the FA Cup that saw the Premier League side kept almost single-handedly at bay by the goalkeeper to earn the Tigers a fifth-round replay.
“It is an amazing feeling,” replied Jakupovic when asked about stepping out of McGregor’s shadow to become a Wembley winner. “I am happy for the team and I am happy for myself. I am happy for Steve Bruce as well.
“I can say ‘thank you’ to Steve because he had confidence in me and now it is important to enjoy this moment.”
Jakupovic flew to America the day after Hull’s victory over the Owls to spend some time with his family. He did so safe in the knowledge that he had played his part in Hull winning back their top-flight status at the first attempt.
“What can I say about Wembley?” added the 31-year-old.
“The atmosphere from both sides was, wow, amazing. But, finally, we did it.
“The better team won in the final, for sure. Not just at Wembley but all season. We were up near the top all the time, other than during our little bad period (in the Spring).
“I can say it now that it is better to go up in the play-offs rather than first or second. It was a day I will remember for a long, long time.
“I have played Champions League, Europa League, for my national team, but this final was one of my best days.”
Providing an extension can be agreed with the club, Jakupovic is likely to return to the role of being back-up to McGregor. The Scot has had a fine season in goal for the Tigers, which is why it was a blow when he suffered the back injury that kept him out of the play-offs.
“Allan McGregor is a very good goalkeeper and, in private, a good man as well,” said Jakupovic. “We spoke every day and he told me to just get ready for the final.
“I am sorry for him because he played a very good season and I’m very, very sorry that he has missed the highlight of the season.
“But he is a fair man and he has been giving me advice, telling me to keep calm and saying everything would be all right.
“The final is a game that can be everything or nothing, but we did it and got promoted. That is the most important thing. We were all very proud to win promotion for Hull City.”