Tony Caig

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

If you thought Steve Harper must have been frustrated at his lack of game time at Newcastle United, consider spending three years at St. James' Park but never playing a first-team game like Tony Caig.

The Cumbrian keeper, who was with the Magpies between 2003 and 2006, eventually left the Club for Vancouver Whitecaps in search of more opportunities - and has revealed that Harper helped him to make that difficult decision.

Harper, of course, remained on Tyneside for 20 years and although he made 199 appearances in all competitions, he would have made many more but for the form of Shay Given and then Tim Krul.

As he joined the queue of former goalkeeping colleagues to pay tribute to the outgoing 38-year-old, Caig told "As a fellow keeper you work closely together on a daily basis and he was always a good professional. He trained properly, looked after himself and always thought about his game and how he could improve.

"Obviously patience was a key thing for him because Shay, who was playing exceptionally well at the time, was in front of him but whenever he was called upon he always did well.

"Looking back, he should probably have got more games but it was his Club. He's from the area, he loved the Club and wanted to be there so I've got a lot of respect for Harps. He stuck it out when a lot of players might have decided to move on."

But Caig, who had been the first-choice keeper at Carlisle and Blackpool before moving to Newcastle, eventually started to get itchy feet after having to settle for Reserve team run-outs under Sir Bobby Robson and Graeme Souness. 

"I got to a point where I needed to leave to get first team football and there was the option of staying on and extending my contract for another year but I decided to make the jump," he said.

"I had options to go and play League One and stuff in England, then I had the chance to go to Vancouver. Me and Steve used to talk about it and he said 'I think you should do the Vancouver one. You've done all the League One stuff, you know what it's about, go and try something different.'

"I was thinking along those lines anyway but he was saying 'you look at League One, you probably do that for a couple of years and after that you might be thinking 'that's me done.''

"His advice was to go and do it and it was strange really, coming from someone who stuck at one Club for so long. But it did the trick - I went out there and it revitalised me, and I played on for a good few years after that."