Eric Harrison (footballer)

Eric George Harrison MBE (5 February 1938 – 13 February 2019) was an English professional football player and coach. He played in midfield for several teams, including notable spells at Halifax Town (his local club) and Barrow. Harrison became a football coach and worked at Everton before he was brought to Manchester United by Ron Atkinson in 1981 to manage the youth team. Under Alex Ferguson, Harrison developed "one of the best crops of young players in the English game" – the so-called Fergie's Fledglings – which included David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville.

Eric Harrison
Personal information
Full name Eric George Harrison
Date of birth (1938-02-05)5 February 1938
Place of birth Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, England
Date of death 13 February 2019(2019-02-13) (aged 81)
Playing position Wing half
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1957–1964 Halifax Town 199 (10)
1964–1966 Hartlepools United 81 (4)
1966–1969 Barrow 130 (1)
1969–1971 Southport 75 (0)
1971–1972 Barrow 32 (1)
1972 Scarborough
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Playing careerEdit

Harrison began his football career as a player with his local club, Halifax Town, and made 199 league appearances between 1957 and 1964.[1] After seven years with Halifax, he joined Hartlepools United, where he played for two years before joining Barrow in 1966. At Barrow, he was noted as a strong midfield player who played a key role in securing the club's promotion to the Third Division in 1967. He was at Southport from 1969 to 1971 before returning to Barrow for the 1971–72 season. In all, he made 162 league appearances for Barrow and a further 25 in other competitions, scoring three goals. He left Barrow for Scarborough in 1972.[2] After retiring from playing Harrison entered coaching.[3]

Manchester UnitedEdit

Hired from Everton in June 1981 by new Manchester United manager Ron Atkinson, with whom Harrison had played for the Royal Air Force football team,[4] Harrison took the post of youth team manager.[5] It was his responsibility to help guide the club's young players and mould them into future first-teamers. When Atkinson was sacked in 1986, his replacement, Alex Ferguson, decided to keep Harrison on as youth coach. Dissatisfied with the number of players coming through the United youth system, Ferguson called a meeting with Harrison to discuss potential improvements. Harrison pointed out that he had already made Norman Whiteside and a couple of others into first team players, but Ferguson argued that this was still not enough. Harrison retorted "Right, we'll do a deal. You get me better-quality players, and I'll get you more youngsters in the first team."[4] Ferguson agreed and set about increasing the club's scouting network two-or-threefold.[6]

Harrison's set-up subsequently produced a crop of first team players that became known as "Fergie's Fledglings" or "the class of '92". These included David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Robbie Savage.[7] Harrison managed the Manchester United youth team that included many of these players and won the 1992 FA Youth Cup. The group has been described as "one of the best crops of young players in the English game". In 1993 Harrison introduced Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and Keith Gillespie to first team football. In 1995 a Harrison-coached team, captained by Phil Neville, won the FA Youth Cup again. Other players brought through the Manchester United youth team by Harrison include Mark Hughes, Norman Whiteside, Clayton Blackmore and Graeme Hogg. Harrison left Manchester United around 2008.[3]

Later lifeEdit

Harrison was assistant manager of the Wales national football team for four years, under Hughes.[3] In 2014, Harrison was diagnosed with mixed dementia, a condition that his own father had also lived with in his later years, and went to live in a nursing home.[8] Harrison was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to football in the 2018 New Year Honours.[9] As he was unable to travel to London, he received his honour at Halifax Town's ground, The Shay.[8] He died on 13 February 2019 at the age of 81.[3]


  1. ^ "Eric Harrison". Post War English & Scottish Football League A–Z Player's Transfer Database. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  2. ^ The Definitive Barrow AFC by Michael Gardner, publisher: Soccer Data/Tony Brown
  3. ^ a b c d "Eric Harrison: Former Manchester United youth coach and Class of 92 mentor dies aged 81". BBC Sport. 14 February 2019. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  4. ^ a b Malam, Colin (10 February 2001). "The other Eric behind rise of United". Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2008.
  5. ^ "History by Decade – 1980–1989". Manchester United. Retrieved 13 January 2008.
  6. ^ Mathieson, Stuart (6 November 2006). "Stars pay tribute to Fergie". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 13 January 2008.
  7. ^ "From boys to men". The Football Association. 6 April 2004. Archived from the original on 26 March 2006. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  8. ^ a b Kelly, Ciaran (17 September 2018). "The devastating decline of Manchester United Class of 92 hero Eric Harrison". Manchester Evening News. MEN Media. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  9. ^ Duncker, Charlotte (29 December 2017). "Former Manchester United coach Eric Harrison awarded MBE". Manchester Evening News. MEN Media. Retrieved 2 January 2018.

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