Steve Harper: Keeping check on reality?

Posted on February 27th, 2010 | 16 Comments |

Taken over the mantle?
Taken over the mantle?
Whatever lies ahead, Steve Harper seems to be in good spirits at Newcastle and just trying to enjoy the current situation for what it is now. The Premiership is obviously the ultimate goal for everyone involved in the club but having waited painstakingly for an opportunity to make the No.1 shirt his own, as he heads to Watford, Harper insists he looks forward to the somewhat less prestigious trips to the likes of Vicarage Road, because his role is now undisputed.

Having had to watch from the bench as arguably one of the greatest goalkeepers in the world, saved Newcastle’s bacon week in week out, Harper could have been forgiven for feeling a little sorry for himself. But his love for the club (and probably the decent wages he was on), meant he stuck around anyway and, in fact, he still managed to play in some pretty high profile occasions, including a Cup Final appearance and Champions League football. And he’s been speaking to The Journal about those days:

“I am sure we can reach those dizzy heights again but realistically that is a long way off,”.

“The stadium is there, the fanbase is there so that has to be the ultimate aim but our first aim is to get out of the Championship, stay in the Premier League and then build year on year.

“I have played in some of the Champions League nights and they were incredible nights both between the posts and on the bench. Having European football at St James’ Park when the Continent’s big-hitters used to come to Tyneside such as Juventus, Barcelona and Inter Milan was really special. But we have to be realists. We have to gain promotion before we can start thinking about nights like that again.
“For me personally the Juventus game (in 2002) stands out. I didn’t play at Blackburn on the Saturday and was then told by Sir Bobby in his own inimitable way I would be playing against Juventus in the Champions League. That was certainly a big change from an evening at Kingston Park with the reserves! It probably seems longer ago than it actually was. To finish third, fourth and fifth in the Premier League was a big credit to Sir Bobby.” For some who tasted football’s headiest brews the Championship was not their cup of tea, but Harper had a different perspective.

“I am loving it now.”.

“To be part of a happy dressing room in a team top of the league is fantastic. I relish the Championship games just as much as those memorable nights under the bright lights of the Champions League. Once the whistle goes it is 11 v 11 on a grass pitch with one ball, it doesn’t matter who you are playing. You should treat each game the same whether you are playing Barcelona, Juventus, Middlesbrough, Blackpool or Scunthorpe. Players love playing football and when you haven’t played in a long time, when you do start playing regularly again you realise just how much you have missed it.

“I was second choice to one of the best goalkeepers in the world and people have to realise what Shay (Given) did for this club. Some of those times I would not wish on anybody. To go three or four years hardly ever playing was hard.

“I remember playing in Slovakia (against Dubnica in the 2005 Intertoto Cup) in July and we won 3-1. I thought I had done well and I never played again for the rest of the season. The other night was my 200th career appearance, which is probably not great for somebody that is 35 next month, but three years ago I was nearer 100 than 200 so I can’t complain. You can’t let it get you down.”

“You would be amazed how many fans were looking forward to trips to the likes of Scunthorpe and Blackpool because it had been a while since they had been to those places,”.

“The truly hard- core fans can remember the last time they went to some of the clubs outside the top division. I was amazed how many were looking forward to the team hopefully winning more often than not.

“We are a united Newcastle United. Everyone is in it together and covering each other’s back. People talk about cliques in dressing rooms but ours is a good place to be because the banter is flying about.

“It is enjoyable to be in a happy environment where you are winning more often than not. That is something that has been missing for a while. The difficult characters have moved on but we are not under-estimating the task ahead of us.”.

I think he’s bang-on about some of the fans seeing trips to grounds in the second tier as an adventure, and I include myself in that group. Although I guess the novelty might easily wear off. And he’s right about the ‘winning’ factor giving everybody a lift, and despite some fairly average performances the fact we’re winning the majority of our games, sends most people supporters home happy enough.

More candid words at the end there from a player who remains at the club and casting aspersions on those who have been shipped out. And although from the outside looking in, we can imagine there were some difficult characters, the words in themselves are as much an ingredient of creating team spirit in the current camp as they are a product of it. Another rallying cry to the troops, as they head off to Watford for a difficult game, and I guess you can never have too many of them.

NUFCBlog Author: bowburnmag bowburnmag has written 234 articles on this blog.

Related Posts:

16 Responses

  1. Sorry BBM but your comment about having to sit and watch the greatest goalkeeper in the world, Given, is way off the mark.
    He was a great shot stopper but wouldnt and still wont command his box and teams exploit this. It happened to us time and time again and its no different at Man City where they are shipping them in from crosses with the back four huddled around him.
    He is a myth, to say he saved our bacon is ignoring the howlers and headers conceded, Harps is a better all round goalkeeper for me.

  2. BBM have to agree with you sometimes we are ugly to watch but winning is so sweet and seems to make everything worth while. I know last year I dreaded most games as I could only realistically hope that we didnt get a real good thumping, as there wasn’t much hope of winning games. Funny thing was at the start of this season it was hard to get used to winning.

  3. Does anyone no if the radio links will work on my iPhone as i’ll be at a wedding this arvo (dont want to go)

  4. According to the Mail, Nolan is out of today’s clash with ankle injury which will require a scan.

    The number of injuries is becoming a concern.

  5. Waldo – never can get it to stream to my iPhone. Tis a bugger.

    Nice article BBM – harps is the antithesis (poncey word entry) of some of the soulless money-chasers we’ve seen.

    OI Capello!! You watching, fella??

  6. i prefer harper nad always have to given. i recall last year when given was leaving everyone was of the same opionion… given is a world class shot stopper but can not command his own box or back four very well. it was always a cluster. We have lost good defenders at the end of last season and also (in theory) our best keeper but here we are with the best defence in England this term. I know its a league down and IF we go up it will be interesting to see how we cope as i can not see many additions to our squad TBH.
    I see that Nolan is out injured… wonder if CH will throw joey into the mix yet??

  7. With Nolan out too it’s not looking good for the next couple of games. Think we may get done today.

  8. bbb – I know what you’re saying about Given but I think those occasional flaws only prevented him from being what you’d call the perfect keeper. He was and still is ‘world class’ in the sense that most keepers have some flaw.

    I think Harper isn’t as instinctive a shot-stopper but I also think he too struggles with crosses and commanding his area. Though I’d argue the communication seems better between Harper and defenders.

    TGS – Just done an article on that.

  9. tonygreen… the only injury concern we really have in routledge and S Taylor i think as butt is wank and ameobi is no big deal. Barton is nearly back as is Loven. Barton will take Nolans slot straight away. I guess Tays will take over routledges place on the right wing maybe. It would be nice to have routledge back though i agree!

  10. Johno Toon says:
    February 27, 2010 at 11:18 am
    does that mean butt could start tgs?

    >>>>>>Thankfully Butt is also out…………..

  11. whumpie… i never vould see us winning today anyway, even with Nolan in team. It was always going to be a score draw and scrappy affair at best. i woukld take the draw TBH.

  12. Harper a better keeper for me too. It´s about time people start to realize that. Football is a simple sport really but people can´t be fooled by good looking saves. It´s more to being a goalkeeper than that. It´s more important not to get those shots at you. One of the things that helps with getting less shots and headers at you is commanding the box. Instead of them getting a header or even a shot. Or a defender heading it towards own goal! Then the keeper could command that ball. Even if the defender gets to head it away he´s opening up for a shot outside the box.

    You´ve got to see how important it is to command your box!

  13. Whumpie sorry mate but that word doesn’t qualify as it is the second time you have used it, recidive repetition isn’t allowed. :)

  14. Well thats ruined my day – I agree with BigBadBob – off to have a few pints to get over that – by all accounts the games on satelite – off to a pub to watch it – so it may well be streamed online too.