Steve Harper will play his very first derby game at St. Jamesâ€™ Park on Sunday, after being at the club for 15 years.
Steve Harper – first derby game ever at St. James’ Park
The veteran goalkeeper also admits he is now thinking of his first victory over Newcastleâ€™s local rivals:
â€œIt will be my first derby with Sunderland at St Jamesâ€™s Park,â€â€œI have played twice at the Stadium of Light, including earlier this season, and we have drawn both of those games.â€
â€œIt will certainly be different to those two games. Iâ€™ve played in front of 48,000 of their fans and it will be different on Sunday when there are 52,000 screaming us on.â€
â€œIt was great to be part of it at the Stadium of Light and it will be the same on Sunday.â€
Harperâ€™s comes from Easington which is in County Durham, south of the Tyne, and itâ€™s not too surprising that most of them support Sunderland, who are also in County Durham – southerners!Â Â Â 😀
â€œIt is probably 60-40 in their favor.â€ â€œAnd while there are quite a few Geordies there, they are outnumbered.â€
â€œHowever, theyâ€™re a vocal lot, and the rivalryâ€™s good. I still go back to my mum and dadâ€™s all the time, as they still live there.â€
Of course Kevin Keegan has been so impressed with Harperâ€™s form of late, and is quick to point out it was he who signed Steve 15 years ago from Seaham Red Star.
There is no doubt that Harper has been a top quality deputy for Shay Given and there promises to be a monumental battle for the first team jersey next season.
And when Harper was asked if all the Newcastle players understand the importance of the derby game on Sunday he said:
â€œI think they do. I donâ€™t think you can fail to know what it means when you live in a city like Newcastle.â€â€œIt lives and breathes football and you have seen in the last month what a difference itâ€™s made around the city.â€
â€œThe doom and gloom that was hanging over the city has gone and the place is bouncing again now.â€
â€œWeâ€™re going in with a lot more confidence than we had five or six games ago.â€ â€œItâ€™s a big, high-pressure game, but weâ€™re going into it with a lot of confidence.â€
Steve been in his best form ever for Newcastle since Shay has been out and he’s going to stand a good chance of dislodging Given next season unless Shay is back to his very best and has fully recovered from his groin problems, which seems to have adversely affected his play this season.
What do you think?