Steve Harper has played well for Newcastle and will probably get the nod again on Saturday against Manchester City. But after that game Sam has to be very careful about whom he selects for the goalkeeper position.
We haven’t heard a word of dissent from Shay Given this season but we know if this is short term that’s no problem because it gives his pal Harper a decent run out in the side, which he has deserved. But there’s just no way that a goalkeeper of Shay Given’s ability will settle for sitting on the bench this season.
Shay Given – been very patient up to this point
Let’s get something straight right away â€“ Shay Given is the best goalkeeper Newcastle United have ever had. Ronnie Simpson was a good goalkeeper in the 1950s and went onto win the European Cup with Celtic in 1967, after leaving Newcastle – but Shay is easily the best ever in our opinion.
Newcastle are not going to have any more Carling Cup games this season so the only first team games left are the premier league games and the FA Cup games. Harper has been good but it’s unlikely Shay will be happy on the bench for too much longer.
Here’s how Sam talked about the problem he has yesterday:
“Will Shay be happy on the bench? He cannot be,â€â€œItâ€™s impossible. But it is not about making a decision based on who will create more problems for me. It is about what you think is the right thing, or the right goalkeeper, for that particular time.â€
â€œI chose Shay on Tuesday and if the situation had been reversed, I would have picked Steve,â€
â€œWhen you have got two outstanding goalkeepers, the hardest part of the job is keeping one happy when one is not playing and the other one is in the team. That is the hardest part of management, but to have two such outstanding keepers is also very comforting.â€
But Harper has made only 52 league starts in 14 years at the club. Given has played over 400 times for Newcastle in his 10 years at the club and over 80 times for Ireland. We think he is world class. So we don’t believe Sam can use this line for too much longer and think he starting to realize that.
Unless he gets some help through injury, Sam will need to decide shortly who his number one goalkeeper is. If he chooses Harper we think that will cause Shay to look for pastures anew and we wouldn’t blame him. It’s a waste of his enormous talent to sit on the bench on match-days. There’s only so much loyalty you can show in Given’s difficult position.
As we’ve said before there are many clubs, including Arsenal, who will be only too happy to accommodate Shay as their number one goalkeeper. Just watch how many clubs scramble after him if he ever becomes available. This is not a problem yet but at some point in the next few weeks Sam will have to answer the question â€“ who’s your number one keeper?
It will be interesting to see who his choice will be.