Date: 18th September 2006 at 1:19pm
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… Then left the field at Upton Park on a stretcher, handing the pressure to his understudy, Steve Harper.

The 30-year-old Irishman offered the most frank assessment of his side’s capitulation against Fulham last weekend when he admitted they had defended at times less effectively than a Sunday League side.

The goalkeeper’s shirt is handed to Harper as Newcastle face a critical period of the season..

Given: ‘We have got a couple of difficult weeks coming up. We are away to Liverpool, at home to Everton and then away to Manchester United.

‘The next couple of weeks is going to be very tough – but that is why you play in the Premiership. You expect tough games and that is how it is going to be.’

So this is the moment Harper has been waiting for. Given is out for at least six weeks and the Easington-born ‘keeper is back as number 1. But, is he up to it? Hardly any match experience for years takes it’s toll and now we will see what the man is made of.

He said last season that he had been dogged by his squad number. ‘Wearing the number 13 seems to have backfired. I took it as a joke at first, but then I started to wonder.’

No unlucky number 13 this time, so no excuses. The man who has been on the bench more than any other Newcastle player in history finally gets his chance.