Harper backs Hull to make swift Premier League return

Steve Harper
Steve Harper
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STEVE HARPER’S future may be less than clear but, as someone who has bounced back at the first attempt from relegation, the veteran goalkeeper insists Hull City are well equipped to make an instant return to the Premier League.

The Tigers slid out of the top flight on Sunday for the second time in five years with manager Steve Bruce admitting a possible summer of rebuilding lay ahead.

Several players are out of contract, while the likes of Dame N’Doye, Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez are unlikely to want to ply their trade in the Championship.

The club’s income will also be badly hit, even allowing for the £25m that Hull will receive in parachute payments in 2015-16, and that will necessitate a reduction in the wage bill.

Despite the inevitable departures from the squad that the close season will bring, Harper – relegated with Newcastle in 2009 but then the leading appearance maker as the club returned as champions just 12 months later – insists Hull’s exile from the elite can be only temporary.

“Yes, I think so,” said the 40-year-old when asked if Hull can emulate his former club. “When we went down at Newcastle, there was a lot of higher-profile players on big wages, who maybe had one eye on an exit strategy. I have not seen that here. I am sure there will be one or two who don’t fancy the Championship. You get that in every team that goes down.

“But there is a real, hard-core of people who really want to do well for this club, regardless of what division they are in. They are proper professionals who give their all every time they go out there.

“You need that in the Championship. It is an excellent dressing room.

“There has been one or two issues that haven’t helped but there is a core there that the club need to embrace.

“It is not easy to bounce back. At Newcastle, we had a street-wise spine that knew what to do. We didn’t always play well but knew how to dig out results. By all accounts, that is what this club were good at before I came. They need that again.

“I am just gutted we could not stay up. It is one of the best dressing rooms I have been in for camaraderie. Sadly, we have come up just short.”

Harper has made 12 appearances this season, the last seven of which have seen him set a new record as the club’s oldest player.

His contract expires next month, however, and Harper admits to having not made a decision on whether to call time on a League career that began in 1995 when on loan at Bradford City.

On the future, Harper added: “Nothing has been said yet so we will see what happens. I will go and spend some quality time with my family over half-term, spend some time with my kids and see what happens.

“I have said that if the right coaching job came up, I would consider it. I will be honest and say I have had a few calls about keeping going so we will see. If the phone rings with something that is worthwhile then I will consider it.”

Asked if the appetite was still there to keep playing, the veteran replied: “I do actually. I would have hated being sat there watching the last seven games from the bench.

“I have felt good, I have felt sharp. Walshy (goalkeeping coach Gary Walsh) has done a great job of keeping me going.”