Harper's attacker turns up at training to apologise

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The Independent Football

Given the unsavoury events of less than 24 hours previously, there was an unexpected visitor to Newcastle's training ground yesterday, in the form of the teenage Sunderland supporter who confronted goalkeeper Steve Harper amid stormy scenes at the culmination of the Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday.

Accompanied by his father, the 17-year-old arrived to offer a heartfelt apology for his moment of madness as celebrations spilt over into violence in the wake of Asamoah Gyan securing an injury-time equaliser for the hosts at the Stadium of Light.

"I didn't see the fan until he was right on me," Harper, who was not at training to accept the olive branch or otherwise, reflected yesterday, after being unceremoniously shoved to the ground as things threatened to get out of hand. The 35-year-old had received a rather more immediate apology from a mortified Sunderland chairman, Niall Quinn, who has promised to take any necessary action as the club face the prospect of a Football Association inquiry. Harper added: "I'd like to thank the supporters of both teams for their concerns afterwards."

The teenager was arrested and later released on bail until March after trying to escape back into the crowd behind Harper's goal, only to be identified by a combination of his fellow Sunderland supporters and the referee, Howard Webb, a former policeman with the South Yorkshire force.

The match ended with ugly scenes when rival fans ripped out seats to use as missiles as police made over 20 arrests. The miscreant's plea for mercy cut little ice with Kevin Nolan, who scored the visitors' goal in a 1-1 draw. "What happened was absolutely pathetic," the Newcastle captain said. "That fan shouldn't be allowed to walk into a stadium again if found guilty."