Steve Harper is ready to push for the number one spot at Newcastle next season, with the keeper insisting he will be injury-free when the Toon take on Arsenal in their opening match.
Harper missed the end of last season due to a knee injury, and didn’t feature in Alan Pardew’s line up against Columbus Crew in a pre-season friendly on Tuesday. Pardew said he didn’t want to risk Harper being injured again on the plastic pitch.
But while Tim Krul and Fraser Forster are also fighting for the number one keeper’s spot, Harper is hopeful that he will be fit and ready in August to be in the mix for the position as well.
“We have a tough start to the season, and hopefully everybody can be fit and available, and give the manager a headache,” Harper told the Journal.
“It was a difficult surface at Orlando that we weren’t used to. Once we saw the surface, it made sense for me to let one of the young lads get exposed to that pitch! I’ve played here before.”
Harper revealed that the operation on his knee, which put him out of action last April, will help soothe the injury in the long term. “My knee had been an issue for a few years, and it was just a case of playing on until we were safe, and going in and getting the operation,” the stopper said.
“It gave Tim an opportunity to play the last half-a-dozen games once we had established our Premier League status.”
But now, Harper insists he feels better than ever, as Newcastle look to continue building their side with long-term hopes of challenging in Europe once more. “I feel good and strong – my shoulder and knee are fine,” he added.
“We’ve got a good medical department here, who have given me a programme to work on with my knee, and it feels better than ever.”
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