Monday, 15 September 2014

Football Art: Joe Harvey

Bertie Mee said to Joe Harvey
Have you heard of the North Bank at Highbury?
No says Joe, I don't think so
But I've heard of the Leazes aggro!
(Traditional, various)

"Newcastle should have the finest team in the world. God willing, I will live to see the day they do."

If Stan Seymour hadn't already bagged the name, Joe Harvey would have made a fitting candidate for the title of Mr Newcastle. "A devoted Magpie for over thirty years," begins his entry in a Complete Who's Who of Newcastle United. "He led from the front - captain supreme and manager of distinction.  His life was all about Newcastle United," wrote veteran correspondent John Gibson in his selection of the club's greatest names. "He relinquished his Yorkshire background for a life in which everything was black and white."

Born in Edlington on the outskirts of Doncaster, Harvey pitched up at St James' by way of Edlington Rangers, Wolves, Bournemouth, wartime service with the British Army - where he'd been a Royal Artillery Company Sergeant Major - and Bradford City, his 17 goals for the Bantams in 1943-44 including two against Newcastle in one of Jackie Milburn's first games for the club.  It was a performance Stan Seymour kept in mind, paying £4,250 in a Darlington pub for the right-half's signature in the autumn of 1945. 

A colossus of a half-back, he combined a Desperate Dan diet - 12 eggs and six bacon rashers for breakfast, two pints of Guinness before kick-off and a cigarette at half-time - with the steely resolve of a champion boxer. "Piss off and let me get on with my job," he would bark at interfering full-backs. "Come on, you lot," he growled before leading his team out to the pitch. "Essentially a man of iron and pride," wrote Gibson. "We all thought the world of him," Jackie Milburn said.

 Harvey and Milburn United Again

Made captain in only his second game, he skippered the club for eight years, driving the black and whites to promotion in 1947-48 and FA Cups in 1951 and 1952. "The perfect football machine," one observer called them.  Jackie Milburn always rated the 1951 as the finest he played in.  Collecting the trophy, Harvey clattered down the Royal Box steps and across to the Newcastle support, shouting "It's yours!  It's yours!" as he ran.

Trainer to the 1955 side - the 35-year-old displaced in the team by Jimmy Scoular in the summer of '53 -  Harvey moved on to coach Crook Town and manage Barrow and Workington before returning to Tyneside in 1962 on a 12-month contract and a salary the Evening Chronicle reported as "probably £3,000 per year." "It's good to know the reins will be in the hands of a man who has already done much for the club, and burns to do more," said Norman Smith, a stalwart at St James' since 1938. Harvey took a down-at-heel side that had just finished 11th in Division Two to a championship in three years.  "The capacity crowd of 59,000 roared its delight," reported the Daily Mirror after the Magpies made sure of promotion with a 2-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers.  "The sound of bells, bugles and rattles rang out over the city."

But it's for the Fairs Cup - "it remains Newcastle United's most recent piece of major silverware," the club's official website laconically notes -  that Harvey the manager will always be remembered. The tenth-placed Magpies had only qualified for Europe after Everton, Spurs and Arsenal had struck out on the one club, one city rule. On June 11th 1969 they defeated the mighty Ujpest Dosza, conquerors of league champions Leeds, 6-2 on aggregate in United's most glorious evening since the mid-1950s. "I have not seen any cup final that matched this game for excitement and fighting courage," the manager beamed.  Picking up scouting tips from journalists and taxi drivers, Harvey's sides outbattled Rangers and terrified their way past the likes of Inter Milan, Sporting Lisbon, Feyenoord and Porto in three seasons of European competition. "We were a team in the best sense of the word," thought outside-right Jim Scott.  Harvey always knew how to knit one of those together.  "You have got to have a mixture of big names and home grown talent.  Finance necessitates that," he once said.

Five years later he took a team including Malcolm Macdonald,  Alan Kennedy, Frank Clark and Terry McDermott to an FA Cup final. "From the moment I got the manager's job 12 years ago, I have wanted to lead out a Newcastle team at Wembley," he said.  Long before the end of the 3-0 undressing - "Newcastle should today be prosecuted under the Trades Descriptions Act for masquerading as a first-class football side," wrote one post-match critic - pride had turned to embarrassment. "I felt sick. We never got started and I can't understand it." Emotions were different when the team returned to Tyneside, many of the players crying as they toured the city on an open-top bus.  "Our supporters have moved me to tears on many occasions, most of them winning ones," the manager said.  "But this time I knew they were entitled to show their anger, even disgust. They did no such thing. They gave us a heartwarming return which staggered me. I have never felt so humble."

Harvey signed a new contract in October 1974 - "The manager shall receive by way of salary the sum of ten thousand pounds per annum and be entitled to three weeks holiday with pay" -  but it wasn't to last.  A poor season - United winning just one of their last eleven games - led to unease on the terraces, the board responding to "Harvey Out" chants by demanding his resignation in May 1975.  "We Want Success" said a banner draped plaintively on the new East Stand.  "Any manager is vulnerable if he's been there a long time," thought John Gibson. "In hindsight, it was a desperate decision but, at the time, some people thought it was a good idea.  Not Malcolm Macdonald: "We were horrified...Joe was no tactician but he knew how to build a club, put together a side and work the transfer market.  He was sacked by directors who should've known better."  "It was very sad the way it finished," remembered Frank Clark, released on a free transfer at the same time coach Keith Burkinshaw was sacked and Harvey forced upstairs.  Clark won a First Division title, two League Cups and was champion of Europe in four seasons at Nottingham Forest;  Burkinshaw managed Spurs to two Wembley victories and the 1984 UEFA Cup.  By August 1980, when Harvey briefly returned as caretaker manager, Newcastle were bottom of the second division and had won only two league games in seven months. 

On February 24th 1989, still employed as a scout by the club, Joe Harvey died of a heart attack while chatting to his FA Cup winning teammate Bobby Cowell.  A memorial plaque - joining a St James' Park suite named in his honour - was finally unveiled a quarter of a century later in front of his son, grandchildren and 20 of his former players.  £10,000 had been raised by the fan-organised Fairs Cup Club, Wyn Davies sending his first Wales shirt and Vic Keeble the shorts he'd worn when winning the 1955 FA Cup.  Newcastle United added "a substantial donation" and paid for the plaque's installation on the back of the Gallowgate, just yards from the statue of his old teammate Milburn.

"He was a gem," reckoned Malcolm Macdonald. "He knew how to treat players and get the best out of them." “Joe was a real man-manager," said Bobby Moncur. "He might not have been the greatest tactician in the world, but when he spoke we listened. He liked entertainers and knew what the punters wanted. Joe was good at that." "A great man," said Wyn Davies.  For Bill Gibbs, chairman of the Fairs Club, it was "the best day of my life...We have had a long-standing ambition to see Joe Harvey rightfully remembered with a permanent memorial at St. James' Park and we are delighted to see it come to fruition with this plaque. We are very proud to see it in its glory as a lasting reminder of Joe's immense contribution to the club."

Joe Harvey: captain, coach, manager, chief scout, and always one of us.

'United - the First 100 Years' by Paul Joannou
'Newcastle United Greats' by John Gibson
'The Footballer Who Could Fly' by Duncan Hamilton
'Fifty Years of Hurt' by Ged Grebby
'A Complete Who's Who of Newcastle United' by Paul Joannou

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