Date: 2nd January 2006 at 10:49am
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Steve Harper at last gets his chance at first-team football in the Premiership as he lines up for the match against Middlesbrough today, after playing the bridesmaid for many years to Shay Given.

Shay Given’s hand injury gives Harper his first Premiership start under Graeme Souness and the chance to impress.

Harper: ‘We’re not sure how bad the damage is to Shay’s thumb, but it swelled up straight away. He has made some recoveries in the past, but I don’t think he will recover in time for Monday’s game.

‘You don’t wish anybody to get injured, but it looks as though I’ll be playing on Monday and I hope to go into the side and do a good solid job. I had wanted to go on loan in January because reserve team football isn’t ideal, certainly not when you’ve done it for as long as I have. I want to play first team football and get some games under my belt.

‘If I’d been on loan and Shay got injured, I’d have been called back straight away. I’ve got a game to prepare for on Monday and I’ll concentrate on that for the time being. We don’t know how long he is going to be out. The lad has stood on his hand so hopefully for Shay it’s just a bit of bruising.

‘I can’t go on loan now because this opportunity has come up for me. I’ll get Monday out of the way first and then we’ll take it from there.’