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Shearer and Harper praise fantastic Newcastle supporters
ALAN SHEARER paid tribute to the Newcastle United fans for breaking through the 50,000 barrier for his close friend and former team-mate Steve Harper's 20-year Charity match at St James' Park last night.
A bigger crowd turned up for last night's exhibition game between Newcastle United's Legends and AC Milan Glorie than the opening two Premier League home fixtures of the season against West Ham and Fulham.
Greats of the Italian game including Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini lined up with Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio against a Magpies line-up including the likes of Shearer, David Ginola and Faustino Asprilla.
And while the game ended in a goalless draw, with Milan winning on penalties 2-1 and included one from Di Canio, the night was an overwhelming success, with hundreds of thousands of pounds raised for charity.
All proceeds from the night will be shared between the Newcastle United Foundation, the Great North Children's Hospital and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Shearer thinks the attendance highlighted the popularity of Harper on Tyneside.
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.
“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.”
Shearer, holding the Baresi shirt he exchanged after the match, admitted the visitors to St James' Park were stunned by the 50, 793 attendance for a 20-year testimonial game. It was a sell-out of general sale tickets.
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.”
Di Canio and Shearer shake hands
Harper, who could not hold back the tears on his last appearance for Newcastle against Arsenal on the final day of last season, insisted he did not need to get so emotional last night.
He was happy to just enjoy the moment, even if he missed his penalty in the shoot-out – having watched his son, James, score his in the half-time shoot-out.
Harper said: “It tells me the fans are the best. The whole concept we had here, they all bought in to it. When we came up with the concept of lowering the ticket prices, bringing the kick-off forward and inviting the players who have shared the last 20 years with me, we wanted to engage the fans.
“We wanted to use my time served here to get them to come along and every single penny has gone to charity. I can't thank them enough.
“I was close to checking in to The Priory a few times over the last few days, but not tears this time. The Foundation have done a great job. I was determined not to cry.
“The Arsenal game was all about me. Tonight I had 28 other players in that dressing room, great players coming to this pitch.
“The banter was great in the dressing room. Priceless. John Beresford was complaining that he was on the overlap and never receiving the ball from David Ginola. It was just the like olden days.”
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