Steve Harper's Newcastle testimonial set for bumper crowd with Paolo Di Canio ready to play the villain

Stu Forster

Steve Harper is heading for a 50,000 crowd for his charity testimonial match tonight – with Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio set to play the villain.

The Hull City and of 20 years, has assembled two squads worth £725million in today’s transfer market for a celebration tonight.

A Toon legends XI, with Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand reunited as a strike-force, will take on Milan Glorie, including Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi, in aid of the Newcastle United Foundation.

Harper has also reunited Shearer with Joey Barton on the SAME side, a year after the QPR midfielder said he "despised" the Match of the Day pundit. Ex-United winger Keith Gillespieis also back on Shearer’s wing, in a strike force that will pack plentyof punch.

Harper has joked that referee Mark Clattenburg "may have a busy night, especially if he comes into our dressing room."

DiCanio confirmed his appearance in a Milan shirt again, at the weekend, and advanced ticket sales (£10 for adults and £5 for kids) have topped 40,000, with a remarkable sell out on the cards with a good "walk up" crowd this evening.

Getty

Harper left Newcastle in the summer when his contract expired, after a career that spanned almost two decades, but wanted to leave a lasting mark off the pitch with a charity match.

Hispopularity has ensured former team mates from several eras will play, including Faustino Asprilla, David Ginola and more recent close friends Kevin Nolan and Barton.

Barton tweeted yesterday: "Are the rumours true about the 5under1and manager playing? Can’t wait to play at SJP again. Against Baresi and Maldini and co. What a night it should be!"

Di Canio has kept himself in trim this summer by leading from the front in Sunderland’s pre season training.

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