“It was a pleasure to know him” - stars pay tribute to Eric Harrison

Brian Kidd at the funeral of Eric Harrison MBE at Halifax Minster. Picture Credit: Charlotte Graham for the Daily Telegraph Pool
Brian Kidd at the funeral of Eric Harrison MBE at Halifax Minster. Picture Credit: Charlotte Graham for the Daily Telegraph Pool

Football stars past and present have paid tribute to football coach Eric Harrison at his funeral in Halifax.

Former Manchester United player Mark Hughes said: “He was a great guy and somebody who had a huge impact on many, many young footballers.

“Not just from his coaching but his standards and the way he conducted himself, and the things he demanded of you as a young player and a young person.

“In my time at Man United he was quite a formidable character. I was more scared of him than Sir Alex if I’m honest!

“He was a great help to me when I went into football management with Wales, and for four years basically he just held my hand while I tried to get to grips with being a manager.

“I’ve got a lot to be grateful to Eric for.

“He understood that life’s hard, nothing’s given to you for free and he taught you that you had to give everything and be the best you can be every time you put the shirt on.

“And those demands he put on you stayed with us all.

“He was a genuine football person, really enjoyed being round football people, wanted to help people and first and foremost, he was a very genuine, caring family man.

“It was a pleasure to know him.”

Ex-Man United manager Ron Atkinson, who brought Harrison to Old Trafford, said: “We were both in National Service and played for the RAF team together, so that was the start of a friendship that lasted a long old time.

“I’ve gone on record that apart from Bryan Robson, he might be the best signing I ever made at Manchester United.

“You knew he was a terrific coach. When he first came he was involved with Mark Hughes, Norman Whiteside, Clayton Blackmore, then of course later on, the famous ‘92 lot.

“He was great on the game, he had a good knowledge of the game and a good way of imparting it, and he was quite a disciplinarian.

“He made sure players did the right things at all given times.

“The Eric that was on the coaching field was the hard man, but I’ve had some fun times with him as well.”

Ex-Man United captain Steve Bruce said: “I think even the (other) lads he coached who went on to be professional footballers, he put into them some sturdiness and a certain strength that you needed to become a football player.

“As well as being a talented football coach, he was a very, very, very good man and I enjoyed so many times towards the end of my career listening to him, Sir Alex and Brian Kidd, have a cup of tea and pick their brains. And for that I’ll be immensely grateful.

“He was a great coach, tough, and determined, and wanted all of his players to succeed.

“I think that was his big strength, that if you weren’t good enough for Man United, he groomed you in a certain way to be a football player. What was required, what was expected.

“He didn’t only do that on the football pitch, but also to teach them life skills as well, which is vitally important when you’re teaching young players and young men to prepare for what’s coming.”

Nicky Butt, one of Harrison famous Class of ‘92, said: “We (Class of ‘92) all came through together, obviously Mark Hughes, Norman Whiteside, players like that as well.

“But the ones he had a big influence on are possibly the ones that didn’t make it in football but had the right work ethic to go on and do well in other walks of life.

“I thought he was an unbelievable maker of men rather than just a coach.”

Brian Kidd, who worked alongside Harrison at Man United, said: “I was lucky enough to play under Eric at Everton and then I worked very closely with him at Man United, and saw first hand what he did.

“It wasn’t just his work with the younger players, but his help and advice at senior level was invaluable.

“Eric was straight as a dye, solid, a man’s man, no doubt about it.

“I think Eric treated his young players like a son.

“He was very proud of his roots too, no doubt about it.”