In today’s footballing world, that is full of badge kissing one week and transfer requests the next, it can be easy to become cynical about the loyalty of players. If ever I am feeling particularly down in the dumps about this particular subject, I look towards one man – Steve Harper. Here is a man who for the best part of his 20 year career at St James’ Park, he played second fiddle to the likes of Shay Given, and more recently, Tim Krul. Here is a man who was undoubtedly Premier League quality, and would have easily started for a whole host of mid-table teams when he was in his prime, indeed he was our own No 1 keeper when we first won promotion back to the Premier League.
So if there is one player who knows a thing or two about what it means to wear the Newcastle United shirt, and what the fans expect from you when you don the black and white stripes, it is this man. He had this to say to Luke Edwards from the Daily Telegraph,
“I’ve said to an infinite amount of players when they signed, just make sure you give everything you’ve got,” he added. “It doesn’t matter which country you’re from, what colour your skin is, they want you to be committed to the shirt. That’s the minimum they ask for, but you also have to have a certain character to succeed.
“I think a few players got a shock last season. It’s not only British players who get this club. It’s not a case of ‘you’re foreign and don’t understand’. Look at [Fabricio} Coloccini, Jonas [Gutierrez], they get it the same way Kevin Nolan did.
“Last year was a struggle and whenever you lose home games 3-0 to Sunderland and 6-0 to Liverpool, it’s going to open a few wounds and it did. It made a few people realise what’s needed to play here. It made a few players realise the size and the scale of the football club, as well as the situation we were in.
“I think it was a huge wake up call for some people. Like others before them, it’s now up to the players who have come in over the last couple of years to show they can handle the weight of the shirt.
“When you’re here, you have to give 100% to Newcastle United, not worry about whether you are going to get a move elsewhere.”
No doubt there will be Newcastle United fans the world over who will read comments from Steve like “certain character to succeed…” and the “weight of the shirt” and fully understand what Steve Harper is talking about, and these statements will resonate with them to the core. It is all part of the DNA of being a Newcastle United fan and, as was the case with Harper, being a Newcastle United player.
Perhaps it is about time that some of our players really listened to these words, stand up and realise what a historic footballing institution they represent, and how much respect they ought to treat it with.
I won’t even try to apply the same principle to Alan Pardew, Joe Kinnear and Mike Ashley. That ship has sailed, don’t you think?
What do you think of Harper’s strong words to the players? Is he right? Do you need to be of a certain mindset to succeed at this club?
Comments welcome and expected. I get sad and lonely if you don’t comment…