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There aren't enough like Stevie Harper left in the game

By Lee Ryder on Oct 5, 11 04:28 PM


It was only a reserve team game and it was only a professional footballer being paid to do what is inserted into his contract - but when Steve Harper put in an impressive performance against Bolton reserves it seemed like so much more than that.

Last week, the media was dominated by Carlos Tevez's refusal to come off the bench and help his team when in need against Bayern Munich.

Quite rightly, Tevez was hammered for his actions (or lack of them), but in Harper's display at Leyland's County Ground the handful of Toon fans who made the journey to Lancashire on a chilly evening witnessed something we don't see enough of in football.

If Tevez got the stick, the opposite should apply to Stevie Harper.

It would have been easy for Harper to refuse to play reserve team football at 36 and it would be easy for him to slap in a transfer request.

In the old days, you used to get a thing called loyalty in football.

This entailed staying at one club for your whole career and turning your time at one place into an education to use your knowledge to help out every department within the institution.

This year we've seen players leave Newcastle who can't have it their own way whether it be contracts, wages or selection.

Harper applies to the other group.

He's lived most of his life as a Newcastle player.

He's waited for his chance, helped the club bounce back from relegation, turns up at dozens of functions for charities, takes in most reserve team games and is generally black and white to the core.

Like a piece of Whitley Bay rock, if you chopped him up, he'd have Newcastle United written inside him all the way through.

Against Bolton, there was one voice booming out into the chilly October air - and it was Harper.

He domninated his box, rallied the young players throughout and even pulled off a few saves to earn a clean sheet.

In short he played the game as if it was an FA Cup final.

Afterwards, like the ultimate professional he is, he stood in a cold car park and gave his post-match views on the game.

Never has Harper failed to realise the importance of interviews during his time at NUFC and the responsibility to provide an explanation to the fans.

Harper is a good honest pro and Newcastle could do with more like him.

Surely, there should be a coaching role for him at Newcastle long after retirement - that's if somebody else doesn't realise that he simply oozes potential and football know-how.

For now Harper is happy to play the game with Newcastle and help Rob Elliot and Tim Krul progress in their careers, something that will benefit the Magpies in the future.

In the modern game, there are plenty who kiss badges, talk about their love for the club and then promptly go and pull on another club's colours - and we've seen a handful of those leave Tyneside recently.

But Harper's love seems to be as genuine as it comes for Newcastle United.

Anybody in Leyland last night could see, hear and feel it.

7 Comments

Little Davey said:

Well said Lee, agree 100%
He's been harshley accused of showing no ambition by some fans due to the fact he was happy to be 2nd choice keeper to Shay Given for so many years, where he could and probably should have been 1st choice at many other clubs.
In fairness this is hard to understand, as he could also have been in the England set-up too.
I still think he is better than the current England keepers, even at 36.
Some of us appreciate the loyalty shown to NUFC, afterall, if I were good enough to play, there's only one club I'd want to play for too.
I hope he gets to play against Blackburn in the next round of the cup and on as far as we can go. Hail Hail.

Mandy Robson said:

Have to feel a bit for Harper. He's been loyal and played No2 to Shay Given for such a long time. We can't fault Krul though. Just hope Harper stays!

Saikat Sanyal said:

Steve Harper is the only Geordie legend we have after Big Al!Had Krul not been performing so well recently,I would've wanted Pardew to replace him with Harper immediately!!Also I can't see why he cannot get an England cap when Capello can call up keepers like David Stockdale up from the Championship!!

RAFMAG said:

Totally agree with everything everyone has said above. Harper's loyalty could never be in questions, there is a little part of me (a very small part) wishes he had gone to another club rather than being labeled No2 for so long. Dont get me wrong, dont want him to leave but such loyalty deserves much more recognition and he deserves to be on thr pitch playing 1st team football everyweek. A gentleman and a Scholar through out...hail

StoneyNUFC said:

Hi Lee,

Great article clearly underlining my own feelings.

People like that are vital to any decent club, in my opinion. Just look at Man U, Liverpool et al; if it wasn't for key people staying with the club and playing an active role in it's running/operation would they still be where they are? It's certainly arguable that they wouldn't.

Keep up the good work!

Wor Kid said:

When he finally retires and sits down and thinks about the highlights of his career... theres not going to be many is there?

the man was loyal... but he was getting paid handsomely to be loyal on the bench.

Vesa Suhonen said:

Steven is real old school player. I love his loyalty, they don't make players like him anymore.

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Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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