Steve Harper, the former Premier League goalkeeper who plied his trade at clubs across the North East, has today (5 September) been announced as a Patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Andrew Robson, Lady Elsie and Steve at the announcement today

He is the first new Patron of the charity since Lady Elsie asked friends from within football, including Niall Quinn, Alan Shearer, Mick Mills, Delia Smith, Steve Gibson and football writer George Caulkin, for their help following Sir Bobby’s death.

The announcement was made at an informal get-together with Foundation fundraisers hosted by Lady Elsie and her son, Andrew Robson.

Lady Elsie says: “Steve’s been absolutely unwavering in his support for Bob’s charity from day one. He’s always been there when we’ve needed him.

“More than that, he’s always had a great appreciation and understanding of the importance of the work we’re helping to fund.

Steve meeting fundraisers Neil, Kay and young Millie Sybenga today

“As a family, very soon after Bob died, we decided to keep going with the charity. We could see the good that it was doing and we all knew how important it was to Bob. He called it his legacy.

“So I asked a small number of friends if they could help out by becoming Patrons and, thankfully, they all said yes. We’re very lucky to have their ongoing support.

“That was back in 2009 and over the years Steve has done so much to support us, publicly and privately, that somehow it didn’t feel right that he wasn’t also a Patron.

Steve with fundraiser and cancer patient, Kevin Outhwaite, at the first anniversary of the Sir Bobby Robson Centre (2010)

“He has such a close connection to Bob and he’s such a wonderful man, so thoughtful and understanding.

“Like Bob, he’s a County Durham lad and he has a marvellous character. You can see that when he’s talking with fundraisers and people affected by cancer.

“We’re very grateful to Steve, and all our wonderful Patrons. I know Bob would be very proud to have him back in his team, ‘officially,’ as it were.”

Steve began his career at Seaham Red Star and he became Newcastle United’s longest serving player, amassing 20 years on the club’s books. He also played at Gateshead FC, Hartlepool United and most recently at Sunderland AFC and Hull City.

After Steve’s charity match to celebrate 20 years at Newcastle United (2013)

His charity match at St. James’ Park, a game between Newcastle United and AC Milan legends, celebrated his 20 years with Newcastle United and raised £327,833 for six North East charities, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation

Steve says: “I’m proud, honoured and moved to become a Patron of Sir Bobby’s Foundation. I’ve been involved in various ways since the launch of the charity so to become a fully fledged Patron is special.

“Sir Bobby has left us a wonderful football legacy but the legacy he left us with his Foundation continues to grow and I know he’d be immensely proud of it.

Andrew Robson making today’s announcement

“He had an amazing, infectious personality. Sir Bobby could just fill a room and make people feel special. He did that with his players and to be here today to thank fundraisers personally for their efforts feels right, it feels like he would want that.

Lady Elsie, fundraiser David Ballantyne and Steve today

“There’s people here today who’ve cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, organised a triathlon for primary school kids, had a golf day, all sorts of things. It all adds up and it’s an honour to come along and say thank you to everyone on behalf of the Foundation.

“Being in a room like this, you can almost feel Sir Bobby here. Making people feel special, putting smiles on faces. Anything I can do to help and continue to build the great Sir Bobby Robson’s legacy is a privilege for me, and I feel immensely proud.”