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Just as well Mike Ashley not reminded of this 11 word quote before giving Steve Harper this job

2 months ago

Mike Ashley gave Steve Harper a promotion yesterday.

An official Newcastle United statement (see below) announcing:

‘Newcastle United are delighted to announce that Steve Harper has been appointed as the club’s permanent academy manager.’

Steve Harper knows his way around Newcastle United, having spent almost his entire working life since 1993 at St James Park, just the 38 years…

Maybe just as well Mike Ashley wasn’t reminded of what Steve Harper was saying a few years ago though, before deciding on the promotion.

The former keeper declaring in an interview (see below) in May 2018: ‘God forbid if Rafa Benitez was to leave the football club’, due to lack of support from Ashley.

Looking back to that point, reminds us just how badly Rafa Benitez (and the Newcastle fans!) was treated by Mike Ashley.

Instead of as Steve Harper suggested, Mike Ashley backing Rafa Benitez with £50m -£100m in the 2018 summer transfer window to build on that 10th place finish in 2017/18, Ashley decided to force Benitez into making a £20m+ profit in that window.

Luckily for Newcastle fans and especially Mike Ashley, rather than walk away as Steve Harper feared if the proper backing wasn’t given by the NUFC owner, Rafa Benitez did the professional thing and stayed for the final year of his contract and did his very best with what he had to play with. Leading Newcastle United to another safe mid-table position but everybody, including Steve Harper no doubt, wondering what Rafa Benitez would have done with the £100m+ net spend Mike Ashley has allowed during Steve Bruce’s first three transfer windows.

Steve Harper talking to BT Sport – 1 May 2018:

“If Newcastle finish 10th (or higher), that’s an incredible achievement, and Rafa Benitez needs to be backed.

“If he is backed, hopefully they can move up the table year on year.

“It is a big ask and he is not going to get the amount of money to break into the top six, that’s a big, big ask.

“But if he is backed to the tune of, I don’t know…£50million, £100million, I don’t know what players are now, then I certainly think they are capable of moving up a couple of places in the table.

“He gets it, he gets the club, and he’s won the fans over. Rafa has their respect and hopefully he’ll be backed.

“Having spent 20 years here, you know what can be around the corner, but God forbid if Rafa Benitez was to leave the football club.

“You measure any manager by how much he gets out of his players and you would have to say that Rafa Benitez has got the maximum out of this bunch of players.”

Newcastle United Official Announcement – 16 July 2021:

‘Newcastle United are delighted to announce that Steve Harper has been appointed as the club’s permanent academy manager.

Harper, who is the club’s all-time longest serving player having spent 20 years as a goalkeeper at St. James’ Park between 1993 and 2013, moves into the role after being appointed as interim academy manager earlier this year.

Following the end of his playing career in 2016, Harper has become an experienced coach and respected figure off the pitch, achieving his UEFA ‘A’ Licence, UEFA ‘A’ Goalkeeping Licence and a Masters of Sports Directorship degree.

He has continued to maintain close links with the Magpies throughout, serving in goalkeeper coaching roles at the Academy between 2016 and 2019 and continuing to support the Newcastle United Foundation and Sir Bobby Robson Foundation charities as a patron and trustee respectively.

He has also coached at international level, serving as goalkeeper coach with Northern Ireland’s senior men’s team over 20 fixtures since March 2019.

Following a brief step away from club football, Harper returned to Newcastle United as a first team coach in November 2019 – joining Steve Bruce’s coaching staff with a specific remit of enhancing the pathway between the club’s Academy and senior men’s team.

After being named as interim academy manager in Spring 2021, Harper has now made the position permanent and will spearhead the club’s youth operations as it identifies and develops the region’s best young footballing talent in preparation for the first team.

“I’m delighted to take up the position as academy manager on a permanent basis and have enjoyed every day in the role so far,” Harper told

“I’m passionate about our club and to lead our Academy is an honour and a privilege.

“The club, head coach and all the staff have been fantastic, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support.

“We want to help our young people to become better players and have a successful career in the game. Equally importantly, we are developing them as people, instilling them with the right values to support their onward journeys.

“The Academy provides them with wonderful opportunities on and off the pitch and I’m excited to be working with a great team to drive our Academy forwards for the benefit of everyone involved.

Newcastle United’s managing director, Lee Charnley, said: “Steve is a great fit for the position of academy manager. He has served Newcastle United as a player, coach and ambassador fantastically over the years and will use his passion for our club to further develop the Academy.

“His experiences on and off the pitch and his knowledge of the club bring a unique perspective to the role and will be of great benefit to all involved with the Academy.”


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