Tag Archives: Joe Royle

British Football’s Most Remarkable Transfer

Prior to Liverpool’s FA Cup tie with Oldham Athletic this Sunday a minutes silence will be held in memory of Wayne Harrison, who died on Christmas Day and was the subject of a record breaking transfer between the two clubs in 1985.

Stockport born Harrison came to Liverpool’s attention when he starred in Oldham’s 4-3 FA Youth Cup victory in December 1984. Having already attracted interest from Everton, Nottingham Forest and Manchester United, whose manager Ron Atkinson was interested in a play swap deal, Liverpool acted fast.  Worried about a rival signing such a top young talent, Chairman John Smith lodged a £250,000 cash bid which Oldham manager Joe Royle readily accepted given they were struggling to survive on crowds of less than 5,000 in the old 2nd Division.

The fee was a world record for a teenager and stunned the football world, given Harrison had played just five games for the first team. But there was good reason why the Reds were willing to spend big. Harrison had electric pace and could also read the game extremely well, showing great awareness in staying onside and having excellent finishing skills. Royle felt that Harrison was the best player he had seen as a sixteen year old since Trevor Francis had broken into Birmingham’s side in 1970.

It was a dream come true for Harrison who had grown up as a Liverpool fan despite the proximity of Manchester United and Manchester City. But he would have to be patient in waiting for a chance as after completing the deal he was loaned back to Oldham to continue his development but before the end of the season he was recalled to Liverpool, scoring twice in four games for the reserve side that retained the Central League title.

However the next three years were blighted by injury, including a near fatal one sustained on a pre season reserve tour when he fell through a greenhouse and suffered a major loss of blood. The local ambulance service was on strike and he had to be stabilised by army medics before being taken to hospital. He also suffered from groin, cartilage, shoulder and knee injuries and managed just sixteen appearances between 1985 and 1987 and didn’t play at all in 1987-88.

By 1988-89 Harrison was fit enough to spend a short time on loan with Crewe Alexandra where he scored once in three games. He then enjoyed a successful end to the Central League season with Liverpool, scoring seven times in the final eight matches.

In 1989-90, Harrison scored eighteen goals for the reserves and finally looked to be on the verge of a first team breakthrough, only to collide with the Bradford keeper in the final minute of a 3-1 victory on 3rd May. He was carried off and was diagnosed with a cruciate ligament injury. Harrison underwent a series of operations but in the summer of 1991 new manager Graeme Souness gave him the news that he dreaded, that medics had determined his career was over.

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Liverpool travelled to Boundary Park for Harrison’s testimonial in April 1992, Don Hutchison and Ronny Rosenthal scoring in a 2-2 draw. 4,400 fans turned out for the game but Harrison was unable to make even a token appearance due to his injury.

It took Harrison a few years to fully recover but showing no bitterness, he took a job as a driver for Robinson’s Brewery in Stockport and played occasional Sunday league football. In 2011 he was unfairly labelled one of he five worst teenage transfers ever by the Daily Mail. On Christmas Day 2013, he died in Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport at the age of just 46 after suffering from pancreatic problems.


Reds Come Back To Win Thrilling Derby

One of he most pulsating Mersey derbies took place on 21st November 1970 when after a goalless first half at Anfield Everton went 2-0 up, only for Liverpool to come back to win 3-2 to show they were on their way back to becoming the best team in Merseyside.

Liverpool were very much a side in transition going into this game.  A little less than a year earlier they had beaten Everton 3-0 at Goodison Park but that had been the last great result for his all conquering sixties side. The following week they lost 4-1 at home to Manchester United and eventually finished fifth, fifteen points behind eventual champions Everton who avenged the Goodison defeat by winning 2-0 at Anfield.

It meant that Bill Shankly was now rebuilding his team and only three players from that Goodison victory lined up at Anfield, whilst eight of the Everton team were taking part. Amongst the derby debutants was Steve Heighway, who had been playing amateur football with Skelmersdale United the season before while studying economics at university and was making just his seventh league start. 21 year old striker John Toshack had no experience of Anfield at all, having signed from Cardiff City just ten days before for a club record £110,000.

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The first half was a scrappy affair, with Everton having the better of the chances. Ray Clemence made a great save from Joe Royle, who then missed a sitter in front of the Kop leading to the chant of ‘He shot he missed, he must be F*cking p*ssed – Joey Royle.’ In the second though, two goals in eight minutes put Everton in control. First ex Reds winger Johnny Morrissey crossed for Alan Whittle to score in the 56th minute, then in the 63rd Whittle dispossessed Tommy Smith as he tried to dribble the ball out of defence. He then passed to Royle who lobbed the ball over Clemence to make it 2-0.

In the 69th minute, Smith passed to Heighway on the left and he went on a jinking run before hitting a low shot that beat Andy Rankin at the near post. At half time Shankly had told his players that Everton’s midfield would not last the full ninety minutes given the pace of the game and Liverpool now had renewed hope. Forward Phil Boersma was sent on in place of midfielder John McLaughlin, while Everton sent on an extra defender in Keith Newton as they desperately tried to hold on to their lead.  With the roar of the Kop helping to drive Reds players on, Heighway got the ball on the left and crossed for John Toshack, who headed the ball past Rankin to bring the scores level with fifteen minutes left.

Liverpool’s youngsters had been instrumental in getting the players back into the game, it but was one of the old guard who got the winner with six minutes remaining. A free kick was floated into the area and flicked on by John Toshack into the path of Chris Lawler, a veteran of the 1966 title winning side. The full back had ghosted in unnoticed on the right of the six yard box and his low angled shot went in off the post.

It was and remains one  of the greatest ever Merseyside derbies and was the coming of age of players such as Heighway, Toshack, Clemence, Larry Lloyd and Brian Hall. Toshack later said that ‘I had never experienced anything quite like that before.’ The win lifted Liverpool up to sixth place, four points clear of Everton. Later in the season they proved this win was no fluke as they beat the Blues 2-1 in the FA Cup semi final, and two and a half seasons later this exciting young team, aided by the addition of Kevin Keegan and Peter Cormack, brought the league title back to Anfield.