After prematurely leaving England’s 2003 tour of Bangladesh with an injury, Steve Harmison spent eight weeks training with his beloved Newcastle United as he looked to regain fitness.
Sir Bobby Robson, Newcastle’s manager at the time, had read a disparaging article about Harmison in the press and invited the England quick to train at the Premier League football club ahead of England’s tour to the West Indies. Harmison spent eight weeks training at the club he’d supported since childhood and famously took 7-12 at Sabina Park in his first Test back for England.
Though his overall experience at Newcastle was a positive one Harmison didn’t make the best first impression at the club, incurring the wrath of Robson shortly after arriving at Newcastle. On the most recent episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Harmison explained how he managed to end up on the receiving of a telling off from the former England manager.
Harmison said: “For eight weeks, you had to be at the building at a certain time, you eat breakfast at a certain time, you had your lunch…which I fell foul of first time. I’ll never forget Gary Speed’s reaction because he looked as though he’d chew my arm off. I sat down at lunch, went to go and get a big plate of lunch and sat down. Gary Speed said, ‘Wow’, Shay Given was sitting to my left and I’m tucking in. Speedo [Speed] is looking at me and he’s looking at me plate and I thought, ‘What’s going on here?’
“The manager [Sir Bobby Robson] comes in, it was five to one, and he threw me like you’d not believe. He had a right go at me. I’d only been there a few days and he said, ‘Nobody eats in this building before one o’clock. No one eats in this building before one o’clock.’ He went mental. I said to Speedo, ‘Why didn’t you say anything?’ and he went, ‘You learn the hard way’. And what Bobby had was, nobody eats before one o’clock for the simple fact that everybody in the building stopped [what they were doing] at one o’clock. Everybody ate at the same time and I fell foul of that rule very quickly. From there, I felt like I was part of something and never looked back.”