Hughton hopeful over Toon’s Harper

The 35-year-old is facing 12 weeks on the sidelines after damaging

a ligament in his shoulder during the 1-0 Premier League win at

Everton on September 18. However, Hughton is confident Harper will

be back to play a key role once again. He said: “Particularly with

goalkeepers, I don’t think the age aspect comes into it. “What you

perhaps lose a little bit in age, you gain in experience, as Steve

showed last season when he was outstanding. “We would expect Steve

to come back firing and looking into get straight back into that

spot.” In the meantime, young Dutchman Tim Krul will deputise with

Swede Ole Soderberg providing the back-up as Fraser Forster

continues his loan spell at Celtic. Krul took over from Harper at

Goodison Park and was between the posts for the 4-3 Carling Cup

third-round win at Chelsea last Wednesday evening, although he

tasted defeat on Sunday when Stoke became the second visiting side

in succession to leave St James’ Park with all three points.

Hughton has refused to get carried away by either success or

failure so far this season, and although he admitted his

disappointment in the immediate aftermath of James Perch’s decisive

own goal at the weekend, he knows last season’s Championship title

winners will have their ups and downs as they attempt to establish

themselves back in the top flight. He said: “We know every game

that we now enter is a tough game than can go any way, and if we

are not at our best, where potentially we can win football matches,

then we know there can always be an upset.” Meanwhile, Hughton is

hopeful that Sol Campbell, who made his senior debut for the club

at Chelsea, could be available for Sunday’s tough league trip to

Manchester City. The 36-year-old returned from Stamford Bridge with

a slight thigh strain and failed a fitness test ahead of the Stoke

game, but he is expected to be available for selection this

weekend.