|Full name||Rashid sparta Harkouk|
|Date of birth||19 May 1956|
|Place of birth||Chelsea, London, England|
|Height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|1978–1980||Queens Park Rangers||20||(3)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Rashid Peter Harkouk (Arabic رشيد حركوك) (born 19 May 1956 in Chelsea) is an Anglo-Algerian former footballer. Nicknamed 'Rash the Smash' for his powerful and sometimes wayward shots he is one of the few Algerian players to have enjoyed some success in English football, the only Notts County F. C. player to appear in a World Cup (apart from Don Masson in 1978) and the first English-born player to play for an African national team at the World Cup.
Born in London from an Algerian father and a mother from Yorkshire, Harkouk gave up playing football altogether at the age of just 16 after being turned down by Fulham. The gazelle-paced attacker scored five goals in a trial game for the club but the coaching staff at Craven Cottage, to the surprise of many including the player, decided not to give him a contract. Harkouk only got back playing after a manager for a Sunday league side saw him kicking a ball around in a yard while he was at work. The youngster was given another chance and never looked back from then on. After leaving school at 17, Harkouk had a variety of jobs, working as an assistant manager at an electrical firm, with computers and also made aircraft seats.
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In 1974, Chertsey Town spotted him and he made his debut in December 1974 after scoring four goals in two games for the reserve side. Although only a teenager, Harkouk was still one of the main players in the team and later signed forms in July 1975 for £1.50 a week. However his stay at the club did not last long and after 15 goals in 40 games for Town, he went to Feltham FC to join up with his former manager and coach Mickey Walsh and Brian Laing, who had moved to the club from Chertsey in September 1975. Chertsey received £200 plus a percentage of any selling on fee, a deal that Feltham later tried to renege on. While playing for Feltham, Terry Venables, who at the time was coach of Crystal Palace spotted Harkouk and after watching the pacy winger in a cup semi-final against Molesey, Venables quickly snapped him up for Palace. Harkouk was due to go to Butlins for a working holiday and moved to the London club despite playing illegally for a local side that played on Sundays under a different name.
In only a short period of time, he became a crowd favourite at Selhurst Park and on the last day of the season, he was elevated into legendary status. Promotion to the old Second division in season 1976-77 in English football came to a photo finish; Mansfield had already been promoted as 3rd division champions, with Wrexham and Palace having a chance of grabbing the second spot. Wrexham needed only a point from their last two home games, against Palace and Mansfield. The all-important game for Palace came on a Wednesday against Wrexham, If Palace won by two clear goals, Wrexham would have to beat champions Mansfield Town at home in their last game of the season to get promoted. A 1-0 win for Palace meant Wrexham only had to draw with Mansfield to achieve promotion. The game was going plain sailing for Palace as they lead 2-0 at half-time but after the break Wrexham came back 2-2. Then Harkouk came on as sub and scored to make it 3-2 with a scissors kick with only seconds left, Palace then added another in the last minute through Jeff Bourne. On the Saturday, the same day, Wrexham played Mansfield, Harkouk lined-up for the reserves against Hereford, Palace won 5-0 with Harkouk bagging two. A large crowd of a few thousand had turn out for the game, attentively listening to their radios of news from the Wrexham-Mansfield game and towards the end the Palace players went over to their fans to get the latest from the game. At the final whistle, the announcer said "Wrexham have lost to Mansfield 1-0 and - Crystal Palace are in the second division."
Nicknamed ‘Spider’ by his team-mates and fans because of the way he weaved in and out of opposition defenses, with his arms and legs everywhere and the way he ‘spun’ his opponents. Harkouk is fondly remembered by the Selhurst Park faithful for scoring goals from seemingly impossible ranges and angles. Fans recall his ability to smash goals from long range, a trait which earned him the nickname ‘Rash the Smash’, one of those came in an away game against Cardiff when he struck a powerful long-range goal off the post, the whole goal-frame was still shacking when the game restarted a minute later! He did the same in a 5-0 win over Swindon in which he caught an opposing defender off guard after charging into him and then smacking a right-footed volley straight over the keeper at the Whitehorse Lane end. Palace fans still can not forget the goals he scored during the rivalry with Brighton when they played each other five times in the 1976-77 season, Palace won all five and Harkouk scored 4 goals – he scored his first goal for the club against Brighton in the FA Cup to give his side a 2-2 and a replay in the 1st round. Every time he got the ball, there were shouts of ‘shoot’ from the stands no matter how far out he was. The fans half expected him to score every time he touched the ball. He once scored a free-kick from 40 yards in a game for the Palace reserves. Having been fouled continuously throughout the game, Harkouk let fly with a shot that went past the keeper and with the ball was still rising when it hit the roof of the net. During Palace’s game, people would hear the cries of "give it to Rash" from the Holmesdale stand every time the home side crossed the half-way line. Fans in the 70s readily admit that Harkouk was one of the reasons they went to Selhurst Park, and was worth the admission money alone just to see him score, win or lose. They remember one incident in a game against Fulham when Palace player Ian Evans had his leg broken by an ugly and reckless tackle by former Manchester United star George Best. After seeing his teammate on the floor in agony, Harkouk raced across the pitch grabbed Best around the throat and shouted "Look what you have done, you broke his f***ing leg!" Harkouk later had to be restrained but his remarks had clearly put Best off his game and the Irish winger was duly substituted shortly after. In the same game, Harkouk scored direct from a corner, hitting a high ball that swirled in the wind and swerved into the far corner beating the keeper. In the 1977-78 season, Harkouk and his team-mate Barry Silkman were found in the possession of forged $250,000 bills, they both got a nine-month suspended sentence for the offence after trying to sell them in a pub having obtained them from some players in a friendly match against a prison XI. After his release, the fans began to chant "He forges dollars and he hates George Best.... Rachid Harkouk" during the games. It all but ended his career at Palace and left for Queens Park Rangers in 1979 for £150,000, his partner in crime went to Plymouth Argyle for £100,000. He failed to settle at Loftus Road and moved to Notts County a year later for £50,000 and helped the club to promotion to the old 1st division (Premier League) in 1981 with the winner in the 2-0 victory over Chelsea. In 1984, they were relegated to the 2nd division and down to the third the following season.
In the early months of 1986, Algeria, who had qualified for the World Cup in Mexico, called up Harkouk. After scoring a few of goals in the warm-up games, where he impressed the coach Rabah Saadane, he was named as one of the 22 players for the trip to Mexico alongside Algerian stars such as Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi. Harkouk played two games at the finals in Mexico, the first was against Northern Ireland, where he came on as a 33rd-minute substitute for Madjer to see his free-kick being tipped over the bar by Pat Jennings. He started the last game against Spain but the Algerians failed to make the second round losing 3-0. Harkouk retired shortly after the World Cup at the age of 30 through injury.
Harkouk appeared for Algeria at the 1986 FIFA World Cup but whilst playing there sustained the injury that ended his career. He came on as a sub for Rabah Madjer in their opening game against Northern Ireland and changed the game for the until then struggling Algerians with his attacking flair. He did not feature against Brazil but was the lone striker against Spain, a role in which he was not effective.
- Notts County 1985-86 season stats
- I. Morrison, The World Cup - A Complete Record 1930-1990, Breddon Books, p. 368
- I. Morrison, The World Cup - A Complete Record 1930-1990, Breddon Books, p. 370
- Crystal Palace "Where are they now?" site
- "Ex-Magpies star is jailed in drugs case". Nottingham Post. 20 August 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2012.