Steve Harper turned down offers from India ahead of Sunderland move
Former Newcastle United goalkeeper, Steve Harper, has revealed he turned down lucrative offers from India in favour of a move to their North-East rivals, Sunderland.
The 40-year-old, who had been without a club since leaving Hull in May, yesterday signed a 6-month deal at the Wearside club and will be the third choice behind Vito Mannone and Jordan Pickford, following the departure of Costel Pantillimon to Watford.
Here is what he had to say about the move (via Sunderland's official website, safc.com):
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, how it all happened.
“I saw the manager in the summer when we were guests at a wedding, not together I might add, and we got chatting because we were obviously both out of the game at the time.
“I worked with him before at Newcastle and I got a phone call yesterday asking how I was, what my fitness was like and if I fancied coming in for a chat, so I came in this morning and however many hours later we’ve had a good chat, done a few tests and I’ve signed on the dotted line.
“I played for Seaham Red Star when I was 15 and it’s not a million miles way – Easington where I was born is about a ten-minute drive – but it’s taken a long time to get here, bypassing it on the way.
“I turned down a lot of offers in the summer; I had a chance to join Premier League club and Championship club in August and three offers to go to India, but I think my career proves I’m a bit of a home bird.
“I think if I hadn’t played the last seven games of last season I probably would have finished, but I played the last seven keeping three clean sheets and just had that gnawing feeling that I had a bit of unfinished business, so I kept myself ticking over.
“I was in shock when he [Sam Allardyce] rang but over the course of today, seeing the training field, and that little gnawing feeling that there was something left in me, I thought why not.”
Indian football is by no means an unexplored territory for former Newcastle players. Former Newcastle and Sunderland striker, Michael Chopra spent 2014 at Kerala Blasters (0 goals in 9 games) while ex-Toon defender, Peter Ramage, spent the 2015 season at the same club.
Former Premier League player, Nicholas Anelka, is currently the player-manager at Mumbai City, and has been ever since the departure of former Sunderland boss, Peter Reid in September 2014. Freddie Ljungberg has also had a stint in the country's most populous city.
The likes of Iain Hume (Kerala Blasters and Atletico Kolkata), Bernard Mendy (Chennaiyin FC and East Bengal FC), Didier Zokora (Pune City), David James (Kerala Blasters) and Elano (Chennaiyin FC) have also spent time in the Orient.
There is no doubt that Steve Harper's move to Sunderland has received a mixed reception so far. He spent the best part of 20 years at Newcastle and should, for that reason, be considered a legend in his own right regardless of his career decisions thereafter.
Sunderland currently sit second from bottom in the Premier League table with 18 points from 22 matches. Steve Harper has been a part of relegated squads on two separate occasions (Newcastle in 08/09, and Hull City in 14/15). Lets hope it's a third time lucky for Steve.
Published with permission from The Spectator's View.