LONG-serving goalkeeper Steve Harper’s back in the fold – after a meeting with Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew.
Harper didn’t make a first-team appearance for the club last season after losing his No1 shirt to Tim Krul.
However, Harper – whose contract runs out in a year’s time – has been reassured he still has a significant role to play this season by Pardew, whose mindful of the demands a gruelling Europa League group campaign would place on his squad.
The 37-year-old is expected to be in goal tonight when Newcastle take on Braga in the Guadiana Torneo on Portugal’s Algarve.
“On the first morning we came in, even before training, I had a really good, positive chat with the manager, which was probably what I needed,” Harper told the Gazette.
“It was a very good piece of man-management on the first morning.
“We had a really good chat, and I’ve got the bit between my teeth again.
“Despite my age, I feel good and sharp. My knee feels good, and I’m enjoying it again,
“Obviously, with the uncertainty over the summer, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m going into the last year of my contract as well.
“It was great to know the manager still thinks about you and that you’re still part of the plans.
“We’ve got a lot of games this season. Hopefully, we’ll come through the Europa League qualifier, and get into that.
“Tim had a good season last year. He rightly got the No1 shirt – he’s the man in possession.
“He’s done very well. He’s a young lad with a great attitude, and is still listening and learning every day. He’s got a fantastic future ahead of him.
“It’s important to keep him on his toes to push him on the top level. That’s what we’ve got to try to do.”
Harper’s choice of the No37 squad number this season raised eyebrows, as it was the jersey handed to Robert Lee when he was banished to the reserves by Ruud Gullit.
“It’s Rob Lee’s old number too, but it’s my age,” said Harper. “I spoke to the kit man the first morning, and he said there were a few available.
“I said seeing as I’m 37 I’ll have that – whether they’ll let me change it in mid-March to 38, I don’t know!”