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Bid to hold on to Harper

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Glenn Roeder will seek talks with Steve Harper in a bid to convince Newcastle's under-employed goalkeeper he is pivotal to his plans at St James's Park.

 

But with Shay Given having committed his future to United until 2011, the Irishman's accomplished deputy will return to the club for pre-season training this month well aware that another long spell on the sidelines is beckoning.

 

Harper has started just two Premiership games in the last five seasons and, having been denied the chance to make a loan move by Graeme Souness last term, a player who craves first-team football looks certain to resume his familiar role on the substitutes' bench.

 

The former Seaham Red Star favourite admitted in December that if Given signed a new five-year contract, he would be forced to reassess his own future in the North-East.

 

And with Roeder planning to discuss the matter with the player when he returns from his short break in Turkey, it is a situation the Magpies manager is clearly determined to address as soon as possible.

 

Having carried out a thorough audit of his first-team squad, Roeder knows that despite Given's remarkable fitness record in recent years, it is vital to ensure he has sufficient cover for the impressive Irishman.

 

The club's goalkeeping ranks have already been weakened this summer by Tony Caig's departure to Canada to play in the United Soccer League with Vancouver Whitecaps.

 

Tim Krul has furthered his growing reputation with some excellent performances for Holland at the Toulon Under-21 Tournament. But although the highly-rated Dutchman will be confident of receiving a first-team squad number for the first time at St James's Park, Krul's inexperience means he will continue his education in the reserves next term.

 

Roeder knows he could have no better cover for Given than Harper - a player who, given the dearth of English keepers in the Premiership, must wonder if he would have been in contention for a World Cup place had he not spent years in the considerable shadow of his talented team-mate.

 

Such has been his inactivity since his longest run in the United goal seven seasons ago, the deep frustrations he expressed last season are understandable. Speaking in December, the 31-year-old said: "I will be 32 when my contract is up and I don't want to retire at 36 having only played 130 games. I don't want to tell my children that when I retire."

 

Roeder is sure to sympathise but, with Given's talents, the Newcastle boss cannot promise Premiership football. Whether he can assuage the obvious concerns Harper has remains to be seen and the best Roeder can hope for is that he can persuade his ambitious keeper to see out his present deal before moving on.

 

The United boss will hope to have all such matters ironed out before pre-season training and, having already begun to speak to those whose futures are uncertain, Roeder will return from his holidays determined to start his restructuring plans in earnest.

 

Roeder has already met with James Milner - a summer target for Aston Villa, Wigan and Bolton - and is understood to have spoken to Nicky Butt after his loan at Birmingham.

 

But his hopes of retaining the services of Michael Chopra appear to be fading. A player offered a 12-month contract by Newcastle is a target for Barnsley and Cardiff, with sources in South Wales last night insisting the Bluebirds are close to agreeing personal terms with the 22-year-old.

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We should teach him to speak with an Irish accent and see if we can't flog him on as Given. If he's got any sense he'll leave though. Given the amount of games Given normally misses, we could probably get by with this Krul kid.

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