LONG-serving goalkeeper Steve Harper is 196 not out at Newcastle United – and chasing a double century.
Harper’s returned to the first-team picture at St James’s Park this season after a year on the sidelines.
And the 37-year-old will be between the posts for the Wear-Tyne derby against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on October 21 if No1 Tim Krul fails to prove his fitness.
Harper has been dubbed “Cocoon” by goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman after rolling back the years this season.
The Easington-born player, in his 15th first-team season at the club, would love to make it to 200 career appearances for Newcastle.
As well as Krul, Harper faces competition from Rob Elliot, who has impressed this season but is sidelined with a groin problem.
With the club’s fixture list congested by Europa League fixtures, United manager Alan Pardew has rotated his goalkeepers, and there will be more games for Harper and Elliot over the coming months.
And Harper – who made his 196th career appearance for the club in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Manchester United – is hopeful of reaching a career landmark in the final year of his present contract.
“I’d like to get to 300,” Harper said.
“But I can’t see it happening at my age!
“That (200 appearances) would be nice – that’s certainly a landmark I’d like to get to.
“Tim’s comeback is not too far away, but we do have a lot of games. We’ve got a long season ahead of us.
“Robbie’s made big strides forward in this last month or two. Those performances will do him the world of good.”
SEE Saturday’s Mail for full story