Joe Harper

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Joe Harper
Personal information
Full name Joseph Montgomery Harper[1]
Date of birth (1948-01-11) 11 January 1948 (age 72)
Place of birth Greenock, Scotland
Height 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)[2]
Playing position(s) Striker
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1963–1967 Morton 45 (36)
1967–1968 Huddersfield Town 28 (4)
1968–1969 Morton 40 (29)
1969–1972 Aberdeen 102 (68)
1972–1974 Everton 43 (12)
1974–1976 Hibernian 69 (26)
1976–1981 Aberdeen 105 (57)
1981–1982 Peterhead
1982–1984 Keith
Total 432 (232)
National team
1969 Scottish League XI[3] 1 (2)
1972–1978 Scotland 4 (2)
Teams managed
1981–1982 Peterhead
–1990 Huntly
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Joseph Montgomery Harper (born 11 January 1948) is a Scottish former footballer, mainly remembered for his two spells with Aberdeen, during which he won the three main domestic trophies once each and became the club's record goalscorer with 199 goals in major competitions. He also played for Morton (two spells) and Hibernian in Scotland, and for Huddersfield Town and in England. He finished his career in the Highland League.

Harper played for the Scotland national team four times, scoring twice.

Club career[edit]

Born in Greenock, Harper started his professional career with home-town club Morton, and returned to the club after a brief, unhappy spell with Huddersfield Town. He had at times a difficult relationship with some Morton supporters, but most fans recognised his ability and enthusiasm. He played for Morton against Chelsea in the Fairs Cup.[4] Harper scored 74 goals in 122 appearances for Morton across both spells. Morton sold him for £35,000 to Huddersfield Town. He later returned to Morton for £15,000.[5]

In 1969, Aberdeen manager Eddie Turnbull paid £40,000 to sign Harper, and in his first season with the Dons he helped them win the Scottish Cup for the second time in their history; Harper opened the scoring from the penalty spot as overwhelming pre-match favourites Celtic were defeated 3–1. He rapidly developed a reputation as a prodigious goalscorer and following a record-breaking haul of 33 goals in 34 league games in the 1971–72 season was the subject of much interest from English scouts.

Everton paid £180,000 for his services in December 1972 but his time in English football was not as productive as his Aberdeen spell and he returned to Scotland with Hibernian in early 1974, for the second time signed by Eddie Turnbull who had by this stage moved to Easter Road. Overweight and unfit when he arrived at Hibs, Harper struggled to rediscover his Aberdeen-era form in Edinburgh. He scored a hat-trick in the 1974 Scottish League Cup Final, but Dixie Deans also scored a hat-trick as Celtic defeated Hibs 6–3.[6] Harper was never a favourite with the Hibs fans, and his arrival signalled the beginning of the decline of the team's fortunes through the late 1970s and 1980s.

Harper returned to Aberdeen under Ally MacLeod for the start of the 1976–77 season in a £50,000 deal and inspired instant success, the Dons defeating Celtic 2–1 (after extra time) to win the League Cup in November. Harper made further final appearances in each of the next two seasons, as Aberdeen lost both the 1977–78 Scottish Cup final and the 1978–79 League Cup final to Rangers, by a scoreline of 2–1 on each occasion. By the 1979–80 season he was considered a veteran and no longer a regular in the Dons first team but his seven goals helped Alex Ferguson become the second Scottish League-winning Aberdeen manager after Dave Halliday in 1954–55.[7] Harper left Pittodrie after only one appearance the following season.

In total Harper scored 205 competitive goals for Aberdeen, a club record. Of that total, 122 were scored in league fixtures, 70 in domestic cup games (including 6 in the pre-season Drybrough Cup, not counted in some totals) and 7 in European competition. His iconic status amongst Aberdeen supporters was recognised when he was amongst the first players to be inducted to the club's "Hall of Fame". Joe's notoriety with Aberdeen fans also earned him the title 'King of the Beach End' (traditional home end at Pittodrie).

International career[edit]

Harper first played for Scotland against Denmark in October 1972, scoring on his debut in a 4–1 win.[8] He played in Scotland's next game but then fell out of the international reckoning, only earning a recall in 1975. By coincidence, the occasion was another away match with Denmark, but this was overshadowed by a controversial off-field incident. Harper and several teammates were given lifetime bans by the Scottish Football Association after it was alleged that they had been involved in a nightclub incident where a light was broken and an altercation followed.[9] Harper later said that he had been punished because he had returned to the team base in the same taxi as the other players.[9] The ban on two of the players, Harper and Arthur Graham, was lifted a year later.[9] Harper was selected in the Scotland squad for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. He appeared in the 1–1 draw against Iran, which was also his last international appearance, as Scotland exited in the first round.[8]

Later life[edit]

In 1981 Harper was appointed manager of then Highland League side Peterhead. He helped the Blue Toon to a second place league finish but his reported wages were beyond the club's means and he was replaced for the 1982–83 season by former Pittodrie teammate Dave Smith.[10] Harper later managed Huntly, where he was succeeded by Steve Paterson in October 1990.[11]

Harper has also been a columnist for the Aberdeen Evening Express. An autobiography, which was co-written by Evening Express sports editor Charlie Allan, was published in 2008.[8] Harper was appointed honorary Club President of Aberdeenshire Amateur League side Halliburton AFC in 2009. He can usually be found on home match days for Aberdeen in as the host of the Legends Hospitality Lounge of the Richard Donald stand at Pittodrie Stadium.

Career statistics[edit]

International appearances[edit]

Appearances and goals by national team and year[12]
National team Year Apps Goals
Scotland 1972 2 1
1975 1 1
1978 1 0
Total 4 2

International goals[edit]

Scores and results list Scotland's goal tally first
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition Ref
1. 18 October 1972 Idraetsparken, Copenhagen  Denmark 3–1 4–1 1974 FIFA World Cup qualification [12][13]
2. 3 September 1975 Idraetsparken, Copenhagen  Denmark 1–0 1–0 UEFA Euro 1976 qualifying [12][13]


Greenock Morton

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joseph Harper, London Hearts.
  2. ^ "Joe Harper".
  3. ^ "Joe Harper - Scotland Football League Record from 05 Sep 1969 to 05 Sep 1969 clubs - Aberdeen".
  4. ^ "Ex Morton man Joe Harper enters Scottish Football Hall of Fame". Greenock Telegraph. 1 November 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  5. ^ "'LITTLE JOE' RECEIVES BIG WELCOME ON HOMECOMING". 24 October 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  6. ^ "The elite players who scored cup final hat-tricks". The Scotsman. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Dave Halliday"
  8. ^ a b c "Joe Harper interview: No ordinary Joe". The Scotsman. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  9. ^ a b c "Scotland's hall of shame". BBC Sport. BBC. 1 April 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  10. ^ Peterhead Club History Archived 8 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Official Peterhead website.
  11. ^ "Who is Steve Paterson?". The Guardian. 11 December 2002. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  12. ^ a b c Joe Harper at the Scottish Football Association
  13. ^ a b Brown, Alan; Tossani, Gabriele (17 October 2019). "Scotland - International Matches 1971-1975". RSSSF. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  14. ^ "14/12/1966 Renfrewshire Cup Final". SMFC Programmes. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  15. ^ a b c d e "Scottish Football Hall of Fame honour for Dons legend Joe Harper". Evening Express. 2 September 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  16. ^ Dandy Dons have struck it rich, Sunday Mail, 8 August 1971, via The Celtic Wiki
  17. ^ "AFC Match Report: Aberdeenshire Cup Final 1980/81". AFC Heritage. Retrieved 6 April 2020.

External links[edit]