The stalwart who will next week hear his Portsmouth fate

Panic-buying pasta, our contact with the world conducted by video call and conspiracies about Bill Gates being to blame for the whole affair.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 6:00 pm

Yes, it feels like the earth has been spun from its axis by the events of the past 15 months.

But there’s been nothing quite as discombobulating on Planet Pompey as Barry Harris being separated from the football club he loves.

Whatever next? The Prime Minister’s former chief adviser laying bare our government’s ineptitude and lies costing thousands of lives through a global pandemic, and things carrying on as normal? Oh.

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These are indeed strange times we live in. But nothing underlines that truth more in our royal blue world than our much-loved stalwart being kept apart from everything he holds so dear.

Now, next Monday, those who have bungled and foundered their way through our most significant challenge since the Second World War will decide what happens next.

And the man whose association with the club he loves stretches 69 years, will likely know if his Pompey exile - put in place to protect his health - is to finally end.

Barry Harris (Photo by Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com/PinPep)

‘It’s strange and of course I’m really missing the club,’ Harris admitted, whose last game was against Peterborough in December, which he attended as a fan.

‘I came home from sea in 1965 and I’ve been around the club ever since.

‘I was around the club in the 50s and came home from New Zealand in 1965. I’ve been there ever since, whether that was up the training ground or at the ground.

‘It’s strange not being around or having the banter with the players.

Barry Harris in his days as the Pompey sailor

‘I’ve never been a period without going to a game before like this.

‘If I missed one game I’d always be back for the next one or during the week. It’s never been more than a few days except summer breaks since 1965.

‘I use a computer to stay in touch with people and talk about football. I never thought I’d be able to use a computer.

‘But since I’ve retired in 2007 I’ve been up there pretty well every day doing little jobs with Kevin (McCormack).

‘It’s been tough times the last 15 months. But that’s been the case for a lot of people.’

Step 4 on the government’s roadmap would see all legal limits on social contact removed on June 21.

As part of that restrictions on large events and performances will cease to apply, it is hoped, with an obvious impact on how next season will look for Pompey supporters and those across the game.

The venerable Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has indicated he’s ‘absolutely open’ to delaying the process in the face of the spread of the Delta variant in recent weeks.

From Harris’ perspective, and that of all Pompey fans, when the day arrives for their return it will be to a host of very different faces to those they last saw.

The kit assistant has yet to meet new head coach Danny Cowley, while chief executive Mark Catlin has departed from his role and is being succeeded by Andy Cullen.

Then there’s the swathe of summer playing exits, including some friends Harris has know since their childhood.

Harris, 77, added: ‘One or two ring me up still.

‘Paul Downing rings me up and I would speak to Andy Cannon, but he’s gone now.

‘Jack’s gone and Ben’s gone, though, I watched them grow up from schoolboys into the youth team.

‘It’s always nice to see local boys come through and make their mark on the first team.

‘I haven’t spoken to the new man yet, but Kevin rang me and said they want to see me.

‘I’d like to get back for pre-season. In the old days they’d go on road runs then and people like Eoin Hand and Harry Harris would jump on the milk wagon!

‘When lockdown is over I’ll get back up there, hopefully, but I’ve not heard anything and it’s all up in the air with what’s happening.’

So, like us all, Harris waits with bated breath to hear his Pompey fate and details of just how the new season will take shape.

In the meantime he can at least satiate his thirst for football chat with visits to the Hole in the Wall in Southsea once more, for the time being at least.

But really it’s cold comfort to being away from his the club which is his lifeblood.

He said: ‘I’ve just got to wait and see what they say, what is wanted from the club and what they want me to do.

‘You have to be able to take stick and be part of the banter in football. I’d like to have that again.

‘Let’s hope I can get back next season - because I miss it like mad.’

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