The other side of the football crown ...

Discussion in 'Liverpool' started by Matt Clark, Sep 25, 2002.

  1. Matt Clark

    Matt Clark Member

    Dec 19, 1999
    Liverpool FC
    I found this on soccernet. I thought those who
    remember him might be interested.

    'Wonderkid' whose dream turned sour
    By Carl Marsden

    After being hailed as a 'wonderkid' way back in 1985,
    Wayne Harrison's footballing fairytale quickly turned
    from dream to nightmare.

    Liverpool surprised many when they made striker
    Harrison the most expensive teenager in world football
    that year.

    The Anfield side shelled out £250,000 for the services
    of a 17-year-old who had made just two first-team
    appearances for Second Division Oldham Athletic.

    By rights, Harrison would now be coming to the end of
    a glittering career with a healthy hoard of medals and
    international caps. His pace and exceptional finishing
    skills should have made him a household name.

    But he was ultimately destined to make just one senior
    appearance for Liverpool. And although the club showed
    their faith by renewing his playing contract three
    times, countless injuries, operations and lay-offs -
    including one near-death experience - conspired to
    produce a cruel outcome for player and club.

    In 1991, Harrison was forced to retire after a
    luckless journey from the brink of fame to despair.

    'My transfer to Liverpool was signed and sealed really
    quickly,' he recalls. 'I was very young and not even
    interested in what the contract said. I supported
    Liverpool as a kid - Dalglish and Keegan were my
    idols, so it was a dream come true.'

    Everything Harrison touched at that time seemed to
    turn to goals. He had already scored 35 times for
    Oldham's reserve and junior sides, progressing to
    first-team level just five months after signing
    schoolboy forms.

    At the age of 16, he became the youngest first-team
    player in the Boundary Park club's history, fuelling
    paper talk of a big-money move.

    Athletic's youth team coach at the time, Billy Urmson,
    still raves about Harrison.

    'We went to play Hull City's reserve side one day and
    had only one senior pro in the side,' he says. 'Not
    surprisingly, we lost 8-1 - but Wayne typically got
    his goal, from nowhere. He was that type of player - a
    quality finisher.'

    Liverpool's interest in the youngster grew after he
    tore them apart in an FA Youth Cup tie at Anfield.

    'Wayne was simply unbelievable,' Urmson remembers. 'We
    won 4-0 - we were 3-0 up after half an hour - and
    Wayne scored twice. It was no surprise that they
    followed up their interest pretty much straight away.'

    Athletic's manager of the time, Joe Royle, was
    reluctant to lose the player but had little choice.

    'We were very much in a sell-to-survive situation,' he
    says. 'Almost every big club in the country made
    enquiries about Wayne. Although it took a long time
    for him to settle, there were strong signs that he was
    about to break through when tragedy struck.'

    The youngster's Liverpool career was dogged by
    injuries and misfortune, typified by an incident when
    the reserve side went on a pre-season tour in the
    south of England.

    Harrison fell through greenhouse glass, cutting veins
    in his arms. With ambulance services in the area on
    strike at the time, he almost died from loss of blood
    before a replacement army service could rush him to

    Harrison says: 'I have had 23 football-related
    operations altogether - 12 of those were on the knee
    that caused me to quit. Before that, I had a double
    hernia, groin problems, cartilage on my knee and a
    sore shoulder.

    'Then I had started to string together a great run of
    form for the reserves when the big injury that ended
    my career struck.'

    That fatal blow came in a game against Bradford City
    reserves in May 1990. It was the final game of a
    season in which Harrison appeared to be finally
    putting injury woes behind him and reproducing the
    form that had led to his dream transfer.

    Not surprisingly, he can remember the incident as
    though it had happened yesterday.

    'It was just a high tackle from the goalkeeper,' he
    recalls. 'He caught me at full pelt and I didn't see
    him coming at all. I was running at full speed, trying
    to latch onto the ball, and he just caught me.

    'I remember feeling really physically sick, especially
    when I tried to get on my feet. It was so painful.'

    After the first operation on the joint, Harrison's
    knee was never the same - he had irreparably damaged
    cruciate and medial ligaments.

    He says: 'It still gives me jip to this day and seems
    to get steadily worse every year - especially as
    winter and the colder weather sets in.'

    Eventually, in 1991, the day Harrison had feared
    arrived. 'Graeme Souness asked to see me and basically
    told me the doctors had said they didn't think that I
    should play again,' he says.

    ? Wayne Harrison
    'I was utterly devastated - I was only 22 and my head
    was in a real spin. I had to have further operations
    on the knee, which got worse over time and, to be
    honest, I didn't do much for three or four years.'

    The player's plight was alleviated somewhat by a
    testimonial game between Oldham and Liverpool in 1992,
    but, sadly, Harrison was not even fit enough to turn
    out on the field for a token few minutes' appearance.

    After being tantalisingly close to a life of luxury
    and fame, Harrison is now back in modest surroundings.

    He works in his hometown of Stockport as an HGV driver
    for Robinson's brewery, but is philosophical about his
    former career and what might have been.

    'The best way to look at it now is that I don't I
    think anything can ever be as bad as it has been,' he
    says. 'But I don't feel bitter. I am getting on with
    my life again now.'
  2. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Chicago Fire
    Given how this could've turned out, I'd still count this as a happy ending to the story.
  3. Bauser

    Bauser Member+

    Dec 23, 2000
    Fredrikstad FK
    Interesting story. Didn't Nicky Tanner suffer a similar fate some years ago?
  4. usscouse

    usscouse BigSoccer Supporter

    May 3, 2002
    Orygun coast
    Quite a poignant story, seems he can face it now and get on with his life.
    Only the gifted and select few make it into the big leagues. Sometime we forget that when we give a player a hard time that, that player is one of best.

    Unless his name is…..!!!

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