Newcastle's Harper wants to be Premiership ref

Newcastle's Steve Harper is considering becoming a referee when he quits playing, and the FA wants more like him.

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Before playing commitments forced him to give up, Harper was a referee himself. He began in his teens and progressed to officiating in the Peterlee and District League in his native County Durham.

"The other week (when Newcastle beat Everton 3-2 at St James' Park) Emre's gone down in the box and all the subs and coaches are screaming, 'Penalty'. I said straight away, 'It's not'. They all had their black and white eyes in," Harper grins. "I get some abuse when I stand up for the referees; 'It's not a penalty, and here's why it's not a penalty'. I suppose I'm a bit of a calming influence on the bench."

The 32 year old stopper told The Times, "I'd love to stay in football and if there was a fast-track option for former players to become referees I'd consider it. I don't think I'd be the only one."

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