Ex Arsenal player Lee Harper appeals for return of stolen shirt

Lee Harper, wearing the stolen shirt on his appearance for Arsenal in 1997. He now runs Lee Harper's Goalkeeping Academy.

Lee Harper, wearing the stolen shirt on his appearance for Arsenal in 1997. He now runs Lee Harper's Goalkeeping Academy. - Credit: Lee Harper

An ex footballer has made an emotional plea for the return of the shirt he wore on his debut appearance for Arsenal. 

Former goalkeeper Lee Harper said the orange jersey, which he donned for a 2-0 win at The Dell over Southampton on March 15, 1997, was taken from an address in Buckinghamshire.

The 50-year-old, who played for QPR, Walsall, Northampton and Kettering after leaving the Gunners, said the signed shirt is one of his most treasured possessions.

“That is the shirt that meant the most,” he said. “I had been at the club for three years and not played, so this is my memory from that night. It is deeply disappointing.”

Lee said he and his partner are developing their home in Farnham Common near Beaconsfield. They had left some tools and valuables in a shipping container at the address over the weekend May 14-15 and found they had gone by Monday. 

Arsenal fan Lee had been signed from non-league Sittingbourne in 1994 but found game time hard to come by with England number one David Seaman the club’s established goalkeeper. 

“I remember making a point blank save from [Southampton legend] Matt Le Tissier,” Lee said of the game against Southampton. 

“At one point I remember being naive and trying to distribute the ball too quickly. At that, [Arsenal captain] Tony Adams took me aside and said to calm down and enjoy the experience.”

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The save from Le Tissier was one of Lee’s only involvements as he was guarded by the Gunners’ legendary 1990s defence which that day included Adams, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and Andy Linighan. 

Lee said: “It was a dream to play for Arsenal and that game will always be one of my fondest memories. I was offered a new contract at the end of that season [1996-97] but I turned it down to seek first team football which I would be unlikely to get with David Seaman at Arsenal. I regret that I didn’t play more for Arsenal but I have great memories at other clubs too.” 

He added: “The shirt means a lot to me and would be of no real value to anybody else. It is signed by the whole squad, including Ian Wright and Patrick Vieira.” 

Thames Valley Police has been approached for further comment. 

If you have any information contact Lee on Twitter at @LeeHarperGK or call 101 and ask for Thames Valley Police, citing crime reference number INC/20220516/0846.