Harper answers SOS from United
Assistant boss calls on ‘mate’ from Reading days
Harper was shown the door by Conference South strugglers Basingstoke last week and, wearied by their relegation battle, he contemplated starting his summer holidays early before deciding to drop United assistant boss Tristan Lewis a line.
Knowing of Harper’s quality from his six years on the coaching staff with the Royals, Lewis was quick to respond with an SOS to the former Premiership midfielder to help United in their own battle to beat the drop, which took a blow on Saturday as title favourites Eastleigh smashed in five without reply at York Road.
“I was on non-contract at Basingstoke and when the new manager came in the three of us on non-contract were told ‘see you later’. Straight away we were off,” he said
“It had been a difficult season at Basingstoke and there is only really a month of it left, so I half wanted to write it off and start again pre-season.
“So Tristan, who is still a mate of mine, was the only person I texted and I decided if he said no or didn’t reply then that was it I wasn’t going to bother.
“But he said ‘yes, come down and do what you can do’.”
The now 35-year-old made a strong first impression with a worldy of a goal – his first in more than two years – during his recent debut off the bench in a defeat to landlords Maidenhead.
However, Harper will not be banging on manager Gary Haylock door to nail down a starting shirt. He is in fact happy to reprise his cameo role on a regular basis.
“I’ve said if I play I play, if I don’t I don’t,” he added.
“I’m just going to support the boys, do my best and give my all in any way, shape or form I can.
“I’m not expecting to come in here and play. I know I scored and did well against nst Maidenhead, but I’m not ot expecting to start the nextxt game. These guys have ve been fighting all season, n, so I will just do what I can, get around the boys ys and be positive.”
Elsewhere, in thehe Southern League ue Division One Central, l, Northwood came from m behind on Saturday to clinch a 2-1 victory at Potters Bar Town.
Uxbridge had less luck as Matty Woods’ second-half goal was s a mere consolation in a 3-1 loss to Kings Langley.
AFC Hayes secured a deserved three points with a 3-1 Combined Counties Premier Division win over Redhill at Farm Park.
n REUNION: (Top) James Harper has joined Hayes & Yeading United and old friend Tristan Lewis (right)