It’s surprising that Steve Harper has come out to say that the perception he was happy to be Shay Given’s backup, for so many years, is just not true.
Harper and Given – together for 11 seasons at Newcastle
Harper was speaking at the launch of the Marie Curie Daffodil fund-raising appeal in Newcastle yesterday:
“It feels good to be number one at last and long may it continue,” “To say it’s been a long wait would be one of the biggest under-statements of all time.”
“Working day in, day out with someone for 11 years, Shay and I were good friends and rivals. It’s actually strange not having him around, I miss him, but I’ve waited for this opportunity for a long time so I’m loving it at the moment.”
“It was only 2pm on a Saturday when the adrenaline kicked in that it felt different. My wife would tell you, until 7pm on a Saturday, if I hadn’t played, I was like a bear with a sore head.”
“That was virtually every game, year after a year. If they had won, I was happy for them, but I also felt as though I’d missed out, I felt on the periphery of things.”
“If they had lost it was just as frustrating, I’ve sat on the bench and seen us lose by five or six and you just want to be out there helping.”
Harper had been praised as one of the best back-up goalkeepers in the Premier League and actually was actually preferred to Shay in the 1999 FA Cup Final against Manchester United that Newcastle lost 2-0, on 22nd May, when Ruud Gullit was manager.
It was a long long time that Steve hardly had any games at all for Newcastle, and he continued:
“It was tough, but I didn’t leave because I was stuck,” “I’m a local lad, I wanted to play here and it was also a case of being out of sight out of mind.”
“When you’re playing every week, people take notice of you, but when you’re out of the team for three or four years people forget about you.”
“Not up here, but out in the football world. I hadn’t played a lot of football and given the money it would have taken to take me away from Newcastle, it made people hesitant.”
“People looking in would have thought I was happy, but if you ask the 85 managers I’ve had since I’ve been here, they’d tell you something different.”
“I asked every single one of them to let me play football, either on loan or whatever.” “Those three or four years were incredibly tough for me, incredibly hard – and they are not something I would wish to repeat.”
Everything comes to he who waits, and a rather unbelievable turn of events in December, following the drubbing against Liverpool, when Shay Given suddenly decided he had had enough of Newcastle, and wanted to leave in January.
Suddenly Steve got his chance as the number one at Newcastle, and almost at the same time he agreed a new three-and-half-year contract on Tyneside.
“I don’t know what I would say to a goalkeeper in that position.” “Now I feel as though I made the right choice, but at the time I felt as though I was wasting my career.”
“You know, people forget, but in 2000 we were neck and neck, in and out of the side. But then Shay went on this remarkable run when he was injury free and did extremely well.”
“It was only the Marlon Harewood thing (when Shay suffered a nasty stomach injury) that my career turned around.”
“I wish it had happened in different circumstances because it was awful, but if Shay hadn’t got injured then I don’t know where I’d be. I played 25 games in that season and it was a massive lift.”
“Last season I played 21 games and really enjoyed it because I played at the start of the season when we did well, and at the end when we played well.”
“To be honest, I was really disappointed not to be in the team at the start of this season. It seemed like I was back to square one. I was twiddling my thumbs again, but come December there was a lot of speculation about Shay.
“I was offered a new contract before Christmas, but I wanted to wait and see what happened. Spurs bid £500,000 for me which was a very good offer, but it was turned down and Shay left.”
“I feel as though I’ve made the right decision now, but only time will tell. I’m 35 in a few weeks, but I think there are a few seasons left in the tank and I want to play them here, in the first team.”
It’s important that Steve continues to play as well as he did last year at this time, and cement his place as Newcastle’s number one, with either Tim Krul or Fraser Forster being his back-up for next season.
It appears that Tim Krul may still want to join Feyenoord in the summer, so we’re not sure both young goalkeepers will still be at Newcastle come September.
But Steve can play a lot more seasons for Newcastle, as he’s still got a good few years left as a top goalkeeper.