FC Halifax Town: Wembley holds special memories for Town boss Harvey

Jim Harvey
Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey and Wembley go back a long way.

The Town boss has made five appearances at Wembley - all as a player with Tranmere - and is about to manage there for the first time with Halifax.

Harvey didn’t get the chance to visit Wembley as a boy growing up in Northern Ireland, and was forced to watch when Arsenal played there three years on the trot during his time at Highbury.

Harvey was a 19-year-old in his first season at Arsenal when he was part of their 1978 FA Cup final contingent, and went to Wembley twice more with The Gunners without making an appearance in 1979 and 1980.

But he had more luck with Tranmere, and his appearances at the national stadium with Rovers still carry a strong resonance with the Town boss.

He played there for Rovers in two play-off finals and two cup finals having first gone close to an appearance in the Football League Centenary Tournament, reaching the semi-finals.

“We beat the old Wimbledon of Jonh Fashanu and Vinnie Jones, and then got past Newcastle, who had Gazza and Mirandinha in their side,” he said.

“Then we played the Nottingham Forest of Stuart Pearce in the semi-finals and lost on penalties.”

At the climax to the 1989-90 season, Rovers played two games in the space of a week at Wembley; first winning the 1990 Leyland DAF final beating Bristol Rovers before going back and losing the third division play-off final to Notts County.

“Playing there was the highlight of my career,” Harvey said.

“The best memory is beating Bristol Rovers.

“Ian Holloway was marking me in that game and we won 2-1.

“To win it for the club for the first time at Wembley was magnificent.”

The played there twice more the following year and their fortunes were reversed, losing the Leyland DAF final to Birimingham but beating Bolton in the play-offs to gain promotion to the old second division.

“It’s your boyhood dream to play at Wembley. it might not have been the FA Cup final but they were still big occasions,” he said.

“To experience Wembley as a player is brilliant and such a satisfying moment.

“To walk up the stairs and collect the trophy as captain is very special.

“It’s all over in a short space of time but you have photos and videos to look back on.

“I can still remember all those games though.”

Harvey says the national stadium retains its special significance in the English game.

“It’s the new Wembley now of course, but the old Wembley had England winning the World Cup in 1966 and the best players in the world have played there.

“It’s the Mecca of football - everybody wants to go and play there.

“Not everybody gets there in their career. It used to only be international teams and the FA Cup finalists.

“There are more opportunities to get there now.

“But it’s still the holy grail for players.”

Harvey’s family will be at the game, but the Town boss is treating it as anything but a day out.

He added: “It will be my first time there as a manager, which will be a proud moment.

“I’ll have my family there, including my grandchildren.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity but it’s only a nice place to go if you win.

“We won’t just be turning up - that’s not in my nature. We’ll be going there to win.”