I KOPPED FLAK BUT REDS WERE SHEER CLASS

GOOD BAD & UGLY: MICK HAR­FORD

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By John Lyons

NO-ONE can ac­cuse tar­get man Mick Har­ford of not pack­ing enough into his ca­reer. Af­ter leav­ing plumb­ing be­hind to sign for Lin­coln City, the big striker went on to make more than 700 ca­reer ap­pear­ances in two decades and notched more than 200 goals.

His strike rate of one goal in vir­tu­ally ev­ery three games wasn’t to be sniffed at as he made his mark north and south.

Lu­ton is the club he’s most re­mem­bered for as he was part of the great Hat­ters side of the mid to late-80s that took on the game’s giants and gave them a run for their money. A League Cup win­ner for Lu­ton against Ar­se­nal in 1988, Har­ford also won two trea­sured Eng­land caps un­der Bobby Rob­son that same year.

Here, he looks back at the ups and down of his ex­ten­sive ca­reer, in­clud­ing the story of the fly­ing nun who caused a scene at a Lu­ton Christ­mas-do:

FIRST CLUB

Lin­coln City. It was a start with a dif­fer­ence – the day I signed, Graham Tay­lor left to be­come man­ager of Wat­ford. Four of us from the north-east signed at the same time and it was a fan­tas­tic club to learn your trade. There were great role mod­els like Sam El­lis, John Ward, Ian Bran­foot, Alan Hard­ing and Peter Grotier. I had been a plumber for three years so it was great to get the op­por­tu­nity to play football. Glenn Cock­er­ill was one of the young play­ers at the club and we had a great mix of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence. I fi­nally got the chance to work with Graham Tay­lor about ten years later for Eng­land B.

BEST MAN­AGER

I played for a lot of dif­fer­ent man­agers and they were all dif­fer­ent. If I had to pick out a cou­ple of favourites, I’d go for Ron Saun­ders at Birm­ing­ham and Arthur Cox, who signed me for Derby and New­cas­tle. They taught me a lot about the game and life it­self. They were hard taskmas­ters, but knew how to get the best out of you. Be­hind the hard fa­cade, they had a fun side and were good men. I’ve also got to men­tion a few oth­ers – Bobby Rob­son with Eng- land was a ge­nius coach­ing wise and a top-class man, David Pleat at Lu­ton added flair and the ex­pan­sive side to the game, and I knew Roy Hodg­son and Bobby Houghton at Bristol City were go­ing to have a fan­tas­tic ca­reer in the game.

BEST PLAYER

I was lucky enough to play with a lot of great play­ers in my ca­reer. At New­cas­tle, Chris Wad­dle was world class. At Lu­ton, we had a great team with play­ers like Ricky Hill, Brian Stein and Mal Don­aghy, but if I had to pick one player, it would be the Lu­ton cap­tain Steve Foster.You could rely on him week in, week out. He was a leader and got the best out of his team. I played with play­ers tech­ni­cally bet­ter, but Fozzie was an in­spi­ra­tional cap­tain. Lu­ton’s suc­cess was a lot to do with him and he also played for Eng­land.

FIRST PRO­MO­TION

I never got pro­moted, though I left a few clubs near the top of the league. As for my top league fin­ish, I fin­ished sev­enth with Lu­ton in the top di­vi­sion in 86-87. That was mas­sive. For three or four years it was a golden pe­riod for the club and we were very suc­cess­ful. For such a small club to do that well was a big achieve­ment, and we also got to Wem­b­ley and won the League Cup in 1988.

FUN­NI­EST PLAYER

Goal­keeper Tony Co­ton at Birm­ing­ham. In and around the dress­ing room he was re­ally good fun. He was a great joke teller and tick­led me with his sto­ries. I haven’t got a story in par­tic­u­lar I can re­call, but in gen­eral he was just re­ally funny – and a good keeper, too.

FUN­NI­EST IN­CI­DENT

It was a Christ­mas-do from my Lu­ton days. It was fancy dress and Steve Foster was dressed as a nun. We were in a Chi­nese res­tau­rant and Fozzie fell against a plate glass win­dow and smashed right through it. He got back up, went back to his seat and then picked up a glass of wine and car­ried on drink­ing as if noth­ing had hap­pened…

BIG­GEST

ACHIEVE­MENT

Play­ing for Eng­land. I had played as a sub against Is­rael, but mak­ing my full de­but against Den­mark at Wem­b­ley in Septem­ber 1988 is some­thing I’ll never for­get. Eng­land had had a bad time at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships that sum­mer and Bobby Rob­son picked an ex­pe­ri­enced league team for the Den­mark game. I re­mem­ber stand­ing next to Peter Beard­s­ley, a top Eng­land player, be­fore the game and think­ing ‘this is what I re­ally wanted’. I was just so proud to rep­re­sent my coun­try. I was quite happy with my per­for­mance and, to round it off, we won 1-0 with a Neil Webb goal.

LOW­EST MO­MENT

I’ve had a few in my ca­reer, in­clud­ing miss­ing out on play­ing in Europe af­ter Lu­ton won the League Cup be­cause English clubs were banned. I never had the op­por­tu­nity to play in Europe and I would love to have tested my­self at that level. But un­doubt­edly the low­est hap­pened a few months ago. I lost my best friend Andy King. We were very close, and he was a smash­ing bloke and real football man. He was the life and soul of the party and one of the fun­ni­est guys I knew.

TOUGH­EST PLACE TO GO

The Scousers al­ways used to give me some stick and Liver­pool was the tough­est place to go. If you did man­age to score there in the 80s, they would score a few more. I

scored a long-dis­tance goal, would you be­lieve, in my sec­ond game for Birm­ing­ham at An­field, but you hardly saw the ball for 90 min­utes and had to take re­ally good care of it when you had it. They had proper world-class play­ers.

FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO

This might sound a lit­tle strange, but this was also Liver­pool. I loved go­ing to play there – the at­mos­phere, the noise were dif­fer­ent class and you were play­ing against top-class play­ers.You al­ways knew you were up against it, but it was a bril­liant place to play and the Scousers loved their football.

TOUGH­EST OP­PO­NENT

The best player I played against was Kenny Dal­glish. He was the king­pin of Liver­pool, world-class, men­tally and phys­i­cally very tough. As for di­rect op­po­nents, you had bat­tles with cen­tre-back pair­ings ev­ery week whether it was Allan Evans and Ken McNaught at As­ton Villa, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawren­son at Liver­pool, Steve Bruce and Gary Pal­lis­ter at Manch­ester United, Terry Fen­wick and Alan McDon­ald at QPR or Alvin Martin and Tony Gale at West Ham. But if you were to pin me down to choose one de­fender, I would say Paul McGrath. You could never do him for pace, he was tough and a cul­tured de­fender. He was a fan­tas­tic foot­baller and a mod­ern day cen­tre-half.

AM­BI­TION

I’m do­ing a bit of scout­ing and I’d never say never to go­ing back into coach­ing, but my main aim is to make sure my fam­ily is happy and I live a ful­fill­ing life what­ever I do.

Fun­ni­est player: Tony Co­ton Best man­ager: Ron Saun­ders Best player: Steve Foster Low­est mo­ment: Loss of Andy King

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

ON THE BURST: Mick Har­ford, play­ing for Wim­ble­don, gets away from As­ton Villa’s Savo Milo­se­vic Big­gest achieve­ment: Play­ing for Eng­land Glory day: Lu­ton’s League Cup win­ning squad of 1988 Tough­est/favourite place to go: An­field Tough­est op­po­nent: Kenny Dal­glish

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