Full Name: Kevin Patrick Harper
Born: 15 January 1976, Oldham
Transferred from: Derby County, 06 March 2000, £300,000
Previous Clubs: Walsall (loan), Hibernian
Pompey Debut: 07 March 2000 v Birmingham, Division One (L 1-0)
First Pompey Goal: 18 March 2000 v Crewe Alexandra, Division One (W 3-1)
Games: 129 (120 League, 9 Cup)
Goals: 9 (9 League, 0 Cup)
Final Game: 30 November 2005 v Watford, League Cup (L 3-0)
Transferred to: Stoke City, 01 February 2005, undisclosed (after loans with Norwich City and Leicester City)
Subsequent Clubs: Carlisle United (loan), Walsall (loan), Dunfermline Athletic
Kevin Harper’s footballing career starting with Hutchinson Vale, a non-league outfit based in Edinburgh, but the wingers big break came with a move to Premier Division Hibernian in August 1992. It was not until the 93/94 season that his breakthrough came, and then he only featured twice that season. The 94/95 season, and the four that followed, would see Harper become a regular, earning himself international honours at under-21 level for Scotland in the process.
Relegation in 1998 left Hibs struggling to retain his services and finally it was Premier League Derby, then managed by former Pompey manager Jim Smith, that persuaded him South of the border in September 1998. The early signs were good and his first Derby goal came in a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield in November 1998 but Harper always struggled to get a starting place with most of his appearances for the club coming from the bench so it was little surprise that he left Pride Park to join Division One side Walsall on loan in December 1999, in a deal that was supposed to be until the end of the 99/00 season.
During this loan spell Harper caught the eye of Pompey manager Tony Pulis, and he convinced Milan Mandaric to part with £300,000 to bring him to Fratton in March 2000 on a three-year contract. Justin Edinburgh was also signed from Spurs, and had terms been agreed with Neil Ruddock he was another that would have came in, John Aloisi was also courted, but he spurned the chance of a return to the club. A day after signing Harper, along with Edinburgh, was handed his debut in a defeat at Birmingham. Harper played a major role for the remainder of the season as Pompey went on to lose just three more games in the final eleven that season, also scoring his first goal in his only his third appearance against Crewe before going on to add another before the season was out.
The 00/01 season (which saw Pulis sacked and Steve Claridge appointed as player/manager before being demoted in February 2001 and replaced by Graham Rix) was disrupted by injuries but Harper scored one of the goals in the 3-0 final day of the season win over Barnsley, a game that Pompey had needed to win to stay up. Whereas the 01/02 season was simply plagued by poor form, and the fans let him know this, with Rix sacked in March 2002 to be replaced by Harry Redknapp. The 02/03 season was a fantastic season for both Harper and Pompey, with the winger a regular in Redknapp’s Division One title winning side, often as a right wing-back with Matty Taylor used as a left sided wing-back. Harper earned himself a new two-year contract in March 2003, ending the season with four goals, the best of which came against Walsall in April 2003.
Promotion to the Premier League meant Harper, and plenty of other players that helped Pompey out of Division One, saw opportunities limited and after just one late substitute appearance against Man City at the end of August a spell on loan with Norwich came in September 2003, which was needed to get some first team football. This loan saw him reunited for former Pompey teammate Peter Crouch, who had also made a loan move to Carrow Road. In October this loan was extended by a further two-months before his return in December, which saw Harper go on to make eight more League and Cup appearances for Pompey in the 03/04 season. Early in the 04/05 season he was off on loan again with a move to Leicester sealed in September 2004, but this was cut short after he was made aware of the fact that he was not guaranteed a first team spot after a calf strain, so he returned to Fratton to make his one and only Pompey appearance that season, in fact his last for the club, against Watford as Pompey crashed out of the League Cup at the quarter-final stage 3-0.
With his contract drawing to an end the man that took him to Pompey returned for him as Pulis took him to Stoke in February 2005. His time with The Championship side started well, but injuries always hindered his progress at the Britannia Stadium, so again he was left with little option but to go out on loan, firstly to Carlisle in October 2006 (having this loan extended in November) only to see injury end this in January 2007. Following a late appearance as a substitute for Stoke in March 2007 Harper then returned to Walsall on a one-month loan, scoring twice on his debut, which was extended until the end of the 06/07 season. With his help Walsall achieved promotion back to League One.
When Stoke released him at the end of his contract in May 2007, offering new contracts to former Pompey stars Russell Hoult and Salif Diao though, a permanent return to Walsall was expected but the lure of a return to Scotland and UEFA Cup football with Division One side Dunfermline proved too much for the 31-year-old and he ventured back North of the border, where he remains to this day, but his injury curse continues to trouble him. The highlight of an otherwise disappointing 07/08 season would be his hat-trick against Stirling Albion in March 2008, taking his tally to four goals for the season, all of which came against Stirling.
03/08/92 – Joins Hibernian, his first professional club, from Scottish non-league side Hutchinson Vale
07/11/98 – Scores at Anfield for Derby, his first goal for the club, in a 2-1 win over Liverpool
06/03/00 –Joins Pompey from Derby for £300,000
07/03/00 – Debut for Pompey in a 1-0 defeat against Birmingham at St Andrews in Division One
18/03/00 – First Pompey goal in 3-1 win over Crewe at Gresty Road in Division One
May 03 – Part of the Pompey squad promoted to the Premier League when crowned Division One champions
29/08/03 – Called into the Scotland squad for the Euro 2004 qualifiers with Faroe Islands and Germany
14/04/07 – Scored the opening goal in Walsall’s 2-1 win over Notts County, which secured promotion into League One
16/08/07 – Played in the UEFA Cup for the first time as his Scottish First Division side Dunfermline lost 1-0 to Swedish side BK Hacken
Other Interesting Facts:
Prior to joining Walsall on loan in December 1999 Harper had dismissed the chance to join Division Two side Blackpool, with his agent Jerome Anderson ‘laughing’ at the suggestion, with him happier to stay in the Derby reserves than make that move
Harper was part of the Pompey squad that Milan Mandaric threatened not to pay a months wages to following poor performances that saw Pompey slide towards possible Division One relegation. After Peter Storrie, Shaun Derry and Harper had all held peace talks in March 2002, Mandaric agreed that all would be paid
Ended the 01/02 season with more sending offs than goals! Harper was sent off twice, against Rotherham and Watford, and only scored one, against Norwich
Harper could have joined Watford on loan from Pompey in September 2003, but with the Londoners taking too long to conclude the deal Norwich nipped in an wrapped up a loan move instead
Handed a four-month driving ban, and £300 fine, in August 2007 after being found guilty of a speeding offence when clocked at maximum speeds of 105mph
Admitted to kicking his wife and spitting at her when charged in August 2008, relating to an incident in September 2008. Harper claimed there were background details relating to the incident that was not heard in court, and his priority was to his children. He then moved in with his mother
Season by season games played via PompeyRama
He Played For Them Too – Derby – Kevin Harper
Vital Pompey Author: pompeyrug
Statistics provided by: PompeyRama.com
Date: March 2009