Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce has told Steve Harper his close friend Shay Given will have to fight for his place back once he is fit, after suffering yet another groin injury that is related to the terrible bowel injury he sustained over a year ago at West Ham United.
The 32-year-old goalkeeper was devastated to miss out after performing well as the Irishman’s deputy earlier in the season when Given recovered from the groin injury which had sidelined him at the start of the campaign.
Newcastle’s Two Excellent Goalkeepers – Harper and Given
Steve Harper, as we all know played in six of the first seven games of the season, missing only the 2-0 Carling Cup second-round victory over Barnsley on August 29 when he was rested. Given also came in for the next Carling Cup game against Arsenal at the Emirates, and Sam, after saying before the game that Harper would be back in goal against Manchester City, changed his mind. And Shay Given kept his place in goal and has been in there ever since.
However, Shayâ€™s run in the team – it was only 5 games, in which we conceded 10 goals – ended last Saturday when a groin injury kept him out of the starting line-up at the last moment. Steve came back into the side for the horror show that was the Portsmouth game.
We think Big Sam is a big admirer of Steve Harper and think he appreciates Steveâ€™s loyalty to Newcastle, even though heâ€™s not played too many games in the 13 years heâ€™s been on Newcastle’s books. Steve will keep his place for Saturday’s crucial derby trip to Sunderland, with Given still facing another couple of weeks in the treatment room. Sam this week admitted Steve will stay in goal if his performances warrant it – but what else is he supposed to say?
Big Sam said:
“Steve will be in goal for however many games he performs well in.
“Shay will be out for a couple of weeks or so, then hopefully he stays as fit as he can.â€
“I bet David James had more saves to make in the first half last week than Stevie Harper, and you cannot blame him for any of the goals.”
We cannot believe weâ€™re going to have another goalkeeper squabble, as to who should be first choice. But if Steve comes in and plays to the best of his considerable ability, itâ€™s going to be hard for Sam to drop him again. Maybe it will be that much harder the second time around.
But weâ€™re missing the point here. The major thing for Newcastle this season is the team, and we are in desperate need of a good streak of games to get back on track in the league. The target this season has to be European qualification â€“ whatever anybody says â€“ thatâ€™s the real goal and we need to achieve it. And we’ll do it with the squad of players we have – hopefully improved come January.