Seasiders hero Harrison is 'one of our own'

Harrison (centre) in his Coventry days
Harrison (centre) in his Coventry days
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Memory match - Blackpool 2 Cardiff City 1 February 16, 1974

It’s a crowd chant that has only recently come to light, but there’s one that would certainly apply to Steve Harrison should he be plying his trade at Bloomfield Road nowadays.

‘He’s one of our own’ would perfectly sum up the player who clocked more than 150 appearances for the Seasiders - he later moved to Watford where he linked up with the late Graham Taylor, maintaining his association by working with him as coach once he had hung up his boots.

Harrison’s Blackpool career was very much a question of the local lad doing well - born in Marton, he attended Baines Endowed and Hodgson School and was picked up by scouts after impressing for Blackpool boys.

Harrison signed up for ‘Pool when Stan Mortensen was manager, with former skipper Harry Johnston looking after the youth side.

He recalled: “Harry Johnston used to come to the training field, wearing a trilby and a big overcoat, and if the rain got too bad he told us about the 1953 FA Cup Final in which he played. I heard about it so often that I can remember every bit of it!”

One of his mentors was another key member of the coaching staff, Len Graham, who proved to be a major help.

Harrison said: “One piece of advice he gave me was that I should never lose my pace because he told me I didn’t have anything else!

“But it was something that I took notice about and advice I followed during my career.”

Harrison’s Blackpool debut came as teenager away to Jack Charlton’s Middlesbrough at the old Ayresome Park ground.

Harrison said: “The whole family hired a charabanc to go up there because it was such a big day for a local lad to make his debut for his home-town team.

“We got beat 1-0, but they told me I had done well. Of course, I was nervous - I never slept for three days.”

Harrison remembers his time at Blackpool fondly.

He was a solid full-back in the days when the Seasiders boasted plenty of home-grown talent, several of whom he has kept in touch with to this day, from his Cheshire base where he now lives.

One history of the club and Wikipedia record that Harrison scored twice for Blackpool, but this is erroneous and he did not manage to register a league goal at Blackpool.

He did get one, however - the final goal in a resounding 10-0 victory over Lanerossi Vicenza in the Anglo-Italian Cup.

Harrison recalled: “Even then Micky Burns tried to pinch the goal off me, claiming that he had got the final touch and not me!”

Harrison took his place at left-back in this week’s Memory Match in the 1973-4 season when the campaign was to end in disappointment for the club.

For much of the season Blackpool were in the running for promotion but they were denied the opportunity to go up on the final day of the season when they missed out to Carlisle United.

What made it more galling was the fact that Blackpool had beaten the Cumbrians by 4-0 the previous week.

It was Alan Ainscow who lifted the gloom of what reporter Tony Quested described as a mediocre match against Cardiff.

Blackpool included 20-year-old Paul Hart, who was playing only his second senior match - he took the place of the suspended Peter Suddaby.

While Blackpool were at the forefront of the promotion challenge, Cardiff, managed by Frank O’Farrell, had a fight on their hands to avoid the drop, which they eventually achieved.

The home side made a bright start and took a fourth minute lead.

Burns had a shot blocked - Alan Suddick picked up the rebound and sent over a cross to the far post. Ainscow ran in and hammered the ball past a helpless Bill Irwin in the visitors’ goal.

Blackpool forfeited the lead after 56 minutes when John Farrington fired home the equaliser.

After this the Welsh side pressed hard for the winner, but they could not breach the Blackpool defence and it was Ainscow who made it safe for the Seasiders on 71 minutes in front of 7,410 spectators, a meagre number for a side in the midst of a concerted push for promotion.

The winner arrived after Burns found Ainscow with a piercing pass just outside the penalty area. Ainscow met the ball first time to send it right-footed past the Cardiff ‘keeper to settle the issue.

As for Harrison, he was to stay at Blackpool until 1978 when he and Ainscow were involved in a pay dispute.

It resulted in a switch to Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada - team-mate Glyn James had recommended him to former Blackpool goalkeeper Tony Waiters, who was in charge of the Canadian club at that time.

It proved to be a brief but happy stay in North America and was followed by a move that served to define his career.

He linked up with Watford, who were managed at the time by Graham Taylor, who died recently and whose funeral will take place on February 1.

Harrison was there at the start of Watford’s remarkable rise up the divisions.

He said: “What Graham Taylor achieved with Elton John was nothing short of miraculous.”

Harrison’s association with Taylor was to continue as a coach, not just at Watford, but also Aston Villa and for a time with England.

Clearly Taylor held Harrison in high regard for they were to work together at Villa and Harrison has done the rounds since then at various clubs - he worked with Steve McClaren at Middlesbrough and was part of the backroom team that got to the final of the old UEFA Cup and also win the League Cup when they beat Bolton Wanderers in the League Cup Final.

He also had spells at Wolves, Millwall, Preston North End, Coventry and Crystal Palace when the club achieved Championship success.

Now 64, Harrison, proud of his Blackpool roots, is a part-time coach defence coach at Villa. He still has family ties on the Fylde. Brother Tony played under ex-Seasider Tommy White at Fleetwood, while Steve’s sister Kim runs a hairdressing business at Carleton Crossing.