Steve Harper will end a 20-year association with Newcastle United this Summer after being told his contract will not be extended. Instead of hanging up his boots, the 38 year old is going to look for a player/coach role at a new club for next season.
It’s a sad moment for Newcastle fans who have watched Harper since 1993. He’s only made 155 league appearances in this time, due to being second choice behind four other goalkeepers in his time at St James’ Park. Pavel Srnicek, Shaka Hislop, Shay Given and now Tim Krul have all kept Harper out of the side, but his commitment to the club and performances when called upon have always been exemplary. A fantastic role model, Steve Harper will be missed.
Here’s a quick overview of his best memories in a Newcastle shirt:
1. 1999 FA Cup Final
Newcastle were beaten by Manchester United on the day, but for Harper to play in an FA Cup final is a phenomenal achievement. This game at the end of perhaps one of his best seasons for the club, with manager Ruud Gullit deeming him more than a worthy match for previous number one Shay Given.
2. Newcastle 1-0 Juventus, St James’ Park, 2002
Harper played a key role in this famous victory, making a string of saves to earn a clean sheet. This win was crucial in allowing Newcastle to progress through the group stages of the UEFA Champions League that year.
3. 50 consecutive starts
After a January move to Manchester City for Irishman Given, Harper was finally first choice goalkeeper at the age of 33. He was rewarded for his patience with a run of over 50 games in a row, the milestone reached in a 6-1 victory over Barnsley on March 6th 2010. While this time does include Newcastle’s relegation, Harper continued to put in good performances. This remains his longest run of starts.
After the hurt of the previous Summer, Newcastle’s title winning Championship season of 2009/10 was a high for Harper. He played in all but one of the matches in the league that season, as Newcastle sealed the title with a 2-0 win at Plymouth.
5. Back in Europe
This season began with Harper handing over the number 1 shirt to Tim Krul, and himself taking 37. He must of known then his time was coming to an end, especially with the club signing Rob Elliot as further backup to Dutchman Krul. However, he’s made three appearances in the Europa League this season, and it must be a source of great pride for the veteran that he’s yet again played in Europe after sticking with the club through some troubled times. Harper’s first European game in a number of years came against Atromitos F.C, his first appearance of any kind for 15 months.
On behalf of all Newcastle United fans and from all of us at The Spectators View, we’d like to wish Steve Harper all the best in whatever future past he does, and thank him for all the memories and years of dedicated service.
What are your fondest memories from Harper’s time at the club? Do you think he could come back in future as a coach? Get in touch, either via the comments section or by reaching us on Twitter.
By Harry Aitkenhead