Wayne Harrison: Liverpool signing whose promising career was thwarted by serious injury at home and on the pitch

 

Wayne Harrison was not the most fortunate of footballers. Blessed with a sublime talent for sniffing out goal-scoring opportunities and converting them with consummate skill, he became the world's most expensive teenager when Liverpool – then the mightiest club in the land – paid Oldham Athletic £250,000 for his predatory services in the spring of 1985.

Then his luck ran out. The slightly built, engagingly amiable rookie with the bobbing blond quiff never played a senior game for the Merseysiders and made only 10 League appearances in a career sabotaged by injury.

Stockport-born Harrison, a childhood Liverpool fanatic despite growing up close to Manchester, turned professional with second-tier Oldham in December 1984. By then he had made his first-team debut as a substitute in a 3-2 home victory over Notts County that autumn, and soon caughtLiverpool's attention by scoring twice in the Latics' surprise 4-3 FA Youth Cup win over the Anfield giants.

Recognising an uncut gem, canny Reds boss Joe Fagan made an instant bid of £200,000, which was rebuffed by his Oldham counterpart Joe Royle, and a deal was clinched only when the offer was increased by £50,000 in the following March. Harrison, who had struck only one goal in his six League outings at the time of the transfer, was immediately loaned back to the Latics before being recalled to further his education as a Liverpool reserve.

He started brightly, but then came a series of accidents, starting with a plunge through greenhouse windows that almost cost him his life. The ambulance service was on strike and he suffered huge blood loss before Army medics got him to hospital in the nick of time.

Once recovered, he damaged his knee badly in a fall from the loft at home, then sustained a grim succession of football injuries. After a series of operations, he bounced back for a brief loan stint with Crewe Alexandra, then scored 17 times to help Liverpool reserves lift the Central League title in 1989/90. Another calamity was in store: he shattered his knee in a collision with a goalkeeper near the season's end.

A year on, still only 23, he was forced to retire, and was not even fit enough to play in his testimonial match between Liverpool and Oldham in 1992. He found work as a lorry driver and enjoyed Sunday league football, still exhibiting flashes of the sumptuous ability that, with better luck, might have made him a star.

IVAN PONTING

Wayne Harrison, footballer: born Stockport, Cheshire 15 November 1967; died Stockport 25 December 2013.

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