Portsmouth stalwart Barry Harris on his recent message from Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson, being shouted at by Harry Redknapp over biscuits and more

It’s a pre-match antic the Fratton faithful revel in.

Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 3:02 pm

Barry Harris’ trademark fist pump never fails to gee up Pompey fans before kick-off, while it’s also a welcome sight upon the bagging of three points.

Watching him chase after loose balls is also something that produces a smile or two – especially during trips to Oxford when he stands in the car park that backs on to the Kassam Stadium during shooting practice.

But for almost three weeks, the Blues’ kit assistant has been denied the chance of doing what he loves.

Sign up to our Portsmouth FC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Since 1952 Harris has been part of the Fratton Park fabric, serving as a mascot, Pompey sailor, physio and in his current role.

With the coronavirus suspending football until April 30 at the earliest, there have been no boots for Harris to wash at the club’s Copnor Road training base.

That means there’s been no banter with partner-in-crime, kitman Kev McCormack, or jesting with members of Kenny Jackett’s playing squad.

But there’s been phone calls to McCormack, as well as Andy Cannon and Ross McCrorie – two of five Pompey players who contracted Covid-19 – to ensure they're all well in the meantime.

Barry Harris with current Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

Harris said: ‘Hand on heart, I’m missing it a lot but there are a lot of people worse off than me.

‘I’ve got a nice wife by the side of me and I’m doing a lot of reading, as well as Pompey past things on Facebook.

‘It keeps me going and the day goes quicker, but I do miss being up the training ground with the banter and the fun we have up there.

‘I got a call that the training ground was shut and I’ll wait. Bearing in mind my age, I’ve got to be a bit careful and I can’t do anything silly.

Barry Harris gees up the crowd before Pompey's clash at Burton last season. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com/PinPep

‘If I don’t think the virus has cleared properly then I won’t go back, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

‘It gets me out of the house. I’m not trying to get away from the Mrs because she is as good as gold, but she likes my involvement in football.

‘I’ve been doing this sort of thing since I was a kid, helping out with the kit from a nipper. After coming back from oversseas in 1965, I’ve been at it ever since.

‘I don’t get paid but I get a season ticket every year then the team take me to stay in hotels with them.

Pompey kit assistant Barry Harris. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

‘They take me away and I’ve got my entrance to the ground every week, so it’s all worth it.

‘Kev shouts and bellows but he’s got a heart as big as the house.

‘Football clubs are full of banter, that’s what I’m missing. I’ve spoken to Kev and he’s just flying low and can’t do much like us all.

‘I spoke to Andy Cannon and Ross McCrorie as well last week just to see if they’re okay.’

Harris' remit has allowed him to rub shoulders with the greats of the game throughout an almost 70-year period.

His affable nature has left its mark on many, with his name synonymous with Pompey for Sir Alex Ferguson.

Tony Adams is one of the many Pompey managers Barry Harris has worked under. Picture: Joe Pepler

Harris received the legendary former Manchester United boss’ best wishes via his son and Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson during the Blues' 2-0 defeat at London Road last month.

Not just that, but Darren was also aware of the accident that required Harris to get 12 stitches after fetching a ball against Coventry just weeks prior.

‘When we were up at Peterborough in our last away game, Kev and I had just finished the dressing room,’ he added.

‘It must have been about 11am or 11.15am and then Darren Ferguson comes up to me and said “I heard that you had an accident a few weeks at Coventry. Would you like to come and have a cup of coffee and tell me about it?”

‘So we went into his office for a chat and he said his dad was asking after me as well, which was nice.

‘When I used to see Sir Alex, I always got on very well with him – he’s a gentleman. I wouldn’t go pushing myself on him but he’d more often than not come and speak to me at Old Trafford.

‘Darren had been speaking to Sir Alex a few days before and said I’d probably be up, so said to say hello from him to me, which was nice.

‘I liked Alex and he was a great manager who had his own little way of doing things.

‘One of my proudest moments was in 1966. I’d been up in Glasgow watching Scotland v England and managed to get a ticket for Celtic v Liverpool in the European Cup Winners’ Cup 10 days later.

‘My mate said to me “how are you going to get back up here?” but I crossed that bridge when I came to it.

‘Celtic won 1-0 and I came back to Fratton Park when we played Huddersfield on the Saturday. I told Bobby Campbell, who was on the bench for the game, and he replied: “I’ll take you up to Liverpool next week for the return leg”.

‘He drove me up and I met Bill Shankly before the game. That was one of the pinnacles because Shankly was a character.

‘Bobby introduced me and I told Shankly about my involvement with Pompey. He was a bit more flamboyant than Sir Alex, perhaps a bit more talkative.

‘Like Don Revie and Joe Mercer, they all had their own way.’

Harris has worked under a swathe of managers who’ve been at the Fratton Park helm.

The stalwart has got along with the majority of them, rarely getting on their wrong side.

He did, however, feel the wrath of Harry Redknapp once, after Pompey had suffered a 1-0 defeat at Blackburn in the 2004-05 season.

With the manager already in a foul mood following the loss, he asked Harris for a biscuit on the coach journey to the nearby hotel they were staying at.

But with Linvoy Primus hiding the packet, it meant Harris took the blame.

He said: ‘I’ve enjoyed most managers, really. Harry’s technique was knowing just what a player could do and was a great tactician.

‘Bally was a great motivator and Jim Smith are probably the top three, while Bobby Campbell was a good manager who took us up in 1983 with some good football.

‘We’d got beat at Blackburn then played Tranmere in the League Cup three days later, so we stayed at Mottram Hall in Cheshire.

‘We were travelling back to the hotel and I’d made Harry a cup of tea when we got on the bus.

‘He said: “Baz, could you get me a biscuit please?” but Linvoy had nicked them!

‘Linvoy was sitting with his back to Harry and started giggling. I couldn’t find the biscuits and Linvoy kept putting his hand over his face because he couldn’t stop laughing.

‘Harry wasn’t the best when we just lost and said: “I don’t ask for much from you, can you just find me a bloody biscuit!”

‘The next thing is Harry apologised to me because he was like that.

‘The next morning, they were talking on the training pitch and I think that’s what it was about, although I never did find that out.

‘Linvoy was such a nice bloke. When I broke my leg in a road accident, he was one of the first to come and see me in hospital with Richard Hughes and Sean Davies.

‘Kevin was the first to come and see me. He came in when I was just being taken into the operating theatre that night.’

Harris has been self-isolating after it was confirmed Mikel Arteta had contracted coronavirus following Arsenal's 2-0 FA Cup win at Fratton Park on March 2.

A regular drinker in Southsea’s The Hole In The Wall, it’s fair to say he’s looking forward to supping a pint of bitter when the pandemic is over.

Harris said: ‘I haven’t been out for a pint for three weeks now. After the virus was getting a bit ripe, I didn’t go in because I was in touch with some of the Arsenal players so have stayed indoors.

‘I’ve had a takeaway mind because they were doing deliveries before they shut. I had a jug of bitter but it’s just the bottles at the moment – we’re doing okay.’

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this story on portsmouth.co.uk. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to portsmouth.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit our Subscription page now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Pompey kitman Kev McCormack celebrates with the Checkatrade Trophy. Picture: Joe Pepler