Former Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper returned to St James’ Park to hand over a cheque for almost £328,000 which will benefit six North East charities.
The funds were raised as part of the footballer’s 20 Years Charity Match which took place between Newcastle United and AC Milan legends teams at the stadium on September 11, honouring Harper’s 20-year spell with the Magpies between 1993 and 2013.
As well as boosting funds for the Newcastle United Foundation, Great North Children’s Hospital and Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, the money was also shared out between the Alan Shearer Foundation, Clarke Lister Brain Haemorrhage Foundation and Toma Fund after overwhelming support from kind-hearted fans.
Almost 51,000 supporters packed out St James’ Park for the one-off match, which saw some of the biggest names in British and Italian football descend on Tyneside to take part.
Harper and ex-United teammates including Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole narrowly lost 2-1 on penalties to a Milan side featuring Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacturta following a 0-0 draw.
“The club has always been a fantastic supporter of mine,” said Harper. “I thought it was only right that I put back all the money raised to these fantastic charities.
“Having three children myself, these are charities which are very close to my heart and which mean a lot to many people in the region. It’s a pleasure to be able to make a positive difference to their work.”
The charity match was organised by the Newcastle United Foundation, which relies on funding to continue working with 47,000 disadvantaged young people and families in the North East each year and will channel its share of the proceeds into community projects across North and South Tyneside, County Durham and Northumberland.
Kate Bradley, head of the charity, said: “It was a privilege to not only organise the match on Steve’s behalf but to also help raise such a phenomenal amount for causes which help so many people throughout the region.
“The Newcastle United Foundation is celebrating its fifth anniversary this season, which is a significant milestone for us. The funds raised will assist us in working with even more disadvantaged young people and families than before as we bring the football club and the community closer. Our heartfelt thanks go to Steve for leaving this legacy from his 20 years at Newcastle United.”
Liz Luff, from the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, said: “It was a very special evening and Steve deserved it after 20 years with the club. We were thrilled to be a part of the occasion and so pleased that Steve has chosen us as one of the beneficiaries.
“The funds will help us with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation’s main aim which is to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer. Sadly far too many people know the pain that cancer causes families. We can do something about it and we are doing something about it and thanks to people like Steve, we can continue to build on the legacy that Sir Bobby left us.”
Pauline Buglass, head of fundraising at Newcastle Hospitals, said: “We are absolutely honoured to have been chosen by Steve as one of the beneficiaries. The Great North Children’s Hospital is a fantastic facility and the generosity of Steve and everyone who supported the event will mean we can enhance the specialist care we offer to children and families across the North of England and even further afield.”