STEVE Harper’s Newcastle United career will end with him one game short of a 200-appearance milestone – but he is just relieved to be leaving a Premier League club.
The veteran goalkeeper will play his 199th and final match for Newcastle against Arsenal on Sunday (4pm).
Harper came off the bench at QPR last Sunday after Rob Elliot’s dismissal for handling outside the box.
And Elliot’s one-game suspension has given the 38-year-old an unexpected swansong between the posts after a rollercoaster 20-year St James’s Park career.
Newcastle’s 2-1 Loftus Road success secured the Magpies’ top-flight status with a game to spare.
“Good things come to an end,” said Harper (pictured). “It’s just my luck that I’ll be one short (of 200 games)!
“But just to leave the club in the Premier League is fantastic. This is a huge club, and shouldn’t be fighting for Premier League survival. Hopefully, it won’t be for a long time.”
Easington-born Harper, by far Newcastle’s longest-serving player, has seen it all in his career at the club, having joined from Northern League club Seaham Red Star during Kevin Keegan’s first spell as manager.
“To finish at a full St James’s Park with a win would be an incredible way to go out. Hopefully, that’s what will happen,” said Harper.
“I’ve often said it’s a rollercoaster at this club. It’s either great and rosy – or doom and gloom. There’s not been enough middle ground in my 20 years.”
Arsenal, battling Tottenham for the last Champions League place, need to win guarantee a top-four finish.
But Harper says Newcastle “owe” their supporters a home win after the recent heavy defeats to Liverpool and Sunderland.
“Arsenal are in a fantastic run of run,” added Harper. “They’ve got a great manager, and are a fantastic club.
“They’ll come hungry for a result to finish in the top four.
“But we owe the fans a performance as well. The Sunderland and Liverpool results weren’t good enough.
“Five points in three away games is very good, but we owe the fans a performance at home. Hopefully, we can do it with an element of freedom, having achieved safety.
“We want to go out there and put in a good display.”
Harper hopes to play on for one more season. He added: “I’ve had a few phone calls already.”
Only four goalkeepers have made more appearances for Newcastle – Jimmy Lawrence (496), Shay Given (463), Willie McFaul (387) and Ronnie Simpson (295).
H Wayne Rooney’s representatives have rubbished a report on Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct website claiming Newcastle are in talks with the unsettled Manchester United striker over a move to St James’s Park.