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Enemies reunited as squads for Steve Harper benefit match are confirmed
TESTIMONIALS are supposed to be friendly affairs, but on the evidence of the squad lists for next Wednesday’s St James’ Park benefit in honour of Steve Harper, there could be more than a little edge to proceedings. And that’s just within the Newcastle United ranks.
Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer are reunited eight years after trading blows with each other during a Magpies home game, while Alan Shearer and Keith Gillespie team up more than a decade after the former punched the latter during a bonding session in Dublin.
It is the prospect of Shearer rubbing shoulders with Joey Barton again that really whets the appetite though, with Barton set to return to St James’ for the first time since he left to join QPR in controversial fashion in 2011.
The pair’s relationship imploded when Barton was sent off at Anfield in the final month of the 2008-09 relegation campaign. Shearer questioned the midfielder’s professionalism; Barton responded by yelling, ‘You’re a sh*t manager with sh*t tactics’, and the pair had to be pulled apart by team-mates.
As a QPR player, Barton courted more controversy in the final game of the 2011-12 season when he was sent off for elbowing Carlos Tevez at Manchester City. Shearer laid into him on Match of the Day; Barton responded by tweeting: “Ur a sh*t pundit/manager. I really don’t like that p****, in fact I honestly despise him...Goodnight.”
Only at Newcastle United could a friendly match between a Magpies XI and an AC Milan Glorie side make history for being the first testimonial where team-mates refuse to shake hands.
“Steve epitomised Newcastle United when I was there,” said a conciliatory Barton yesterday. “He gave most of us an insight into what it took and what it meant to play for the football club.
“Steve was Mr Newcastle. He grew up in the area, came through the ranks and was there for a long time with a lot of different managers so nobody knew the club better than him.
“When I was asked to go back up and be part of this game, I was honoured. It’ll be a great night against an AC Milan legends side which includes some of my heroes when I was growing up.
“It will be the first time I’ve been back to play an actual game at St. James’ Park. I’ve been back with QPR but I was suspended, so it’ll be nice to go back and get a run out on my old stomping ground - a place where I have really fond memories.
“It’s supporting a great guy and doing well for local charities. It should be a great occasion and I hope the fans turn up in great numbers.”
Harper’s XI, which could also feature the likes of David Ginola, Faustino Asprilla, Peter Beardsley and Les Ferdinand, will take on an AC Milan Glorie side featuring iconic figures from the San Siro such as Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, Zvonimir Boban, Christian Vieri and Daniele Massaro.
“To have secured the players we have is a real coup for us,” said Harper. “It’s fantastic to have big, high-profile names supporting the charities we are raising money for and we’re very grateful to have Milan Glorie and some of the biggest names in world football flying in from Italy.
“The Newcastle United Foundation, Great North Children’s Hospital and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation are incredible causes in their own right and we’re very fortunate to have them on our doorstep in Newcastle. Every penny raised from the game will go towards boosting their vital contributions to the North-East.”
Steve Harper XI squad: Steve Harper, Pavel Srnicek, Shay Given; John Beresford, Olivier Bernard, Nikos Dabizas, Brian Kilcline, Darren Peacock, Alessandro Pistone, Steve Watson; Joey Barton, Lee Bowyer, Nicky Butt, Lee Clark, Kieron Dyer, Ruel Fox, Keith Gillespie, David Ginola, Rob Lee, Liam O’Brien, Scott Sellars, Nolberto Solano, Steve Stone, Alan Thompson; Faustino Asprilla, Peter Beardsley, Andrew Cole, Les Ferdinand, Paul Kitson, Alan Shearer.
AC Milan Glorie: Sebastiano Rossi, Massimo Taibi; Franco Baresi, Roberto Favalli, Paolo Maldini, Roberto Mussi, Massimo Oddo, Guiseppe Pancaro, Pietro Vierchowod; Ibrahim Ba, Zvonimir Boban, Alessandro Costacurta, Angelo Carbone, Federico Giunti, Christian Lantignotti, Gianluigi Lentini, Mark van Bommel; Daniele Massaro, Christian Vieri.
* Tickets for the Steve Harper 20 Years Charity Match are on sale at www.nufc.co.uk and the St James’ Park box office, priced £10 for adults and £5 for children/concessions.
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