STEVE Harper hasn’t played a game for Newcastle United this season – but his influence is still being felt on the pitch.
And United manager Alan Pardew has paid tribute to the goalkeeper for his part in the club’s remarkable season.
Harper – the club’s longest serving player – is still an influential figure in the dressing room.
The 37-year-old was on standby to go on the bench against Stoke City on Saturday with first-choice Tim Krul struggling with a back injury and Rob Elliot pencilled in to made his Premier League debut for the club if he failed to prove his fitness.
As it was, Krul made Pardew’s starting XI, and Harper watched from the sidelines as he kept a clean sheet in a 3-0 win at St James’s Park, the victory moving United into the top four.
For the first time in 14 seasons, Harper – who has made 190 appearances for the club, and has a wealth of European experience – might not play a competitive game for United.
However, the Easington-born player hasn’t let his frustration at a lack of games get the better of him, and he’s been willing his team-mates on towards European football.
“Everyone’s pulling together,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“Even Harps, who hasn’t been in and around it. It was touch and go whether he was going to be on the bench.
“He was pulling for the team.
“I’m proud of him – he showed great professionalism. He sets that kind of example that sets the scene for everybody.
“They have great belief and confidence in each other, and the subs accept their roles. I can only pick 11, and the guys who missed out on the bench accept their roles.”
Harper – who has a year left on his United deal – is taking his badges with a view to moving into coaching.
However, Harper – who played in the Champions League in the Sir Bobby Robson era – doesn’t intend to hang up his gloves just yet.