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Monday, January 17, 2011
Fan apologies for push on Harper

The teenage Sunderland fan who pushed Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper over during the north-east derby has publicly apologised for his actions. Ross Miller, 17, from Spennymoor, was arrested after barging into 35-year-old Harper on the pitch in the aftermath of Asamoah Gyan's injury-time equaliser at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.

His actions were later condemned by Black Cats boss Steve Bruce, who made his feelings known to the youngster as he was led away. Sunderland also confirmed they would take action against anyone found guilty of offences in relation to the game.

However, Miller, who was released on bail by Northumbria Police pending further inquiries, and his father Gary visited both Newcastle's Darsley Park training headquarters and Sunderland today to apologise.

The 17-year-old told BBC Look North: "I was just overwhelmed by the fact that we had scored in the last minute against Newcastle, so I ran on to the pitch with no intention at all to push Steve Harper.

"I got a bit carried away, did what I did, which I was very sorry about, and then was taken off the pitch and taken round by the steward."

Asked what Bruce had said to him as he was escorted from the stadium, the teenager said: "He said a few words as I was led along the touchline, which he was right in doing because it was entirely my fault for pushing him (Harper).

"It was right what he said and I was wrong. He called me 'a stupid idiot', and he was right what he said because it was my fault for pushing him."

Gary Miller revealed his son had wanted to apologise to Harper in person, although the goalkeeper was not training this morning and he instead spoke to club secretary Lee Charnley.

He said: "It was Ross' idea. I spoke to him at 11pm last night and it was Ross' idea. He wanted to do it, so this morning, off we went and we got to Newcastle's training ground and we apologised to the club secretary.

"I can't say enough about Newcastle United. As much as I am a Sunderland fan, they were absolutely great.

"He was a great gentleman, Mr Charnley. Really, we wanted to speak to Steve Harper, but we have said as much as we can. We then went to Sunderland and apologised to Sunderland.

"This isn't what we are like, this family. We have never been in trouble in our lives. It was just a one-off and we wanted to apologise, quite simply."

Professional Footballers Association chief executive Gordon Taylor said the FA needed to "get a grip" on the problem of player safety following Sunday's incident and the previous weekend's fan assault on a Stevenage player.

"We're going back to the bad days, really," Taylor told Sky Sports News. "We've had serious incidents in the past few weeks whereby the FA has got to get a grip with regard to crowd control and work with the Premier League and the Football League. It's a serious health and safety issue."

Sunderland issued a club statement this morning promising to take action against anyone found guilty of offences, and praising supporters who helped to identify those responsible.

The statement said: "The vast majority of fans in the 48,000 capacity crowd behaved very well and we thank them for their loyal support.

"Sunderland AFC operates a zero-tolerance policy towards anti-social behaviour of any kind within the Stadium of Light, and we are proud of our reputation as a family club.

"Working closely with Northumbria Police, we will ensure that appropriate action is taken against anyone found to have been involved in any such behaviour at yesterday's game."




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