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Hughton hopeful over Harper

Steve Harper

Newcastle manager Chris Hughton is convinced goalkeeper Steve Harper will return as good as ever after his lengthy injury lay-off.

The 35-year-old is facing 12 weeks on the sidelines after damaging a ligament in his shoulder during the 1-0 Barclays Premier League win at Everton on September 18. However, Hughton is confident Harper will be back to play a key role once again.

"Particularly with goalkeepers, I don't think the age aspect comes into it," said Hughton.

"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.