NEWCASTLE United’s Steve Harper is eyeing a career in coaching – but the goalkeeper isn’t ready to hang up his gloves just yet.
The club’s longest-serving player hasn’t made a first-team appearance in an injury-hit campaign.
But Harper – who has played 190 games for Newcastle in a career spanning 14 seasons – still has a year left on his contract.
While the 37-year-old – who had a loan spell at Brighton and Hove Albion earlier this season – is taking his coaching qualifications, he still feels he has a lot to offer on the playing field, be it at St James’s Park, or elsewhere.
“I’ve got another year on my contract, and I love to play,” Harper told the Gazette. “I loved it at Brighton. After a couple of games, you feel really up to speed.
“After Christmas, when you’re looking to get another opportunity, my knee kept blowing up.
“I didn’t need surgery, I just needed six weeks of rest. I was back before time, as I always am, as I’m a dreadful patient.
“I think I’m on 190 appearances, and I’m available if needed.”
Tim Krul succeeded Harper as Newcastle’s first-choice goalkeeper this season, and the 24-year-old has been outstanding between the posts in Newcastle’s charge towards Europe.
Harper himself has a wealth of European experience, having played in the Champions League under Sir Bobby Robson earlier in his career, and also featured in several UEFA Cup campaigns.
And the Easington-born player would love to see the club again competing with Europe’s elite.
“They’re doing really well – it’s great to see them flying high,” said Harper.
Harper’s looking forward to passing on the lessons he learnt under the likes of Sir Bobby on to future generations.
Already working towards his UEFA B Licence, Harper’s focused on staying in the game when he retires from playing.
“It’s always something I dismissed, but as you get older, I might just be tempted to have a go,” he said.
“I’ll be a qualified coach and goalkeeping coach by the time I finish. You just see what opportunities arise.
“The best managers I’ve worked with know which players need harsh words, and who needs encouraging.
“You take the best bits. I quoted Sir Bobby in a training session. Having had 20 years of it, you pick up the best bits.
“Having that experience, it’s great to be able to pass it on to youngsters.
“When you’re eight or nine, you don’t have the attitude some professional players have. Kids are like sponges – you tell them something, and they take it in.”
Harper also recalls the half-time team talk given by United manager Alan Pardew last season when his team trailed Arsenal by four goals.
After a few choice words, his players went out and claimed a 4-4 draw.
Harper said: “I said something along the lines of ‘if anybody puts the white flag up, we could get done 10-0 here’. The manager just reminded us of our responsibilities as professionals, and it certainly worked. It was a day nobody who was there will forget.
“I’ve not had to really turn on the hairdryer yet, but sometimes you need to give them a little reminder. It’s part of the learning experience.”
Harper’s recently coached two teams at Newcastle School for Boys in Gosforth, where his son James is a pupil, to cup final victories, with one especially memorable.
“I took the Year 5 down to Durham,” he said. “It was really tough, but we beat Sunderland in the final with a golden goal winner by a certain James Harper!
“’Harper scores Newcastle winner against Sunderland’ was a headline I’d longed for for 20 years!”