Tributes paid to Wolves full-back and Walsall captain John Harris
Former Wolves full-back and Walsall captain John Harris has passed away at the age of 84.
Harris, known as the ‘King of Gornal’ by close friend and former Wolves striker Ted Farmer, made only three first team appearances at Molineux, a number which would undoubtedly have been greatly increased had it not been for sustaining a broken leg in only his second game against Villa.
Spotted while playing for Dormston Secondary Modern School and for the Pick of the League side in the Tipton, Coseley and Sedgley district, Harris turned professional at Wolves in 1958, initially captaining the third team in the Birmingham League before later moving up to the Central League.
Actually transformed at Wolves from an inside forward to a full-back, he made his first team debut in a 3-2 win against a West Ham team including Bobby Moore in August 1961, but then suffered the serious injury in the 2-2 against Villa – in which Farmer scored both goals - just two days later.
He was sidelined for a year before returning to play in a 3-3 draw with Manchester City, also going on the club’s tour of America and Canada in 1963, but the injury had affected his ability to regularly break into the first team set-up.
Harris, whose career was interrupted by national service as he served in the RAF at Bridgnorth and Cosford, then made the short move to Walsall where he made 85 appearances, scoring two goals, and would later have a spell as youth team coach.
After finishing his footballing career, he returned to the building trade where he had originally served an apprenticeship, and Farmer has only fond memories of his former team-mate and friend.
“I have known John for over 60 years, since we both started out together and worked our way up through the teams at Wolves,” he said. “I remember when we would both travel in to training as amateurs on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
“We’d get the trolley bus over to Wolverhampton, then walk through the town for training and would often fall asleep on the bus on the way home because of how hard we had trained!
“John was a class player and Wolves actually changed his position because he started out as an inside forward around the time of Peter Broadbent.“Because they had so many good inside forwards at the time, they turned him into a full-back and he would have played so many more games were it not for suffering such a bad injury.
“He then went on and played a lot of games for Walsall where he was also involved in coaching for a time.
“We started out as friends but ended up more like family, and he used to bring his daughters over to see us on Christmas Day.
“He was a proper Black Country lad, to the point that I used to refer to him as the King of Gornal!”
Harris, who has three daughters, cited the highlight of his career at Molineux as playing in the famous ‘Colours vs Whites’ fixture of 1959 – the annual pre-cursor to the season which effectively saw the first team take on the reserves, on the day that Billy Wright retired.