Joe Harper (footballer)
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2009)|
|Full name||Joseph Montgomery Harper|
|Date of birth||11 January 1948|
|Place of birth||Greenock, Scotland|
|Height||1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)|
|1969||Scottish League XI||1||(2)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
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.
In 1969, Aberdeen manager Eddie Turnbull paid £40,000 to sign Harper for Aberdeen 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 Pittodrie 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, though he did score a hat-trick in the 1975–76 League Cup final. However John "Dixie" Deans also scored a hat-trick that day, and Celtic defeated Hibs 6–3. 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 Aberdeen to their first league title since 1954–55. He left Pittodrie after only one appearance the following season.
In total Harper scored 199 (since amended to 205 goals) competitive goals for Aberdeen, a club record. Of that total, 122 were scored in league fixtures, 70 in domestic cup games (including the Drybrough Cup) 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).
Harper first played for Scotland against Denmark in October 1972, scoring on his debut in a 4–1 win. 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 team-mates 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. Harper later said that he had been punished because he had returned to the team base in the same taxi as the other players. The ban on two of the players, Harper and Arthur Graham, was lifted a year later. Harper was selected in the Scotland squad for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. He appeared in the 1–1 draw against Iran as Scotland exited in the first round.
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 team-mate Dave Smith. Harper has also been a columnist for the Aberdeen Evening Express for the last 10 years. His hard hitting column appears every Wednesday. In 2008, Harper was preparing his autobiography, which was being written along with Evening Express sports editor Charlie Allan. In 2009 Harper was appointed honorary Club President of Aberdeenshire Amateur League side Halliburton AFC. Joe can be found on home match days for Aberdeen in the Legends Lounge of the Richard Donald stand – he is the host of this hospitality lounge.
- Joseph Harper, London Hearts.
- "Scotland's hall of shame". BBC Sport. BBC. 1 April 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- Peterhead Club History, Official Peterhead website.
- Harry Reid (2005), The Final Whistle?, Birlinn, ISBN 1-84158-362-6
- King Joey, Joe Harper with Charlie Allan, Birlinn (2008) ISBN 978-1-84158-767-7