Former England fast bowler Steve Harmison has said that a spell training with Newcastle United helped turn around his career.
Speaking on the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast, Harmison, a lifelong Newcastle fan, told the story of how his time training with Newcastle came about and explained the positive impact it had on his career. “We played Bangladesh didn’t we?” said Harmison, talking about England’s tour in late 2003. “I remember I got five in the first innings in Dhaka, might have got eight or nine in the match but I struggled big time with my back, missed the second Test in Chittagong and had to go home.
“I missed the trip to Sri Lanka, there was a lot of toing and froing, whether it came from inside the dressing room, saying ‘He doesn’t want to play, get rid of him.’ Derek Pringle wrote a horrendous article which he said had come from a player. Sir Bobby Robson had read the article, he said basically that he wasn’t happy with the article and said ‘Do you want to come and train here?’
“Newcastle at the time were on the verge of the Champions League and had some seriously, not only talented players, but experienced players. Gary Speed, Alan Shearer – proper professionals. He [Robson] basically dragged me by the scruff of the neck into the changing room and said to me, ‘This is how you sustain an international career.'”
His time at Newcastle brought Harmison instant success. In his first Test back in the England team, Harmison took 7-12 at Sabina Park and he finished that year, 2004, with 67 Test wickets in total, comfortably the best 12-month haul of his career. Harmison also climbed to the top of the ICC Test bowling rankings in 2004.