STEVE Harper has revealed his new nickname at Newcastle United – Cocoon!
Harper will make his first appearance for the club since April last year tonight when he takes to the field against Atromitos in the Europa League.
The 37-year-old seemingly faced an uncertain future at the club after a season without a first-team game.
Birmingham City were among the clubs keen on Harper, who has a wealth of European experience from first-team career at Newcastle which spans 14 season.
However, Harper is still in manager Alan Pardew’s plans.
For his part, the Easington-born player admits a chat with Pardew on the first day of pre-season “relit the fire” inside him.
And he hasn’t looked back since, with goalkeeper coach Andy Woodman having dubbed him “Cocoon” after the sci-fi film where a group of elderly people are rejuvenated by aliens.
“I was stood at the coffee machine, and he came over and told me to see him before training,” Harper said.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but he said that there would be three games in the first week of the season, and there was an opportunity to play in the game tonight.
“He said if I wanted it, to go and get it. I went into to see him, and he relit the fire.
“Whenever I’ve spoken to him, he’s been great.”
Harper was troubled by a niggling knee problem last year, and he also had a loan spell at Brighton and Hove Albion.
However, it’s so far so good for Harper, who feels fitter than he has for some time, hence the new nickname.
“Last year was tough with my knee – it was blowing up all the time,” added Harper.
“I wasn’t fully fit, but this year we’ve had seven pre-season games, and I’ve missed one of them.
“Woody has been calling me “Cocoon”, as he thinks I’ve reversed the ageing process. I really do feel the best I have for a long time.”