Steve Harper brought the curtain down on the end of an era at Newcastle United by thanking supporters for their tremendous support of his 20 years charity match.
On a night of overwhelming black and white positivity the United goalkeeper admitted to being overwhelmed by emotion at the fact a crowd of more than 50,000 turned out to support his charity match.
Six-figure sums were raised for the Newcastle United Foundation, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Great North Children’s Hospital as supporters thronged the terraces to see United greats including Alan Shearer, Faustino Asprilla, Rob Lee and Peter Beardsley.
It meant the world to Harper, who said: “It was an incredible response from the people of the region – 50,000 people was beyond our wildest dreams when we came up with this idea.
“They have come along to see some of the greats of the modern era and they saw all of them. It was great for everyone to be out there and I’m humbled by the turn out in my dressing room, the AC Milan dressing room and most of all by the supporters – we had a real celebration of the 20 years.
“We brought the kick off forward to 7pm so people could bring their kids along and cut the prices to £10 so everyone would buy into it. We made it quite clear at the start when the proposal was made that every penny would be put into those magnificent charities in the North East.
“By the fans’ incredible response with tickets, the good share of the bar takings, the auction and the bits we’ll no doubt put on eBay later we will raise a fantastic amount.
“I just have to say thank you to everyone – I’m absolutely humbled by it and they have really shown what this tremendous football club is really all about.”
His words were echoed by United legend Alan Shearer, who felt it was an appropriate send-off for Harper - as well as a brilliant charity event.
Although United lost the game - and with it the inaugural Sir Bobby Robson Charity Shield - on penalties there was an overwhelming sense of good will about a ground that has got more used to cynicism of late.
Shearer said: “It was a brilliant night - absolutely brilliant. For Steve to get a packed house and to get the players to come from all over the world for him was a fitting way for him to say goodbye to this club. It was a shame that there were no goals but hopefully there was enough decent football out there to keep the fans entertained.
“If one guy deserves it for his dedication and loyalty to the cause it is Harps. He has given everything to this one football club so it is absolutely fantastic. He held it together very well and if one person deserves a full house, it is him with everything he’s achieved. You can see from the distances people travelled to be in that Newcastle team what everyone thinks of him.”
The fantastic turn-out was no surprise to Shearer but a visiting dressing room that included some of the world’s greatest ever players were.
Shearer said: “The crowd did not surprise me, I know what they’re like. But the guys coming from Milan were overwhelmed and staggered that a place like this can turn out 50,000 for a testimonial. They’re just incredible. I just hope now that the team can give them some silverware.”