Fans flocked to Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, creating a carnival atmosphere to thank goalkeeper Steve Harper for two decades of loyal service.
And a crowd of more than 50,000 were not disappointed as the reassembled “Entertainers” and legends of AC Milan duked it out in the name of North East charities.
Despite the score finishing 0-0, with Milan winning on penalties, Magpies favourites of yesteryear showed they still have the skills, with Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio fulfilling the role of pantomime villain – with boos ringing out at his every touch of the ball.
There was even time to recognise another NUFC favourite, with Gary Speed’s sons Ed and Tom coming on as substitutes at the end.
Hexham Magpies fan Mary Duff said it was tremendous to see so many people turning up to say thanks to such a wonderful servant of the club.
“It was lovely to see everyone out to show their support,” she said.
Friend Eileen Harrison, from Corbridge, agreed.
“Steve Harper was here for 20 years, and while he wasn’t always picked it was nice to be able to honour him – and to see all the old players coming back.”
Much of the support included regular match-goers come to say a proper farewell to the Seaham-born stopper.
“I wouldn’t have been anywhere else,” said Newcastle United season ticket holder Sarah Sams, from West Denton. “I go to every game and Steve Harper has been so loyal to the club over the years – which is something you you don’t see these days.
“He also shows great respect for the fans, and has done a lot for charity, so it’s only right to show our support for him.”
For many the match, with it’s budget tickets, offered the opportunity to experience the St James’ Park atmosphere without the Premier League price tag. “I’d never been inside the stadium before but with it being a charity game and with such great names playing it seemed an ideal opportunity,” Gateshead football fan Christian Manikowski said.
The game, which saw a crowd of 50,793 - more than attended the Rangers pre-season friendly involving the current Newcastle United team - was in aid of the Great North Children’s Hospital, the Newcastle United Foundation, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, and through them the Alan Shearer Foundation, the Toma Fund, and the Clarke Lister Brain Haemorrhage Foundation.