100 Years of Coconuts was saddened to hear of the death on March 29, at the age of 71, of former United loanee Colin Harper.
Left back Harper, better known for a long career at Ipswich Town, played an important role in United’s Fourth Division title-winning team of 1976/77, adding experience and ability to Ron Atkinson’s side in the latter part of the season.
Signing on a month’s loan in February 1977, with a view to a permanent move, he arrived at the Abbey Stadium to Atkinson’s words: ‘He has got a magic left foot and wants to prove something still. He has a world of experience and a good knowledge of the game.’
Harper made his debut in a 1-0 win at Bournemouth that put United two points clear at the top of the table. His loan was extended to the end of the season after a run of impressive performances but, after 15 games in amber, he failed to agree terms on a permanent move and moved to Port Vale as player-coach.
Born in Ipswich on 25 July 1946, he made 171 full appearances for his hometown club, scoring six goals, winning a Second Division winner’s medal in 1967/68 and playing in the UEFA Cup for Bobby Robson’s team.
Plagued by a knee injury picked up in 1973, he played just four times for Vale after leaving the Abbey, but filled in as acting manager after Roy Sproson’s departure before joining Waterford as player-manager. Back in East Anglia, he managed Sudbury Town and Chelmsford City.
Colin Harper in amber and black in 1977.
After retirement, he ran a successful building firm in Ipswich and was a regular spectator at Portman Road. He died after a long illness, leaving a wife, Carol, and three children.