Big match and an even bigger gesture from Steve Harper

Former Newcastle United goalkeeper returned to St James’ Park yesterday to launch his charity match against AC Milan

Former Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper
Former Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper

Speaking to Steve Harper yesterday gave you hope for football’s soul and humanity at large.

We have grown so tired and used to multi-millionaire footballers acting like spoiled brats that it’s easy to forget the good guys.

Harper effortlessly falls into the good guy category.

The now former Newcastle United goalkeeper returned to St James’ Park yesterday to launch his charity match against an AC Milan side filled with some of the greatest names in football history.

Every single penny from the game – which will be played on September 11 – is to be given away to good causes.

Harper, now at Hull City, modestly said it was his small way of giving something back.

He said: “Being here so long, a game such as this has been mentioned a few times, and when the club agreed to it, it was just a case of ‘What can we do to make as much money as possible for some fantastic local causes?’

“The opportunity was put to me to bring an incredible AC Milan legends team over here.

“I have to thank – talk about name-dropping – Franco Baresi. He was very keen to come along.

“One of the big things is I don’t think he’s ever played against Alan Shearer and he’s very much looking forward to that, so that’s a contest to keep an eye on. But the opportunity to bring the likes of Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, Christian Vieri and Andriy Shevchenko here to St James’ Park and see that AC Milan kit with arguably some of the best players ever to have played the game in it was too good to turn down.

“Then it’s obviously what opposition do you put against them and, having been here for 20 years, the idea was to put some of the best players to have worn a black-and-white shirt in my time here up against them.

“I think I need to crack the whip, though, because I’m told AC Milan are very competitive – they were at Rangers – and are training for a week before the game. It will just be fantastic to see the likes of Alan, Les Ferdinand, Tino Asprilla – personally I am looking forward to seeing the Beardsley-Cole partnership re-united.

“Subject to confirmation, we are very positive that David Ginola will play. Pavel Srnicek is coming back as well, along with Rob Lee, John Beresford, so it will be a special night.

“It will be the Entertainers and more coming back to take on a very competitive AC Milan team.”

As line-ups go, that’s not bad.

Harper could have made a mint out of this occasion if he had so desired.

He said: “The key is nobody makes any money out of this, no individual, no company, nothing.

“Every single penny raised will go to some fantastic charities. Depending on the uptake, I am hoping certainly 85% of the money will go to the Great North Children’s Hospital, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Newcastle United Foundation, and I have earmarked that last 15% to make some donations to some smaller charities in the region, where it will make a real difference.”

It’s not every footballer that would do this. But then Harper has always been a cut above.

Newcastle United XI v AC Milan Glorie is on September 11. Tickets from or box office, price £10 and £5.

Charity details are in the copy. Tickets go on sale on Friday.


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