While there have been other examples, Sir Bobby Robson notably selected Steve Bull to represent England in the 1990 World Cup despite him playing in the second flight at the time. And Lineker believes that Capello would do well to follow the example of not ignoring those outside the Premiership, provided they’re capable enough.
“I wonder if Fabio Capello might take a leaf out of Bobby Robson’s book by casting his eye over a player who is excelling in the Championship while rivals are floundering in the Premier League.
“Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper has been one of the main reasons his side are heading back to the top flight.
“Finding goalkeepers is a world problem because of the way the game has changed, particularly in the movement of the ball.
“I’ve seen even the best, like Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, have nightmares this season. So why not look at Harper? He’s solid, dependable and I know Alan Shearer rates him. But as far as I have seen, he hasn’t been mentioned.
“Having understudied Shay Given for years, he will not be fazed by sitting on the bench and staying focused if needed at a second’s notice.”
Lineker makes some valid points and it’s good to see Harps getting some recognition after a good start to the season. And he’s right, in as much Harper as well as being on top of his own game, he appears to have his defence well organised, such that we’ve got the best defensive record in the division and he’s kept a number of clean sheets.
There have always been question marks over Harper’s ambition, as some fans argue that it is a lack of ambition, rather than a sense of loyalty that has meant he’s remained at St James’ for his entire game, despite playing less than 200 games in that time.
However, there’s no doubting that his ambition would stretch to representing his country should he get the call. And with England struggling to find quality in a position we’ve always been fairly strong in, Harper would surely be a good shout. While I’m not convinced Harps is international class, James and Robinson are always apt to drop a clanger while Green, Kirkland and Foster are arguably no better than Harper, who has the advantage of maturity and experience on his side.
As as far as Newcastle United is concerned, our focus is on promotion and all that matters for now is selfishly black and white biased. Harper would undoubtedly take speculation in his stride, even if something like this turned up. It’s probably unlikely that he’ll get that dream call from Capello, but stranger things have happened…