Stephen Alan Harper (born 14 March 1975) is known as 'the most patient man in football' after sitting on the Newcastle United bench for 16 years during which time he made numerous abortive attempts to kill Shay Given.
In 1993, Newcastle signed Harper from Seaham Red Star - the County Durham-based feeder club to Red Star Belgrade. Although a decent enough 'keeper with a pleasant demeanour, Harper would play second fiddle to trouser-wearing Czech Pavel Srnicek, Shaka Hislop and Shay Given for the next 16 years.
During his long, long spell on the St James' Park sidelines, Harper had several glimmers of hope. Under Ruud Gullit, he seemed to have deposed Irish international Given, but more or less everything Gullit did was wrong and his departure sent Harper back to square one.
Whenever Given picked up injuries, Harper deputised ably. But as soon as the first-choice 'keeper was back, Harper would return to the bench.
Inevitable assassination attemptsEdit
Seeing that his career depended on the departure of Given, Harper took the gutsy step of anonymously sending other Premier League clubs large sums of money on the condition that they tabled a bid for Given. Several clubs accepted the money, but Given had no intention of leaving. Harper has admitted spending over £5m on failed bids.
Having failed by peaceful means, Harper reluctantly decided to try and kill his goalkeeping rival. Initial attempts were delicately planned. Harper tried to poison Given by lacing his half-time cup of tea with cyanide only for the tea to end up in Titus Bramble's hands. Amazingly, the tea merely seemed to kill off Bramble's sense of positioning.
In 2006, Harper cut the brake cable in Given's car. Unfortunately the sabotage merely meant that Given was early to training and further tightened his grip on the No 1 jersey,
Eventually Harper cut out the subtlety and took a shotgun to Newcastle-Liverpool in 2008. However, Harper's aim wasn't perfect and he only succeeded in deflecting a number of goal-bound efforts wide; Given got the credit and won Man of the Match.
Given leaves by own accordEdit
Eventually Given moved to Manchester City handing Harper the chance to play football outside of a garden setting.