A star-studded football match which honoured former Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper has raised £300,000 for North-East charities.
Some of the biggest names in British and Italian football took to the St. James' Park pitch last week to celebrate the popular shot-stopper's 20-year spell with the Magpies, raising vital funds for match organisers Newcastle United Foundation and two other principal beneficiaries - Great North Children's Hospital and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
Almost 51,000 fans turned out to witness the Steve Harper 20 Years Charity Match as a Newcastle United legends team featuring former teammates including Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole narrowly lost 2-1 on penalties to AC Milan Glorie, a legends team from Italian giants AC Milan.
The game, which aptly finished goalless after 90 minutes to ensure clean sheets at both ends on the goalkeeper's special night, also included more recent United favourites including Shay Given, Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan, while Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio supported the match with an appearance in the colours of former club Milan.
Steve Harper, who will return to Tyneside as a Hull City player on Saturday afternoon, said: "It was an incredible night. I'd like to say thank you to everyone who came along to St. James' Park to be a part of it and for making it so special.
"It was a privilege to be on the same pitch as some of the greatest players to have ever played the game and, more importantly, the match raised money for charities which are very close to my heart. I'm delighted that those funds will enhance the amazing work they continue to do for people right across the North-East."
Kate Bradley, head of the Newcastle United Foundation, said: "It was a great honour to organise the match in recognition of Steve's immense contribution to both the football club and to the Foundation's work in the community.
"It was fantastic to see some of the Club's greatest ever players returning and we were overwhelmed to see the support from more than 50,000 fans. I'd like to thank everyone who made the effort to come along and support Steve and the charities."
Speaking on behalf of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Lady Elsie Robson said: "It was such a wonderful night. I'm so glad Steve got the send-off he deserved after 20 years with Newcastle United.
"I was very touched when he offered to involve the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in his special night. We're proud to be alongside some wonderful local charities in benefiting from the game.
"Bob was with me when I last attended a charity match at St. James' Park. He'd be very proud that Steve, and so many football legends tonight, continue to support the work of his charity.
"I'd like to say thank you to all the players who turned out and to all the supporters who bought tickets and played their part off the pitch. Steve and everyone at the Club worked extremely hard to make this match a success and we're very grateful to them."
The Steve Harper 20 Years Charity Match was organised by the Newcastle United Foundation, which worked closely with Carl Dunn of Azzurri Sports Management and counterparts at AC Milan's own Foundation to secure Milan Glorie's appearance.
The Foundation, the official registered charity of Newcastle United, relies on independent funding to continue working with 47,000 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.