Goalkeeper Jersey Up For Grabs at Newcastle


Steve Harper is doing a sterling job in the Newcastle goal during Shay Given’s absence due to a groin injury.

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Steve Harper – goalkeeper in excellent form for Newcastle United

But when Harper’s long-standing rival and very close friend Shay Given returns to full fitness, probably for next season, manager Keegan says there are no guarantees Shay will get straight back into the starting eleven.

Keegan told the Shields Gazette this morning:

“Some clubs probably have got a No 1 and a No 2 goalkeeper, but we’ve always had two that are very, very close.

“Shay’s had the nod for a long time, but through circumstances. Stevie’s been very loyal, and he’s now got the opportunity.”

“He cares, don’t get me wrong. He doesn’t like not being in the team, but he knows how to handle not being in the team, and he knows how to handle being in it.”

Harper will make his 15th Premier League start of the season at Fratton Park later this afternoon, and that will equal last season’s total. Steve has been in great form and has conceded just two goals in our last four games with two clean sheets, a real rarity this season.

Harper was the only surviving player from Keegan’s first spell as manager and Kevin signed him from non-league Seaham Red Star in 1993.

When Given returns it will set up the rivalry again, which will pick up when the boys return from their summer break in July. We’ll see then if Shay has finally got over his groin problems, and who will be Newcastle’s number one next season between the sticks.

Comments welcome.



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57 comments so far

  • Leo

    Apr 12, 2008 at 12:17 PM

    Comment #1

    if given gets his groin sorted its going to be very tough to decide becasuse harper is worth his place, and given when fully functional can win you matches also through shot stopping

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  • CRAIGG

    Apr 12, 2008 at 12:23 PM

    Comment #2

    This is from Andy Totham
    (3 Chinned betting guy form the Sun)

    “Something strange is happening Newcastle are winning football matches”

    Sarcastic filth, We are still statistically the 5th highest points scoring side in premiership history, We would still be 4th but Chelsea have bought loads of points the last 4 years.

    I hate the sun, Greaves still bores the nation with his pathetic little column every week, I feel sorry for Mrs Greaves who is let down by Greaves Pathetic little column every night.

    Kev will you shut these scummy cockney morons up next season for us

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  • Davies

    Apr 12, 2008 at 12:24 PM

    Comment #3

    Tough call, but a nice problem to have. The good thing is that the keepers are close friends and that their rivalry is a friendly one.

    Both of these two men have conducted themselves with loyalty and maturity. Harper could easily be England’s number one, but has remained on Tyneside.

    We are a very lucky team to have such qualities from both of our keepers.

    In years to come, we could well be saying the same thing of Forster, Krul and Soderbergh. The influence our two main keepers will have on these younger keepers can only be a positive thing.

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  • Nick C

    Apr 12, 2008 at 12:35 PM

    Comment #4

    Craigg, like a lot of NUFC supporters I don’t even buy papers anymore. I get all I need to know about current affairs from the likes of bbc.co.uk.
    The Southern press really seem to have it in for us. As u say, lets stick it up em next season!!

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  • CRAIGG

    Apr 12, 2008 at 12:44 PM

    Comment #5

    Nick C like i say most weeks it is delivered to my house as my sister reads the TV mag in it, Then asumes that i will want to read the sport,

    I really at the minute laugh at the 2 faced gits

    Steven Howard last week praising KKs attitude and our Style of play, Less than a month after Calling him a flop and Calling his return a farce!

    Greaves putting the boot in someone else while their down (Wenger last week) a few weeks after saying KK was all passion and no talent

    Andy Dunn totally not reffering to NUFC in his columns after weeks of piss takes including saying we wanted KK out!! (To be fair he must have read some of the stupid comments on here)

    These guys are the experts apparently, Why does the waddler or Tony Gale not write any more at least there was some knowledge and fairness in their articles.

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  • reillers

    Apr 12, 2008 at 12:46 PM

    Comment #6

    It’s a tough call all right but when both are 100% fit, Given’s the better keeper. He’s had terrible luck this season. Harper has had his chance this season but while he’s been really good I still can’t remember seeing any stand out performances better then Given’s put in when he’s fit.
    It’s a tough call but when it comes down to it, Given’s more then a wee bit better.

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  • CRAIGG

    Apr 12, 2008 at 12:52 PM

    Comment #7

    I think Given is a much better keeper, I like harper but i dont think he is anywhere near Given

    Harper is popular now and rightfully so, But ive seen so many shots go under his body and lots of sliced clearances to rate him anywhere near Shay.

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  • Macca

    Apr 12, 2008 at 1:00 PM

    Comment #8

    I think Harper has been a bit lucky this season because Given has been out and they’ve never had a chance to go for it against eachother lately but when they do, there’s only ever been one who comes out on time and that’s Given and I think he’ll continue to. I also think that Harper is a bit of a Keegan’s favorite. That might stand to him in the future. But one on one Given is the better keeper when 100% fit which he hasn’t been this season.

    What Given has over Harper as well as being, IMO a better rounded keeper, is the fact that he’s Ireland as well. Given’s been Ireland’s best player for years and remains to be one of the best. Harper IMO wont break into the English team, and I think that’s what decides it for a lot of English fans, well English Newcastle fans anyway, if they’re both almost as good as each other, they’d want to see the “local lad” play. Which is quite sad but you know. But Harper has played nearly an entire season for Newcastle and if he was going to play with England, he would have been asked by now.
    James is a good bit ahead of him at the moment, while at Ireland Given is streets ahead of everyone else. The other keepers they have is your man Kenny who’s a joke and kids.

    I think when you look at what both keepers have to bring to the table, their negatives and positives I think Given wins out, every time.

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  • reillers

    Apr 12, 2008 at 1:06 PM

    Comment #9

    CRAIGG ..I agree, and I’ve noticed the same, Harper’s a popular keeper right now in Newcastle, like Macca said, he’s a local lad who’s playing well, but I think if he wasn’t maybe his mistakes of bad play would be noticed more.

    Given’s been criticized a lot by a lot of people on here for his distribution, it’s amazing how people forget so quickly Given’s injury which affected it so much and his good play. I honestly believe that if they take the bias out and think of Given at his best and Harper at his best that there’s one winner. Shay.
    Man for man he’s the better keeper.

    But at the moment because he’s injured and Harper has played well enough, all his positive attributes have been forgotten.

    I think that if Harper was to start next season, which I don’t think he should. I think that honestly Given should leave because he’s too good to sit on the bench.

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  • Egar

    Apr 12, 2008 at 1:31 PM

    Comment #10

    Harp’s got a noticeable edge with distribution.

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  • Egar

    Apr 12, 2008 at 1:38 PM

    Comment #11

    Sensible thing for a keeper to do if unable to hoof it up effectively (whether hampered by injury or whatever) is to distribute via his back 4. Something that’s easily fixed.

    Hoofing it up if done effectively is a quick way to launch an attack. But if done poorly, that’s giving away possession needlessly.

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  • sparetheman

    Apr 12, 2008 at 1:38 PM

    Comment #12

    I don’t think Shay’s missed at all when Harper plays so I’d be happy for him to keep playing. Normally I’m expecting Given to come back straight into the team but Harper has done everything right since he’s been put back between the sticks so unless that changes, he should keep his spot. Given was showing some suspect form prior to his injury in any case.

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  • Egar

    Apr 12, 2008 at 1:59 PM

    Comment #13

    You’re so right there sparetheman.

    NUFC good fortune having them both.
    Good if somehow both can have a fair share of the action when both are fit.

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  • Reillers

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:01 PM

    Comment #14

    This season I don’t think Given was ever fully right. But looking back at matches I can remember off the top of my head countless matches where Given played outstandingly and saved us points and won us games behind a worse defence that we have now.

    Now Harper has played well this season but I don’t ever remember him being stand out or brilliant you know. I think Given 100% is missed but I’m telling you that you wont notice it till he comes back. Remember the last time when he came back from injury and everyone thought we hadn’t missed him. Remember the game he had against Arsenal and the impact he had. The class was visible. I also don’t think that it’s any bit of a coincidence that the first time Given missed a lot of match we hovered above the relegation zone and he’s missed a lot of matches this season and guess what, we spent the majority of the second half of our season around the relegation zone. I honestly think that people don’t really no how much 100% Given is missed.

    Harper hasn’t done much wrong this season but I don’t remember him doing much brilliantly either because honestly I can’t remember a single match where Harper saved us points or won us points. countless of times I remember it literally being Given against 11 other players and watching him stand and take it and make save after save I don’t remember Harper doing so this season. And I think if ye remove the wee bias that ye all have and be honest with yourselves I think that you’ll realize that Harper hasn’t made much of an impact this season either when it comes to saving points he might have kept scores down in games but that’s it.
    I’ll probably be shot for saying this and I’m probably the only person who’ll say it but I think that Harper is seriously overrated by Newcastle.

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  • Christer

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:03 PM

    Comment #15

    I feel that the goal keeper position is a real important one. If we look at the top flight of the premiership the teams have signed a top notch keeper, and sadly to say Given/Harper is not the class that is needed if we are going to progress and establish ourself as a team in Europe for several seasons. There is a definite need of a young keeper like Akinfeev or Neuner to really spark the future in NUFC.

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  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:03 PM

    Comment #16

    Harper has earned his chance & let no-one down!..
    …Who’s best?..Well, that’s a matter of opinion!..
    …Personally, Harper seems to command his box better, distribute better(dosen’t just hoof it), & have an excellent rapport with our current defense!..
    …Given is an excellent shot-stopper, is very agile & is ‘rightly’ a big fave with the fans, due to his years of great service!..
    …Tough?..
    …But i’ve gotta say Harpers all-round game seems slightly better…That said, i feel really comfortable & worry free whomever gets the nod, which i think says it all…So like KK says there’s little or nothing in it!..

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  • jMar

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:09 PM

    Comment #17

    Given is much better. Don’t forget that.

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  • Steve

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:09 PM

    Comment #18

    Harper for me. Has performed better this season without doubt. I understand Shay has had his injury problems, and has not looked the same player.

    Harper started the season very well and should never have lost his spot. On current form, he has to continue as first choice…

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  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:10 PM

    Comment #19

    Reillers, didn’t you see the spuds game?..
    Harper made a couple of top notch saves to keep us in that game!..Absolute reaction save one of ’em, right under his feet!..
    …I ain’t denying what Givens done for us, but i’m pretty sure that if Harper had played as many games, we wouldn’t be even having this discussion!?!..
    …I also feel that Harpers command of his box has visibly lifted the defense…& i think you’ll find most of our losses this season were with Given in goal!..

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  • Tom

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:17 PM

    Comment #20

    i can see it being really difficult in a few years deciding between krul, forster, and sodeburg. I’ve seen krul but what do you think of the other two? who’s most likely to be our next number 1?

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  • Leo

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:18 PM

    Comment #21

    ur on ur arse riellers. given pompey, 3 goals 11 minutes? so that arguement u had is gone.

    also the arguement someone said that his injury is the reason for his poor distribution is also wrong because his kicking has always been bad.

    harpers isnt much better but harper barely kicks the ball up the field tending to rather throw it to a defender to push it up the field.

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  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:19 PM

    Comment #22

    Good question Tom…Think they’ve got 2/3 years to go yet tho’!..
    …Goalies seem to get better with age!..

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  • Reillers

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:22 PM

    Comment #23

    That’s the thing, he made 1 or 2 good saves but hell ok that’s one match all season.
    I think Harper’s getting credit for nothing sometimes. His mistakes aren’t picked up on, are definitely not picked up on here.

    But like I said, that’s always going to happen when it’s one of their own playing. Now maybe it’s because I’m not from Newcastle but I’d look at a game and I’d see Harper play averagely, concede a poor goal, would come on here and I’d see ratings of 7 or 8 and comments like he was top class and amazing and such. Now I get to some extent that there will always be a certain degree of bias from the fans here but sometimes I think he’d get praise for nothing a lot of the time. He’s a good keeper don’t get me wrong but he’s nothing special, unlike 100% Given.

    Given’s distribution was poor this season but it was genuinely to do with his groin injury which has hampered him since he was in that horror clash against West Ham.
    The entire team played well for about 6 matches before the Sam’s influence kicked in.
    Given won his place back after a very good game against Arsenal and a spectacular wee game against Germany with Ireland. But as time past for Newcastle I think everyone was just waiting and it was just so predictable that his groin was going to go.

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  • Reillers

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:24 PM

    Comment #24

    Leo..”given pompey, 3 goals 11 minutes? so that arguement u had is gone.”

    Leo mate, I eh think that was Harper in goals for that Pompey match. You just shot yourself in the foot there. Given was injured, he wasn’t even on the bench.

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  • Leo

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:27 PM

    Comment #25

    didnt he start the match then come off after 3 goals? i think so… anyone know for sure…

    riellers, are you sinead/eve in disguise?

    if his distribution has been bad because of his groin surely he can throw the ball still… any sensible person would do if they couldnt regularly kick the ball straight

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  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:28 PM

    Comment #26

    Sometimes…If you don’t notice the keeper in a game…All the better!..

    …As for the england/ireland thing…
    Given ain’t got much competition & Harper has at least one in James, but if he keeps doin’ what he’s doin’, he’ll get looked at!..But cbviously, if your on the bench all the time, national coaches aren’t gonna pick ya’!..
    …Given looks great for ireland, but he has to save their ass a lot, doesn’t he, so he’s constantly a hero!..
    …I couldn’t care less who plays for england!..
    Geordie 1st, last & always!..
    …But the whole ‘local lad’ thing, well, isn’t Given just the ‘local lad’ to our irish fans…
    …There’s nowt wrong with that, by the way!..

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  • Nick C

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:29 PM

    Comment #27

    In the longterm, I think both Harper and Given are too short. The 3 keepers coming thru are all around 6’4” – I think it is a necessity if u want a goalie to dominate the penalty box.

    It will be interesting to see which one gets the nod…

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  • Leo

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:29 PM

    Comment #28

    reillers i was wrong soz…

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  • Leo

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:30 PM

    Comment #29

    which game was it where we let a couple of goals in and given then went off because he slips when trying to save it?

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  • Reillers

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:30 PM

    Comment #30

    No, he wasn’t even on the bench. It was Harper, I’m 100% sure that it was Harper. Google it if you don’t believe me.

    Ok you’ve lost me now. No, no mate, I’m not a wee girl.

    You can’ t throw everything surely you can realize that.

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  • Egar

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:30 PM

    Comment #31

    Just a repeat for Reillers

    Sensible thing for a keeper to do if unable to hoof it up effectively (whether hampered by injury or whatever) is to distribute via his back 4. Something that’s easily fixed.

    Hoofing it up if done effectively is a quick way to launch an attack. But if done poorly, that’s giving away possession needlessly.

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  • Leo

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:32 PM

    Comment #32

    yeah but given didnt throw in a game barely, ive watched given at home since he has been here, only missed a handful of games in the last 13 years…

    givens good but if harper had been given goal time i think it would be that harps would be the better of the two but as someone stated this is all opinion, as i said previously i will support either who is in nets for us

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  • Leo

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:33 PM

    Comment #33

    oh its the pre match warm up debate, love the choice really ed, gets the blood tingling haha

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  • Reillers

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:34 PM

    Comment #34

    Leo. No problem mate, we all make wee mistakes, it’s been a very long season.

    I just happen to have a decent memory when it comes to remembering useless pieces of info.
    I think that it’s the Man U game, he let 1 in I think against Man U, the 1st was a good goal, his groin let out then for the second one, he was half diving for the ball, I think it took a deflection on it’s way, the ball changed direction and it moved, Given then had to change direction and he did his groin in, couldn’t reach the ball, was in too much pain to do so. That was the game when Keegan put Given in, he then said he took full responsibility for doing so, even though he knew that it could go, despite him passing every fitness test.
    IMO it was a rubbish thing to do, making him play in pain with a good idea that his groin could go. Now if he rated Harper as much as everyone said he did, why the hell didn’t he play him. It was a bit of a insulting thing to do to Harper and unfair on wee Given. He hasn’t played since. Keegan eventually let him have surgery on it.
    I’m sure he’s off with Ireland next month.

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  • Egar

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:35 PM

    Comment #35

    I’m not anti-Given. Luv his spectacular flying saves. Nevertheless, I do share the same view with Punk Skunk w.r.t. Harp’s better command of his box.

    As I said earlier, NUFC’s fortunate to have 2 able keepers. Rotation for them would seem the fairest deal unless form dictates otherwise.

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  • Leo

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:36 PM

    Comment #36

    harps hasnt had as much experience, so it was a calculated risk playing given against the reds… considering keegan hadnt been at the club long by then to evaluate them all

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  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:37 PM

    Comment #37

    & the villa game!..

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  • Reillers

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:38 PM

    Comment #38

    Egar mate, have you ever tried doing so with a dodge groin. It’s not fun or as easy as it looks, even when 100% fit.

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  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:41 PM

    Comment #39

    Yea Egar, y’gotta look at their all round game & great in all aspects beats amazing in one everytime!..Surely?..
    …Also, with regard to Given playing whilst injured, he should be telling the coach he can’t risk it…That would be the correct thing to do for the team!..

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  • Reillers

    Apr 12, 2008 at 2:42 PM

    Comment #40

    Egar you can’t rotate keepers, it doesn’t work, Sam tried. It just weakens their confidence. They didn’t take risks because they knew they didn’t have Sam’s full confidence or backing. Rotated keepers wont take chances because they know that if they do and mess up they could well loose their place and what good is a keeper if he wont takes risks and aren’t brave.

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