Walking Up Wembley Steps Is Still a Proud Memory for Former Arsenal Teen Whose Career Has Taken Him from the Hallowed Turf of Highbury to Bower Fold, Stalybridge. and a Few Others in between; PASSIONATE EX LURGAN MAN WOULD LOVE TO TEEST MANAGERIAL SKILLS ON BIGGER STAGE

The Mirror (London, England), August 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

Walking Up Wembley Steps Is Still a Proud Memory for Former Arsenal Teen Whose Career Has Taken Him from the Hallowed Turf of Highbury to Bower Fold, Stalybridge. and a Few Others in between; PASSIONATE EX LURGAN MAN WOULD LOVE TO TEEST MANAGERIAL SKILLS ON BIGGER STAGE


Byline: MOTD INTERVIEW: MAXIE SWAIN GOES ONE-ON-ONE WITH CONFERENCE MANAGER JIM HARVEY

THE face of football has changed dramatically and irreversibly over the last two decades or so.

The top sides are no longer mere clubs but worldwide brands. They have become the playthings of billionaire businessmen with megamoney TV rights ushering in a lavish new era of ultra-modern stadiums and astronomical payrolls.

But among the masses, there has been much agonising over how the game has sold its soul with its soaring ticket prices, its prima donna footballers who feign loyalty then pimp themselves to the highest bidder, and its barely-concealed scorn for the hard-up families forced to foot the bill.

To the ordinary man in the street, it seems the people's game no longer belongs to the people.

Yet maybe that's only a half-truth because scratch beneath the surface a little, and professional football as we once knew it lives on, albeit a few divisions removed from the bustling PS3billion behemoth that is the Barclays Premier League, and to a lesser extent, the Sky Bet English Championship.

There are still the shoestring budgets, the daily struggles to pay the bills, the wheeling and dealing just to ensure survival.

Jim Harvey has made a career out of football, ever since he was plucked from Glenavon in 1977 at the age of 18, but it's been no bed of roses.

His living has been forged almost exclusively in the lower leagues, first as a player and latterly as a manager, with his work taking him the length and breadth of England.

It can be a tough, unforgiving existence, and Harvey has lost friends and even dallied with death along the way, but he wouldn't swap it for the world.

Especially the highlights, like the realisation of a boyhood dream when he scaled the famous Wembley steps as the triumphant captain of Tranmere, or the personal satisfaction gleaned from rescuing non-league Morecambe from the abyss.

"Lifting the cup at Wembley is obviously a schoolboy dream and for all the number of footballers who play, not many get the opportunity to go and collect a cup at Wembley so that was probably one of my proudest moments," said Harvey.

"I went to Tranmere in '87 when I was 28 or 29, I was well-experienced, I was mature and coming into my prime and I had my best five years up there.

"We had about eight Wembley appearances and we won the Leyland Daf Cup, I was captain of the team and I went up and collected that.

"And we had a couple of promotions as well which were always great to be a part of.

"And as a manager, I had 12 years at Morecambe, building that club up from nothing.

"When I took over, they were PS100k in debt, they averaged about 350 spectators, and they were in the Conference North.

"But after 12 years, I had brought in over PS500k in transfers out of the club, I was in credit, they had got rid of their overdraft, they had built the stadium up to Football League standard, they had built a new stand which was PS750k, and when I left the club, they had 14 boys in the squad of 20 who had come through the academy system.

"And so we were on the threshold of the Football League, although unfortunately, I didn't get to see them into the Football League, I suffered a heart attack and never got back to work for them.

"That was disappointing but that sort of achievement took over, was exceptional really because I had no money to work with at all. It was all achieved through coaching and developing young players." His feats with Morecambe, whom he managed from 1994 until 2006, are the high-water mark of his 20-year managerial career, but his memories of the Lancashire club are bittersweet.

Harvey remains fiercely proud of his legacy at Christie Park, but football's reputation as a cut-throat industry scratched new heights when he was unceremoniously sacked on his first day back after his heart scare, with his number two Sammy McIlroy, who had deputised during Harvey's convalescence, appointed as his successor. …

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Walking Up Wembley Steps Is Still a Proud Memory for Former Arsenal Teen Whose Career Has Taken Him from the Hallowed Turf of Highbury to Bower Fold, Stalybridge. and a Few Others in between; PASSIONATE EX LURGAN MAN WOULD LOVE TO TEEST MANAGERIAL SKILLS ON BIGGER STAGE
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