Centre forward Joe Harper was a prolific goalscorer with all his clubs. Harper won four full caps, one while at Easter Road when he scored the only goal of the game against Denmark in Copenhagen in September 1975.
National team Scotland
International debut 18th October 1972 (versus Denmark)
Harper started his senior career with Morton in 1964, moving briefly to Huddersfield in 1966 before returning to Cappielow a short time later. By now, he was a recognised goalscorer and he was signed for Aberdeen by then manager Eddie Turnbull during the 1969/70 season, scoring almost 70 league goals for the Grampian side in just over three seasons. A move to Everton beckoned in 1972, but Harper spent an unhappy time at Goodison.
Although Harper's heart was set on returning to Aberdeen after his £180,000 move to Everton had turned sour, Hibs outbid the Dons when Eddie Turnbull, who had originally taken him to Pittodrie from Morton, offered £120,000 for the start of the 1973/74 season. Even then, as Harper frankly discloses, the player sought to sabotage the move, demanding the same wages and bonuses as he was on at Goodison Park plus a £15,000 tax-free signing-on fee, knowing that figure was well above what teams such as Hibernian could afford.
But to his astonishment, Hibernian Chairman Tom Hart agreed, without so much as a blink of an eye only for Harper, having accepted, to discover Aberdeen had undergone a belated change of heart. But they had been unable to contact him as he met with Hart and Turnbull in Carlisle to thrash out a deal. Harper said, "I had signed for Hibs which left me in two minds, happy because I was about to rejoin Eddie, sad because I might well have returned to Aberdeen after all."
Hibernian, however, were at that time, a force in Scottish football with Hart having outlined his plans to smash the Old Firm domination with a side boasting the likes of Pat Stanton, Erich Schaedler, Alex Edwards, Alex Cropley, John Brownlie and a front pairing of Alan Gordon and Jimmy O'Rourke that had worked so well for several years. Harper's optimism, though, quickly turned to despair as a number of those stars were off-loaded and he quickly became the target of the fans' ire.
He said, "Hart admitted the business was required to claw back the fee the Club had paid to me, so it was hardly surprising I was seen as public enemy No.1 by some supporters." Harper therefore was seen by many fans as being instrumental in the dissolution of the popular Hibernian side of the 70s. Harper continues, "One group who were particularly nasty to me based themselves just under the old main stand and, it did not matter what I did, they would boo and jeer and shout abuse, so much so that I came to hate them with a vengeance."
Harper consoled himself by helping Hibs finish runners-up to Celtic, although it was now clear he was now part of a side not strong enough to lift the title, the prize he most coveted having helped Aberdeen win the Scottish Cup in his first season in the Granite City.
A sign that some Hibs fans would never take to him came as he was booed off the pitch after scoring all five goals against Dutch side Nijmegen in a friendly at Easter Road, the bumper fee paid by Hart ensuring there was little chance of him getting the move he desired and Turnbull recognised he needed.
The following season saw Harper score a hat-trick in the final of the League Cup, a feat overshadowed as Celtic's Dixie Deans scored three, helping the Hoops to a 6-3 triumph.
It was a situation which led Harper to observe, "Dixie was still more popular with some of the Hibs fans than I was, and the sale of Alex Cropley, for £150,000 to Arsenal in the December, led to more anger being directed towards me because he had been a Hibs hero for seven years. I was becoming increasingly unhappy, though I still sought to do my best in every game."
Harper's relationship with Hart also deteriorated to the point where, having returned for pre-season training in the summer of 1975 sporting a full beard, he was ordered "in a condescending manner" by the chairman to remove it. According to the player when he refused Hart's request, the Chairman retorted, "Listen son, I own you because I paid for you to come to Hibs out of my own money. If I tell you to do something, you will just do it."
Such was the acrimony that Hart banned Harper from taking part in the official photo-call which marked the start of every season despite the fact his team-mates Arthur Duncan and Schaedler both sported moustaches. Harper said, "Silly stuff but I was 27 years old and I was unaware of a club rule which ruled out facial hair. Some colleagues backed my stance to remain unshaven and declined to be photographed, which turned the event into a farce."
Hart then warned Harper he'd be left behind to train with the reserve and youth players as Hibs travelled for a pre-season tour to Ireland if he didn't shave off the offending beard. But Harper turned up at the airport having decided to "take things to the wire" with the beard still in place, brazenly fingering it as Hart walked past before dashing into the toilet to shave it off, a move which didn't go down well. Harper recalled, "Hart was livid when I revealed my new self with a cheery 'morning chairman,' and joined the lads queuing for the aircraft. I gathered from his look that my days at Easter Road were numbered."
Harper didn't endear himself to Hart when a few months later, in reply to a question as to whether he was enjoying himself at Easter Road, he candidly replied, "No, I have no peace of mind, and I'm sure the chairman doesn't like me." The striker found himself dropped to the bench and on the fringes of the first team. Although scoring many fine goals at Easter Road, including a great strike against Liverpool in the UEFA Cup, Harper became disillusioned and returned to Pittodrie in 1976 after Leith side accepted a £50,000 offer from Aberdeen. His blated return to the Granite City meant he remained there until signing for Highland League side Peterhead in 1981. He also had a short spell with Keith.
Harper won four full caps, one while at Easter Road when he scored the only goal of the game against Denmark in Copenhagen in September 1975. Rather curiously, his previous two caps awarded while at Pittodrie had also both been against the same opposition.
Harper was one of five Scottish players suspended indefinitely after a fracas outside a nightclub following the game in Copenhagen in 1975. He played one more game for Scotland against Iran in 1978 after the ban had been lifted.
Full name Joseph Montgomery Harper
Date of birth 11th January 1948
Place of birth Greenock, Scotland
Height 5ft 6in