WHILE the futures of many Newcastle United players remain uncertain, long-serving goalkeeper Steve Harper insists the club’s new breed could spring a few surprises in the Championship next season.

As Mike Ashley’s renewed attempts to sell the club head towards a third month, the ownership doubts have prevented any tinkering with the squad ahead of their first season outside of the Premier League.

And Chris Hughton’s admission that he is preparing as if he will still be in temporary charge for the first game of the season at West Brom indicates little movement in the transfer market will occur in the next two weeks.

Such a situation does not bode well for a club installed as favourites for promotion, although Harper claims there are still some reasons to be positive.

After Steven Taylor’s recent claim that team spirit within the dressing room has reached a new high following May’s relegation, Harper has decided to focus on the younger generation.

The 34-year-old has been impressed by Kazenga LuaLua’s displays during pre-season and the displays of Tamas Kadar, James Tavernier, Ryan Donaldson and Samuel Adjei have registered among the seniors too.

For years, Middlesbrough’s Academy has been the benchmark for North-East clubs and Sunderland have enjoyed their own success over the last couple of seasons. But Championship football, Harper claims, could actually lead to Newcastle’s turn to celebrate their talented youths.

“It will be a big chance for some of the young lads this season,” said Harper. “Kazenga has played well in pre-season so far, and you also had lads like Tavernier and Adjei – I call him Agbonlahor – coming in and getting a taste of what it’s all about.

“Donaldson and Kadar were also involved, and that’s what pre-season is about, giving lads an opportunity. It’s sink or swim when you throw them in, and if you get a couple that swim, it’s a great addition to your first-team pool.

“Young players will get an opportunity in the Championship.

It’s two games a week, so you have to use your squad.

If we get a few injuries, it’ll give the young lads a chance.

“It’s an opportunity for them to stand up, and if they can do something special when they come in and perform, it will make it difficult for the bigger names to get back in.”

Given the off-the-field problems – with supporters quick to air their grievances towards the Ashley regime in friendlies at Huddersfield and Darlington – there will be youngsters who find it difficult to cope in the limelight.

But Harper, handed the captaincy at Huddersfield in the absence of the injured Nicky Butt, said: “We have some big characters in that dressing room, but we were all young lads once so we know what’s needed to put an arm around them and help them when it’s needed. That’s what we’re doing.”

Both Obafemi Martins and Geremi are expected to figure against Leyton Orient on Saturday, as Hughton steps up preparations for the new campaign.