SHERIDAN DICTATES: LEEDS UNITED NOSTALGIA

CARL HARRIS

As a young lad, Carl Harris was my hero along with Arthur Graham. Two flying wingers who offered hope to every supporter dreaming of a return to the glory years experienced under Don Revie.

Carl was born in Neath on 3rd November 1956, and his early promise as a footballer saw him represent the national side at schoolboy level.

Several clubs showed interest in the youngster but the real interest came from Burnley, Chelsea and Leeds United:

From the age of 12, I spent time at all three clubs and Burnley were the first to offer me an apprenticeship. My father wasn’t keen at the time and he wouldn’t let me sign. It is often said that they rejected me but that wasn’t the case."

Like many lads growing up in the valleys at the time, Carl Harris supported Leeds United and it was with the Elland Road club that he signed apprentice forms, but initially things looked they wouldn’t work out:

“I left within weeks; I was homesick and decided to return to Wales. Byron Stevenson and Glan Letheren were a year older than me, they travelled back to Wales one weekend and I jumped on the train with them.”

Carl got himself a job in a factory where he worked for eight months whilst playing local football:

“Cardiff City and Swansea wanted me to sign but Leeds insisted on keeping my registration. In November 1973 I decided to return to West Yorkshire and give it a real go. I didn’t want to look back later in life with any regrets.”

Just twelve months later, Carl made his Leeds United debut in a European Cup tie at home to Ujpest Dosza:

“It was the second leg. Leeds had won the first leg 2-1 over there. I was named as one of the five substitutes and in the second half I came on for Peter Lorimer. It was a brilliant experience and one which I took in my stride, I was a confident lad."

Carl had to wait five months for his league debut and what an impact he made. Leeds were playing title chasing Ipswich Town at Elland Road on the 19th April 1975 and Harris again found himself on the bench:

“It was the final home game of the season and after training on the Friday I became aware I was in the first team squad. It all happened so suddenly and none of my family were able to make it to the game."

After ten minutes Johnny Giles came off injured and the young Welshman got his chance.  It was a chance he didn’t want to waste and he didn’t. With the game deadlocked at 1-1, Harris hit the headlines by scoring a 62nd minute winner:

“It was brilliant to be honest. Trevor Cherry had equalised and I was on hand to win us the game. The Ipswich goalkeeper, Laurie Sivell, pushed Billy Bremner’s shot away to his right and it looked like the ball was going out but I managed to get a left foot shot in which Sivell could only parry into his goal. It was right in front of the Kop and a great moment.

"I wasn’t really one for wild celebrations; I got on with the rest of the game before travelling home on the bus due to the fact that I never held a licence to drive a car.”

Next up was a European Cup semi final in the Nou Camp and although Carl travelled with the squad to Barcelona, he did not feature in the game.

Carl made his full debut the following Saturday in a 2-1 defeat at Wolves but found himself back on the bench for the final game of the 1974/75 season away at Tottenham. He did come on in that game, replacing Paul Madeley:

“I was a Leeds fan as a kid and to play with the men who were my heroes was something special.”

The following season Carl made six appearances from the bench before starting in an away fixture at Everton on the 20th March, he scored his second Leeds goal in a 3-1 win. He would stay in the side for the final eight games, adding further goals to his tally with strikes against Newcastle and Manchester City.

Despite his devastating wing play and eye for goal, Carl wasn’t a regular in the side until the 1977/78 season when he started 33 league games in all competitions and scored five goals:

“A number of managers came and went in a relatively short space of time. The club struggled for consistency and although we had a good side we never really challenged for honours other than getting to two League Cup semi finals."

The 1980/81 season saw Carl finish as Leeds’ top scorer with ten goals. One of them, a strike against Ipswich in a 3-0 win, was described by manager Allan Clarke as being world class. It proved to be Carl’s last goal in a Leeds shirt despite making 20 appearances in the 1981/82 season:

“I got on well with Allan, but at the end of the 1981/82 season I was out of contract. In the April I was offered a new deal but there was a disagreement in the figures and Clarke more or less blanked me from that point. I didn’t really want to go anywhere else.”

Leeds suffered relegation at the end of the season and Carl Harris moved on to Charlton Athletic in a £100,000 deal:

“Looking back I was a bit hasty joining Charlton. There was interest from Manchester United but Tony Collins, their chief scout, told me they were hanging on as they believed they could get me for £60,000.

"I enjoyed my time at Charlton but I suffered with a few injuries and one of them was a double hernia which Charlton diagnosed as a pelvic strain. When my time was up at The Valley I was offered a one year contract but decided to move on."

At one stage it looked very much like Harris was heading back to Elland Road:

“Eddie Gray wanted me back at Leeds and I played a few games in the Central League to prove my fitness. A deal was imminent and Eddie got the sack which meant it all fell through. I was very disappointed."

Carl Harris played out his career at Bury, Rochdale and Exeter City before returning to Wales where he was player-manager of Welsh side Briton Ferry.

These days Carl runs a very successful removals business and looks back fondly at his time at Elland Road.

For the record Carl was recently voted number 75 in the list of 100 Greatest Leeds players, a fantastic achievement whichever way you look at it.

Thank you to Carl Harris for giving me his time and the opportunity to write this article.

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