FORMER Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper has emerged as a surprise contender for the vacant managerial position at struggling League Two side Carlisle United.

Having failed to win any of their opening five league games, Carlisle sacked former Middlesbrough and Sunderland midfielder Graham Kavanagh yesterday.

The Cumbrians have appointed another former Sunderland player, Paul Thirlwell, as their interim boss, alongside goalkeeping coach Tony Caig.

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However, they are keen to appoint a new permanent manager as quickly as possible, with Harper understood to be one of the names on their shortlist.

The goalkeeper is still registered as a player with Hull City, and has ten months of his current contract at the KC Stadium still to run, but has never hidden his desire to move into coaching and management.

He gained his UEFA coaching A licence this summer, and has gained considerable coaching experience outside of the professional arena.

Whether Hull boss Steve Bruce would be willing to release him from his playing contract in order to enable him to take over at Brunton Park remains to be seen, but Carlisle officials are keen to examine the possibility of the 39-year-old moving into management at League Two level.