Harper bows out on a high
Steve Harper has admitted it would be just like Newcastle to go and win a trophy without him next year after his 20-year roller-coaster ride on Tyneside.
- Related Content
The 38-year-old goalkeeper saw the curtain come down on his Magpies career as he made his 199th appearance for the club in Sunday's 1-0 Barclays Premier League defeat by Arsenal.
Harper's relative lack of action over two decades is due in part to the brilliance of Shay Given and Tim Krul, but their loyal deputy can count Champions League football and an FA Cup final start amongst his achievements.
He will look on from afar next season as he enters a new phase of his career, and the club which has become a huge part of his life will never be far from his thoughts.
Harper said: "Wouldn't it be typical if they go and win something after my 20 years here?
"But I'll be there cheering them on - provided I'm not playing against them, obviously.
"It would be fantastic. All this club needs now is a trophy and it would be an amazing day - and one where I would be there in amongst it celebrating."
The departing Harper spoke to the team-mates he is leaving behind in the dressing after the game on what proved an emotional day for him, and his message was clear.
He said: "The manager presented me with a big montage of the 20 years and they all took the mickey a little bit about some of the pictures.
"Twenty years at this club does that to you, that's all I could say.
"I just said to the lads, 'You have seen today what a great football club this is. All people want to see is people pulling on that shirt and giving their all day in, day out for this club, which is what I have done and that's the response you get'.
"Hopefully the lads will respond to that next season."
There were signs of a response yesterday as the Gunners, who needed to win to ensure a top-four finish and the chance to secure a 16th successive season of Champions League football, had things far from their own way.
They ultimately prevailed after Laurent Koscielny stabbed a 52nd-minute shot past the helpless Harper seven minutes after the break.
The keeper said: "I was disappointed we lost the game, but it was a much better performance. We owed the fans a response.
"We were playing against a very good team, a very hungry team and we contained them pretty well.
"We were compact and organised, which is something I tried to help by being multi-lingual on a football pitch, and the lads responded well.
"Sadly, we didn't start the second half very well and Arsenal got their goal and hung on to it because we had them under pressure a little late on."
But if the result was not what Harper would have wanted on his big day, everything else was, and he was close to tears when the clock ticked into the 37th-minute - his shirt number - and St James' rose to acclaim a stalwart.
He said: "Somebody said it might happen, but you are concentrating on the game that much, you forget about it. And then that happens and it was quite incredible.
"I started to get a little bit wobbly then and I had a one v one with [Lukas] Podolski and he smashed the ball between my legs, and that sobered me right up and got me out of that little pickle I was in.
"But it was incredible. It's something I will never, ever forget and I will certainly cherish that moment."