Harper resigned to remaining on the sidelines
NEWCASTLE UNITED'S most senior member of the goalkeepers union has already faced up to the prospect of not starting in next Saturday's Premier League opener with Arsenal. The Magpies confirmed yesterday that Steve Harper has picked up a knee injury which has ruled him out of this afternoon's friendly with Fiorentina at St James' Park. And that means, going into next weekend's visit of the Gunners, Harper's only pre-season outings have been against Gateshead and Columbus Crew. Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, believed to have asked Sir Alex Ferguson about signing Manchester United's Gabriel Obertan, has always publicly maintained that he has not made his decision on who his No 1 is for the new season. But Pardew admitted yesterday: "I've got one little bit of news - Harper picked up a bit of a knee injury and might not be involved at the weekend." Such a situation means Pardew will now concentrate on trying to get Dutch goalkeeper Tim Krul in the best possible frame of mind for next weekend. Krul will start against Fiorentina today, although Pardew knows young English prospect Fraser Forster does not want to sit on the bench after being first-choice goalkeeper at Celtic and Norwich in the last two seasons. The goalkeeper situation is at least a football decision, which Pardew is happier to be thinking about after a traumatic week in the manager's seat at Newcastle. Uncertainty still clouds the future of Joey Barton, who has been transfer-listed and made available for free after his outbursts on Twitter since the defeat to Leeds United last Sunday. Barton has been training alone in the absence of a big club coming in for him, which is likely to be enough to tempt him away from Tyneside. And yesterday he was offered the chance to go along to League One team Rochdale to train - an invitation that is not as crazy as it first seems. Rochdale boss Steve Eyre and his number two Frankie Bunn have both worked with Barton in the past and have spoken to the 28-year-old midfielder this week. "Joey got in touch with us to wish us well for Saturday and ask if we were OK," said Eyre, the former Manchester City youth team coach. "We asked him the same question given the events of the last few days and told him if he ever wants to come and train with our squad he would be welcome. "Joey was never anything but good as gold for me and Frank. Other people have their opinion of him and they are entitled to it, but if he ever wanted to come and work with me and Frank again to keep himself in shape he'd be welcome." Newcastle's young prospect Michael Richardson has joined Leyton Orient on an initial one-month loan and could face Walsall today. The 19-year-old joined Newcastle last summer from Walker Central, following a successful trial, and made the first-team bench on a handful of occasions in the second part of last term.
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