Goal scorers are, have been and forever will be, worth their weight in gold. Teams up and down the land, at all levels of the Football Pyramid crave that highly sought after commodity that is a master goal scorer. Whether it is to bring success on the field of play or to be sold onto another club for profit, every club longs to possess or unearth a lethal exponent in the art of hitting the back of the net. At the present time we are crying out for someone who would only vaguely fit this description, but over the years we have been privileged to witness one or two master craftsmen at work in the blue and white of Wivenhoe Town.
Arguably one the finest strikers served the ‘Hoe between 1979 and 1991. Making 350 first team appearances and scoring a mind boggling 258 goals. PAUL HARRISON is probably the most prolific striker to ever pull on a Dragon’s shirt. As the figures show he was a goal scoring machine during an unprecedented period of success in the club’s history. Admittedly during that period he did have brief spells at other clubs, but his record for the club is unlikely to ever be matched. Whilst I only caught the very tail-end of his final performances for Wivenhoe, older supporters happily regaled me with tales of his goal-scoring feats, the awesome shooting power his had in BOTH feet and his immense strength in the air, along with uncanny knack of being in the ‘right place at the right time’. He was not unsurprisingly a ‘legend’ on the Broad Lane terraces and deservingly so.
I went to the same secondary school as Mr Harrison – Wilson Marriage – and it was from this long since closed down Barrack Street teaching establishment that he joined Ipswich Town as an apprentice following his goal scoring exploits at school. Whilst at Portman Road an FA Youth Cup Winners medal was won following his debut for the Suffolk club in 1977. Injury curtailed his progress that first season, but a handful of appearances for the Reserves were made in 1978/79 before injuries struck again, which were to put paid to any hopes of a professional career in the game.
So began his long association with Wivenhoe, joining us in the 1979/80 close season to start the club’s first campaign as a senior club in the Essex Senior League. He scored in the opening day win against Brentwood and ended the season with 26 goals from 39 appearances as we finished as runners-up to Basildon United. His ability to turn defenders inside out, along with an unerring eye for goal made him a supporter’s favourite.
The following season (1980/81) produced a 33 goal haul, including 5 in a 6-0 thumping of hapless Ford United. In finishing as runners-up to Heybridge Swifts in the league a season later Harrison notched 43 goals, with a further 29 in 1982/83 making a total of 131 in just four seasons, a remarkable achievement.
Tiptree United coaxed Paul away from Broad Lane the following season, but he was back at the ‘Hoe in March 1986 having left Heybridge Swifts to re-join us. 9 goals in 14 outings followed during the remainder of that season.
The club gained promotion to the Isthmian League Division Two North for the first time in 1986/87 and despite being out injured for 10 weeks he managed to net 35 times. The catalogue of goal scoring achievements continued unabated when the Division Two North Championship was won in 1987/88. Harrison was the league’s top scorer with 53. The following season saw a hiccup in proceedings with the goal machine spending periods of the season on the bench. A mere 27 goals that season! A falling out with the management at the end of that campaign saw him depart the club briefly for Braintree Town, but he then spent a year out of senior football altogether. The same management team who upset him (Micky Cook and Geoff Bennett) ironically then talked him back to the club in December 1990 during an injury crisis at the club and the following month Harrison’s Premier Division debut came at Staines Town, where he naturally scored a goal in a 2-1 win. This was undoubtedly a golden era of football at Wivenhoe Town with many high profile ex-professionals now playing for the club, but Paul’s days were numbered and his last appearance came in March 1991 during a home defeat to Carshalton Athletic. Unfortunately he didn’t get the opportunity to show if his predatory skills could be successful at this, the highest level of football in the Pyramid that the club has ever achieved.
His record was nothing short of remarkable, although it’s acknowledged that he was playing during a sustained period of success that the club was enjoying. That said you have still got to be good enough to score the goals and to finish as leading scorer in all of his 7 full seasons with the Dragons is quite remarkable.
In this current era he would no doubt have been in high demand as players of his ilk come along all too rarely – Paul Harrison a Dragon’s Legend without question.
If anyone has got his telephone number could they ask him if he is available to roll back the years and help us out during the rest of the season!!