Dons’ King Joey turns town red!

LEGEND is a word bandied around too easily in football. But Joe Harper was mobbed by a red wave of Aberdeen fans at Zizzi Bar in Los Cristianos as his beloved Dons started out on another Europa League campaign.

Some had witnessed his goal-scoring exploits first-hand, while younger fans had simply heard the many tales of his 100% commitment and colourful lifestyle.

But they all wanted to meet him!

Joe made his debut for home-town club Morton at 16, and soon attracted attention from down south. But Huddersfield proved to be a bad move. “I was just a kid and put in digs with four navvies, and wasn’t able to settle,” he recalled.

Eddie Turnbull, “the best manager I ever had,” rescued him with a £40,000 move to Aberdeen after he shunned interest from Rangers and Celtic.

That’s when the goals started flowing … his penalty to beat Celtic 1-0 for the Dons’ second-ever Scottish Cup, was followed by a prolific 33-goal haul in1971-72 in 34 league games.

That sparked a £180,000 move to Everton, which started well but turned sour. “It was difficult to say No to the move,” he said.

“Aberdeen had been good to me, with an interest-free loan, to buy a house, and the transfer fee was a fantastic deal for them.

“All was good at first, under manager Harry Catterick, but he had a heart attack and was replaced by Billy Bingham. And, let’s just say,S we never saw eye to eye.”

Eddie Turnbull, then with Hibernian, threw Joe a lifeline, and his most memorable achievement for them was a hat-trick in their 6-3 League Cup defeat by Celtic.

The lure of Aberdeen drew Joey back under manager Ally McLeod, igniting his career as he drove them to three Cup Finals, an extra-time 2-1 win over Celtic being the only win.

By now he was known as King Joey, and King of the Beach End, at their Pittodrie ground. And a few songs at Zizzi from the Tenerife Dons referred to his cult status, and a liking for the odd drink or two.

Joey´s Scotland career included a goal on his debut, and it ended with a run-out against Iran in the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina, under McLeod.

In between, he was given a lifetime ban, along with Arthur Graham, after an incident in a Denmark nightclub, but the ban was lifted after a year.

“It was one of those wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time moments,” he said, “The two of us, with Willie Young and Billy Bremner, had been allowed out by Ally after the late game … it got a bit lively and a light was broken.”

With his club-record 205 goals, Joey is a popular host at Legends Lounge, at Aberdeen´s ground, and a focal point for the Aberdeen Community Trust. And in that role, he accepted 815 euros, raised by the generosity of Zizzi Bar’s regulars, through the sale of Dons’ memorabilia.

“We help people with handicaps and illness in the Aberdeen area, because the club is a big part of the community,” he said proudly.

On the night, the TV link delivered a 1-1 home European draw with Siroki Brijeg, of Herzegovinia, but the mood was upbeat, with the away leg to come.

And anyway, there´s never a dull moment when King Joey’s around!

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Posted by on Jul 21 2017. Filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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