Steve Harper

By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter

 

Steve Harper is preparing to start his 20th pre-season at the Club, but the veteran has already began plans for when he finally hangs up his goalkeeping gloves.

United's squad of players return to their Benton-based Training Centre next week following a summer break, and among them will be 37-year-old Harper, who first went through the fitness testing and endurance drills way back in 1993, having arrived from Seaham Red Star.

It will be no different this year for Harper, who will compete with Tim Krul, Rob Elliot and Fraser Forster for a place in between the sticks come the first Barclays Premier League fixture against Tottenham Hotspur midway through August.

However, the stopper has proved he also has a promising career in the coaching side of the game if he wants it, by guiding two Newcastle School For Boys football teams to trophies recently.

"My son attends the school and at the moment they are really pushing their sport, so when they asked me to get involved for the football term, I was more than happy to do so," Harper explained to nufc.co.uk.

"It's been great, I enjoyed it. I had a guy called Lee Sterry helping me and it culminated in two tournament wins.

"Firstly, we went down to Bow, which is the Year 5 tournament for under 10s, and won that.

"That was tough, but all the boys did really well and my son scored the winner against Sunderland in the final. 'Harper scores Newcastle winner against Sunderland' was the headline I've been wanting for myself for 20 years!

"That was pretty special. I was going to take him off because he was playing out wide but was forgetting his defensive responsibilities. But just when I was thinking about it, he popped up at the back post and put the finishing touch to a great team move.

"We then went to Yarm for the six-a-side tournament for the under 9s and were phenomenal. We played really well and beat Royal Grammar School, from Gosforth, 3-0 in the final, which was probably the best performance we've put in."

Those few months at the school have clearly given Harper a taste for coaching, and having worked under some of the best in the business during his time on Tyneside, he admits it is something he is keen to explore further in the future.

"It's great for Newcastle School For Boys to ask me to get involved, and it is great of the Club to encourage me to do that," said the long-serving keeper.

"I've picked the brains of Willie Donachie (Reserve team manager) a few times about coaching sessions and it's been fantastic.

"I had quite a long spell out injured last season and I'm a bad patient, so it was great to be able to throw myself into something and get involved while I was out.

"It is something I will hopefully build on next season and get more involved in.

"I think I've always been a frustrated coach. I'm always asking why we are doing certain things just to pick their brains really.

"I have been fortunate to work under some great manager. Sir Bobby is obviously the stand-out one, Kevin Keegan as well, and Alan Pardew.

"By coaching kids you get to learn who needs encouragement and who needs a reminder of what's expected of them. The management at that level can be frustrating but it is also very rewarding as well.

"I'm not so sure about going into management, as the pressure of results and all that is phenomenal, but I like the idea of coaching. And you never know, if you go into coaching then ultimately that could happen. I'm ruling anything in or out at this stage.

"I've got myself back fully fit now, I'll keep my options open and see what happens."

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