Mick Harford, for those Imps too young to know him, was a tall elegant striker who would go on to play at the very top of the modern game. I see his image in Ben Wright, another swanlike finisher bubbling with technique. At the Imps for just over three years, Mick will come full circle next season, returning as manager of Luton Town.
Mick Harford is probably the most famous find of Lincoln City’s successful youth scheme. Another of Graham Taylor`s brilliant ideas saw our fledgling scouting uncover a rare jewel playing for Lambton Boys Club in 1977. The deal was to be one of the final acts of GT`s stewardship as George Kerr had taken charge of Lincoln by the time that Harford officially turned professional.. It was Kerr, to his credit, that turned the strapping sapling from an awkward though raw and exciting midfielder into one hell of an all round forward. He quickly established himself, adept in the target man and poacher role.
Harford was one of the few shining lights in that year under Kerr`s debt ridden, aging star era. In1978 Colin Murphy was to be the making of the lad. Murphy rebuilt Lincoln’s side with Harford as a vital striker in Murphy’s free-scoring City side. His pace heading and control blended well with a vision well in advance of his tender years. Three hat-tricks during the first half of the 1980/81 season brought the big guns ‘a sniffing`. Newcastle United tabled a huge £180,000 in December 1980. Not only was it an Imp record, but to good for cash strapped club to refuse. In every sense of the word it was Christmas come early.
Harford, by his own admission missed the Imps. He found life hard to adjust to after playing for Newcastle, Bristol City and Birmingham, all within the next fifteen months, though each move commanded a big fee for the time, the potential was clearly there within a simple country lad. . It was not surprising g that a transfer to Luton in December 1984, appeared to do the trick. Though Luton were a similar sized club to Lincoln they were in Division One at the time the top tier. In his six years at Luton, represented England twice and played in two major cup finals. Though not a prolific scorer by any means, 27 from 139 games, Mick created 3 times that amount. Murchy had given the lad the ability to bring others into the game, a key skill in the 18 yard box where time, a quick mind, cool head and technique is of the essence.
He ended his playing career at Wimbledon after signing for four teams in less than two years and once retired, he became a junior coach. .Mick has since managed Nottingham Forest and Rotherham United. He was also linked to the vacant Lincoln job in June 2006 and 2007, but declared that he had not applied for the job. Instead, he was appointed as the Colchester United assistant-manager in August 2006. He stayed at Colchester for just one season before quitting to join QPR as their assistant-manager. He was then given the caretaker role in the struggling side, a poison challis prior to the money they have now. When the money moved in his face didn`t fit despite a 60% success rate in half a dozen games.
Luton approached him in January 2008, to replace Blackwell. Despite poison challis syndrome he agreed to guide them through an era that threatened their very integrity and existence. In March 2007 former manager, Mike Newall had written to his employers who had turned a blind eye. Newell’s public outbursts had in the past been humorous, though very much deserving of a slap on the wrist. The female linesmen jibe, for instance merely involved a quick slap on the wrists at Soho Square.. The claim, after the Hull game, that agent bungs were rife in football and that he had personally been offered bungs to help transfers go through; were never going to be swept under the carpet even by the lethargic head in the sand FA. Two days later, Newell was fired by two directors for ‘gross misconduct’ – for speaking out against his employers.
Mick has his work cut out. An investigation into the financial dealings at Kenilworth Road is still ongoing. At least, this week one of the charges was dropped. The 2020 Consortium may have provided a loan but have still not taken control and thus the club are still in administration. The threat of a Leeds style 15 point deduction next month, is also on the cards. Mick is also unable to buy players.
Doubtless we will wish him well on his return to Sincil Bank. If Jacko is the Lord then perhaps Mick could be regarded as at least one of the favoured sons of the Imps.
Lincoln City career: 109+(6) appearances and 40 goals between July 1977 – December 1980. Clubs: Lincoln City, Newcastle, Bristol City, Birmingham City, Luton, Derby, Chelsea, Sunderland, Coventry and Wimbledon.
1977-1980 Lincoln 115 (41 goals) 1980-1981 Newcastle £180K 19 (4 goals) 1981-1982 Bristol City £169k 30 (11 goals) 1982-1984 Birmingham £100k 92 (25 goals) 1984-1990 Luton £250K 139 (27 goals) 1990-1991 Derby £450K 58 (15 goals) 1991-1992 Luton £325K 29 (12goals) 1992-1993 Chelsea £300K 28 (9 goals) 1993-1993 Sunderland £250K 11 (2goals) 1993-1994 Coventry £200K 1 (1goals) 1994-1998 Wimbledon £50K 60 (9 goals) ENGLAND 2 appearances