Big year ahead for Harmison

BENEFIT YEAR ... Steve Harmison (right) with Andrew Flintoff
BENEFIT YEAR ... Steve Harmison (right) with Andrew Flintoff
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DURHAM legend Stephen Harmison is hoping that 2013 is a very good year for him ... and his beloved county.

The ex-England star launched his benefit year on Thursday, but says what is happening off the field won’t take away his focus from what he is doing on it.

“I have one year left on my contract at Durham, and I want to have an impact on the forthcoming season,” he said.

“I want to help Durham get back to winning trophies and back to the forefront of English cricket.”

While many see this season as a swansong for the former world No 1 fast bowler, Harmison is refusing to make any such decision on his playing future as yet, although he admits that time isn’t on his side.

“I thought I still had a lot more to give, and had a couple of more years left in me,” he said.

“But I played with a guy last year (Michael Di Venuto) in a game where he got 150 in 75 balls, and he couldn’t move the next day.

“I remember in a three-day game, it was chucking it down, we were soaking wet, and were sitting having a cup of coffee, and he said ‘I don’t think I can do this any more’.

“And it wasn’t for the want of trying – it’s just the next day his body wouldn’t let him get out of bed!

“If that day comes for me before the end of my last year, I hope I have got enough respect for Durham to say give me something else to do.

“I will go and coach kids or something for the rest of the year.”

Whatever the future holds for the man from Ashington, he intends that Durham County Cricket Club will still be a big part of it.

“Durham is somewhere that I want to stay involved, be it in a large or small capacity, forever – even if it’s just entertaining people in hospitality boxes, because it is something that I will always be passionate about.

“Durham have been a first-class county for 21 years, and I’ve been here for 17, so I have grown up with the club and it’s something I am immensely proud of.”

In among his playing aims for this season, Harmison is also looking to make his benefit a success as he plans for the future.

He added: “I’m not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

“This benefit year is hopefully to try raise the money to allow me to do other things when my playing days are over.

“I’m very grateful to everyone for their support, and hope that everyone enjoys what we have got planned.”

The benefit year will include golf days, a special all-star cricket match with ex-England skipper Michael Vaughan captaining the opposition, and a number of other fundraising events.

Harmison has also chosen a specific charity to support during the year.

He explained: “I’ve chosen the one charity to support, and that charity is one that is very special to me.

“I am supporting the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, because it is such a worthy cause.

“Sir Bobby supported me during a crossroads in my career, and this is a way to give something back.

“A lot of people were writing me off and Sir Bobby allowed me to go along and train at Newcastle United to get back to fitness.

“You couldn’t help but to benefit from his enthusiasm, and even when he left Newcastle, we often spoke when he came along to the cricket. He was a great man.”