ALAN Pardew has paid tribute to “fabulous servant” Steve Harper ahead of the former Newcastle United goalkeeper’s charity game.
Harper made 199 appearances for the club over a 20-year career at the club.
A Newcastle XI will take on the AC Milan Glorie team at St James’s Park tonight (7pm kick-off) in honour of the 38-year-old, now at Hull City.
The likes of Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand will play for Newcastle, while Franco Baresi will be in the visiting team.
Pardew managed Easington-born Harper during the last two and a half years of his Newcastle career, which ended in May with an emotional final appearance against Arsenal.
“Steve’s contributions at Newcastle have been unbelievable,” Pardew said. “To spend 20 years at a Premier League club is something special.
“Maybe we are going into a different era now, but he will probably be one of the last players to dedicate his career to one club like he has at Newcastle.
“I hope he won’t be the last at Newcastle, but I’m not sure too many can repeat his achievements.
“He was a fabulous servant for Newcastle, and I want to wish him a great night from myself, because he thoroughly deserves it.”
More than 40,000 tickets have already been sold for the game.
“It’s great that the money is going to good local causes,” said Pardew. “To get over 40,000 is a fantastic effort from the fans.”
The Steve Harper 20 Years Charity Match is raising money for The Great North Children’s Hospital, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Newcastle United Foundation.
Turnstiles 75 and 76 at St James’s Park will be open for cash entry from 5.30pm. Tickets, priced £10 for adults and £5 for concessions, are on sale during the day from the club’s box office.
H Rob Elliot, meanwhile, admits he was disappointed not to start the season in goal for Newcastle.
Tim Krul started the campaign between the posts after recovering from the dislocated shoulder he suffered in April.
Elliot impressed during Krul’s absences through injury last season. And the 27-year-old – who harbours ambitions of playing for the Republic of Ireland – is now focused on building on his achievements last term and pushing Krul for the goalkeeping jersey over the coming eight months.
“Tim’s a top keeper – he’s the No1 – but I’m not here just to sit on the bench,” said Elliot.
“I’m here to push him. That’s what I did all pre-season, and I was disappointed, to be honest with you, not to start the season.
“I had a chat with the gaffer, and he said ‘Tim is the No 1, so you have to accept that. I just said I want to keep training, keep working hard and prove that I can hopefully get into the team.
“All I can do is back it up when I do get a chance to play.”