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Weekend Premier League predictions

Premier League
By ESPN Staff

Harper to fight for place

Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper will return for pre-season ready to fight for his place in the team.

The 36-year-old, who waited for so long in the shadow of Shay Given to get his chance, finally established himself as number one at St James' Park in the wake of the Irishman's departure for Manchester City in February 2009.

However, Dutch youngster Tim Krul deputised well for him during two injury spells last season and is desperate to establish himself in manager Alan Pardew's long-term plans, while Fraser Forster is back on Tyneside after a successful loan stint at Celtic.

Harper told the Shields Gazette: ``The manager, once we were safe, wanted to put Tim in and have a look at him, and I had no problem with that.

``He did very well and I had no problem with him playing as I had to get my knee right and come back firing on all cylinders in pre-season because the two young lads behind me are champing at the bit and ready to take the jersey from me.

``Every season, it gets harder. Fraser did very well at Celtic, which is a massive club with similar crowds to here, and the expectations there will have done him the world of good.

``Tim ended the season in the team and played 20 Premier League games. He will want to add to that tally next year and get more games in.

``Every season, the managers always said, 'Nobody is number one - it's up to you to convince me in pre-season who deserves the shirt' and I'm sure it will be no different this time.''

Newcastle have rejected a bid of £1.5million from Celtic for Forster, who was today linked with Norwich, where he also shone on loan two seasons ago, while Harper himself has been touted as a potential target for both the Bhoys and West Brom.

Krul made his senior international debut for Holland against Brazil earlier this month and is keen to secure regular first-team football to enhance his chances on the bigger stage.


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