Sir Bobby hopes Harper will stay

Last updated : 23 June 2003 By Martyn Elliott

The Easington born shot-stopper is highly-rated among Premiership managers and Birmingham City boss Steve Bruce is believed to be interested in signing him, should he indicate that he wants to leave.

Harper could be forgiven for harbouring thoughts of a move as a goalkeeper of his calibre deserves better than reserve team football, although Shay Given is first choice on merit given the overall quality of his performances in the past six seasons.

Sir Bobby told the Evening Chronicle: "Steve Harper has just signed a new contract and we are happy about that.

"We have been saying for some time that in him and Shay Given we have the best pair of goalkeepers in the Premiership and nothing has changed in this respect.

"To tell the truth, there is not much to choose between them, but of course Shay has been absolutely outstanding in recent seasons.

"But Steve is terrific back-up - just the back-up we need in fact. He didn't get his chance last season because Shay did so well - and not only that, he managed to avoid any injury."

I certainly wouldn’t begrudge Harper the opportunity to move on but from a purely selfish point of view would like him to stay, as at the moment we are one of the few Premiership clubs who needn’t worry about a goalkeeping injury. It is unlikely that Sir Bobby would be able to find a replacement of Harper’s calibre to act as Shay’s understudy, so his departure would definitely weaken the squad as they prepare for another 50-game season.