A prolific goalscorer with any club he played for, Joe made 99 appearances for Hibs and scored 49 goals including a great strike against Liverpool in the UEFA Cup.
Debut: Falkirk (0) vs Hibernian (0) - Divison One (Old) - 09/02/1974
Joe Harper was born in Greenock in 1948 and began his career with his hometown club of Morton.
He moved to Huddersfield Town in 1967 but after a brief and unhappy spell with the English side, he returned to Cappielow. At times, Joe had a difficult time with the Morton supporters but they soon recognised his ability and enthusiasm and he played for Morton against Chelsea in the Fairs Cup. Across both spells with the club, Joe scored 74 goals in 122 appearances.
In 1969, Aberdeen manager Eddie Turnbull paid £40,000 to sign Joe and in his first season with the Dons, he helped them win the Scottish Cup for the second time in their history. He opened the scoring from the penalty spot as overwhelming pre-match favourites Celtic were defeated 3–1. Joe rapidly developed a reputation as a prodigious goalscorer and following a record-breaking haul of 33 goals in 34 league games in the 1971/72 season was the subject of much interest from English scouts. A move to Everton beckoned in 1972, but Joe spent an unhappy time at Goodison as his time there was not as productive as his Aberdeen spell.
Joe Harper celebrates after scoring against Liverpool in 1975.
In 1974, Joe returned to Scotland and signed for Hibernian reuniting Eddie Turnbull. Even then, as Joe frankly discloses, the player sought to sabotage the move as his heart was set on a return to Aberdeen, 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.
Joe made his debut for Hibs in a goalless draw with Falkirk and went onto score his first goal for the club just over a month later in a 3-3 draw with St Johnstone. Joe, unfortunately, was never a favourite with the Hibs fans, and his arrival signalled the beginning of the decline of the team's fortunes through the late 1970s and 1980s. Joe 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 following season saw Joe 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.
By now, Joe's relationship with the chairman had 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. When teammates backed him following the incident, 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. The striker found himself dropped to the bench and on the fringes of the first team following further deterioration in the relationship and after 99 appearances for Hibs and 49 goals including a great strike against Liverpool in the UEFA Cup, Joe returned to Aberdeen in 1976.
Under the management of Ally MacLeod, Joe's second spell with Aberdeen inspired instant success, the Dons defeating Celtic 2–1 to win the League Cup in November. Over two spells with Aberdeen, Joe scored 199 goals, a club record and his iconic status amongst Aberdeen supporters was recognised when he was amongst the first players to be inducted to the club's Hall of Fame. His notoriety with Aberdeen fans also earned him the title 'King of the Beach End'.
On leaving Aberdeen in 1981, Joe had spells with Peterhead, as player and manager, and Keith before retiring from the professional game. Joe later became manager of Huntly FC in the Highland League before he was succeeded by Steve Paterson in October 1990.
He has also been a columnist for the Aberdeen Evening Express and an autobiography was published in 2008. He was appointed honorary Club President of Aberdeenshire Amateur League side Halliburton AFC in 2009 and is regularly seen at Aberdeen home matches.
Full Name: Joseph Montgomery Harper
Date of Birth: 11th January 1948
Place of Birth: Greenock, Scotland
National Team: Scotland
International Debut: Denmark (1) vs Scotland (4) - F.I.F.A. World Cup Qualifier - 18th October 1972
Joe first played for Scotland against Denmark in October 1972, scoring on his debut in a 4–1 win. He played in Scotland's next game but then fell out of the international reckoning, only earning a recall in 1975.
By coincidence, the occasion was another away match with Denmark, but this was overshadowed by a controversial off-field incident. Joe was one of five Scottish players suspended indefinitely after a fracas outside a nightclub following the game in Copenhagen. He played one more game for Scotland against Iran in 1978 after the ban had been lifted.