Harper looking to take chance

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Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper is looking forward to making his first Premiership start for almost 18 months.

With first-choice number one Shay Given recovering from surgery to his bowel, Harper is set to line up between the posts against Liverpool on Wednesday.

And the 31-year-old, whose last league start came against Tottenham, is determined to grasp his chance.

He is drawing hope from a short spell in the 1999-2000 season, when he replaced Given as the Magpies' regular keeper.

"It was a long time ago, a long time ago, but I did keep Shay out of the team for a while there and got injured myself," he recalled.

"I have got an opportunity now to go in and make it hard as possible for the manager when Shay is fit and give him a decision to make.

"I wish him a full and speedy recovery, but I have just got to go in and give it my best shot and make it as tough as possible for the manager.

"I am sure the manager would like that hard decision to make."

Harper has previously dubbed Given 'Lazarus' because of his astonishing ability to recovery quickly from injuries, and the two keepers are still enjoying the joke despite the Irishman's problem.

Harper explained: "I got a text message from him yesterday morning just saying, 'Thanks mate, I am a lot better, I have got more tubes sticking out of me than Ido not know what. I am having a fitness test on Wednesday morning', so he is obviously in good spirits.

"I spoke to him yesterday afternoon and he was a bit drowsy, but he was comfortable and that is the important thing."