Harper praises King Kev
Newcastle's Steve Harper has praised boss Kevin Keegan for transforming the fortunes of the side.
Last Updated: 12/04/08 12:34pm
Newcastle keeper Steve Harper has praised boss Kevin Keegan for transforming the fortunes of the side.
As the Magpies get set to play Portsmouth on Saturday, the long-serving keeper is painfully aware of the last time they clashed with Pompey - when he let four in.
The 4-1 home defeat on 3rd November contributed towards Sam Allardyce's shock departure from the club and the return of King Kev, whom Harper played under in his first tenure at St James' Park in the nineties.
After the last Portsmouth game, Harper said conceding three goals in the opening 11 minutes was 'like a bomb going off'.
He told the Daily Star: "That Portsmouth game is something that I would not want to be a part of in a hurry again.
"We made a good start to the season and then that happened which maybe dented a few players' confidence. Then we had it tough for a long time after that."
Harper is full of praise for Keegan, who was under pressure following nine games without a win before recent victories which have ended relegation fears.
He said: "All the managers I've worked with have their particular strengths, but the thing about Kevin is his motivational qualities. He just seems to walk in a room and get 20 per cent more out of players.
"And the training is probably more intense and high tempo than it was. The players are enjoying it more and doing it with a smile on their faces.
"I can remember the days at Maiden Castle when there were four or five thousand fans circling the pitch watching the Venisons and Bracewells getting stuck in.
"It's like that again. There's an edge to it and a real intensity which was missing for a while."
As well as Keegan's motivational and training improvements, Harper also praised his decision to switch to three up-front.
He added: "I think you've got to give the manager and coaching staff credit for changing the system. It's proved a master stroke.
"We had some tough fixtures and were conceding goals while not really threatening at the other end.
"Now that we're playing three up front and scoring goals, teams are starting to worry about Newcastle again."