Steve Harper

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Returning Steve Harper believes his one-month loan spell with Brighton was beneficial for all parties.

The goalkeeper was back at Newcastle's training centre in Benton on Monday, after playing five games for the Seagulls in the Championship.

He kept two clean sheets and believes he is sharper as a result of his time at the Amex Stadium, having not made a first-team appearance for the Magpies since undergoing knee surgery following last season's 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa.

And - on the same day that Kazenga LuaLua completed a permanent move to the south coast club - Harper spoke exclusively to nufc.co.uk on his first day back at the club he has served since 1993.

"It was a very, very beneficial month, and very enjoyable," the 36-year-old said.

"It suited all parties; it was good for Brighton, good for me and it was good for Newcastle for me to get some games under my belt and get me up to speed.

"I played five games in a month, which obviously I wouldn't have got here, and four games in the first fortnight, so it was good.

"And what a fantastic set-up it is at Brighton. It's a great stadium with super fans and a very impressive young manager in Gus Poyet. I was really very impressed with him and his football philosophy, and I'm sure he's destined to go on to get a top job and do very, very well in management."

Harper made his Albion debut in a televised game against West Ham - and was beaten by former United team-mate Kevin Nolan, who scored the only goal of the game.

"I hadn't played for six months so it was good," he said. "Nobby, one of my best mates, scored against me in the first game and it was a clever finish from Kevin.

"But in the first four games I only conceded two goals, with a couple of clean sheets in there and a couple of busy games.

"My second home game against Barnsley was a busy one. Eighteen months ago, when we won that league, the balls were like bricks - they didn't move much - but they're like balloons now! They move all over the place, so I had a couple of testers against Barnsley."

His final game for the Seagulls came at the weekend, against Southampton, where his afternoon mirrored that of Tim Krul in the Newcastle net.

"Saturday was a difficult game against the league leaders, with two penalties conceded," he said. "There were three goals, two of them penalties - the same as against Manchester City!

"We did very well in the first half but when you go away from home, the first 15 minutes of the second half is vital so to go 2-0 down and down to ten men made it a very tough last 35 minutes. It ended up 3-0 and it could have been more."

As a result of his knee operation earlier this year, Harper requires routine injections every six months and will undergo the first of them this week, meaning he will miss training for a few days.

But he is ready to challenge Krul and Rob Elliot for the number one shirt - while he also revealed he could be open to another temporary move away from Tyneside.

He said: "I've seen a few of the lads, so it was good to see them and be back around the place. It's hard when you're out on loan - I needed to go out and play some games and get myself up to speed in case anything happens to Tim, but it's hard being away from the family when you've got a young child

"I know the loan deadline is Thursday, so if the right opportunity came up somewhere I might do another month before Christmas, but the priority now is to get the jab in my knee and rest it for a couple of days, then get cracking again back here.

"A month ago I hadn't played since April so I've had five games now and I feel good, I feel sharp."

During his time with Brighton, Harper continued to follow Newcastle's performances, and despite seeing their unbeaten start to the season come to an end on Saturday, he has been impressed with what he saw.

"I've been watching the games and the lads have been outstanding," he said.

"The manager and the lads have done a fantastic job and got some great results. Winning at Stoke and digging out a great result against Everton shows the fantastic team spirit that we have here.

"Obviously Manchester City's a very tough place to go, but there was no shame in the performance. We put up a good fight against them and we've got two more very tough games now. But looking at the way we performed on Saturday, we have nothing to fear at Old Trafford on Saturday."