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Raymond Thomas (Ray) Harford (1 June 1945 — 9 August 2003) was an English footballer, better known for his successes as a coach and manager than as a player. He is considered to have been one of the top coaches of his generation.

Playing career

He was born in Halifaxmarker but grew up in southern Londonmarker. His playing career as a centre-half started at Charlton Athletic in 1960, turning professional in 1964. He played his first senior game in 1966 but soon left for Exeter City, where he played 55 games in less than two years. In 1967 he signed with Lincoln City, playing close to 200 games in four years at the club. 1971 saw a move to Mansfield Town, quickly followed in December 1971 by a move to Port Vale, who paid Mansfield £5,000 for his services. He was a regular for the rest of the season, but fell out of favour in August 1972. In January 1973 he was loaned out to Colchester United, who paid Vale £1,750 the next month to secure his services on a permanent basis. He left the U's in 1975 to play for Romfordmarker. The next year knee troubles ending his playing career and he returned to Colchester as youth coach.

Managerial career


In 1982, Harford was appointed assistant manager at Fulham under Malcolm Macdonald, helping the side finish fourth in the Second Division a year after promotion - one place short of promotion to the First Division. Two years later he was promoted to the position of manager, and his first season as a manager was reasonably successful, with the club managing 9th place, 9 points off promotion. At the end of the season, however, it emerged that the club had fallen into severe financial difficulties, forcing the sale of most of the first team. Harford was able to cobble together a side for the next season from free transfer and youth players, but it wasn't enough. The side were relegated by a huge margin, and Harford resigned shortly thereafter.

Luton Town

In the summer of 1986, Luton Town manager David Pleat resigned and was replaced by John Moore. Harford was signed by Luton as assistant manager and helped the club finish seventh in the old First Division. At the end of the 1986–87 season, Moore resigned as manager and Harford was promoted as his replacement. It proved to be an impressive decision. In his first season as Luton manager, Harford guided the Kenilworth Roadmarker club to a 3–2 win over Arsenal in the League Cup final - the club's first ever major trophy. But Luton were forbidden to enter the 1988–89 UEFA Cup because the ban on English teams in European competition arising from the 1985 Heysel Stadium Disastermarker still had two years to run. They also reached the FA Cup semi-finals that year, losing 2-1 to eventual winners Wimbledon - which made Luton the latest of several clubs to have come close to winning the then elusive domestic cup double.

In 1988–89 Luton again reached the League Cup final but surrendered their crown after losing 3–1 to Nottingham Forest. By the following January, Luton were battling against relegation to the Second Division and Harford was controversially sacked – the relegation battle was won by his successor Jim Ryan who remained in charge until the end of the following season, when he was sacked even though Luton had avoided relegation again.


Soon after being sacked as manager of Luton, Harford was recruited by Wimbledon as assistant manager to Bobby Gould, succeeding Don Howe who had been appointed manager of Queen's Park Rangers. The partnership lasted just five months until July 1990, when Gould was sacked from his post and for the third time in his career Harford was promoted from the position of assistant manager to manager.

In 1990–91, Wimbledon did well to finish seventh in the First Division and there were high hopes that the club could qualify for European competition or win one of the two domestic cups during the 1991–92 season. But Wimbledon made a slow start to the season and Harford resigned in October. He was briefly replaced by Peter Withe, who lasted just three months before being succeeded by Joe Kinnear.In the same month that Harford left Wimbledon, the former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish had been appointed as manager of Second Division Blackburn Roversmarker who had been out of the top division since 1966. Their benefactor Jack Walker was determined to get the Ewood Parkmarker side into the new FA Premier League, which was due to start in the 1992–93 season. He made Harford an offer to become assistant manager at Blackburn and he accepted it.

Blackburn Rovers

Success as assistant manager

While Harford was assistant manager of Blackburn, he helped Kenny Dalglish in the club's quest for success. In 1992, the club won promotion to the new Premier League via the promotion playoffs. In the new Premier League in 1993, Blackburn finished fourth thanks to a side made up of mostly new players like £3.3 million record signing striker Alan Shearer, who scored 16 league goals before a serious injury suffered just before the turn of the new year and was ruled out for the rest of the season. Blackburn in fact topped the league at several stages that season, but it was eventually won by Manchester United.

The following season Blackburn finished runners-up to double winners Manchester United but a consolation for the disappointment came in the form of a UEFA Cup place. For much of the season it had looked certain that the league title would be remaining at Old Traffordmarker, but an erratic run of form by United in March meant that Blackburn drew level on points in early April (kept off the top only on goal difference) but in the end United surged to the title.

In 1994–95, Blackburn suffered early exits from the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup but their league form was excellent. On the final day of the season, they lost 2–1 to Dalglish's old club Liverpool but their nearest rivals Manchester United were unable to beat West Ham United and the English league championship went to Blackburn Rovers for the first time since 1914. It was also the first time in Harford's career than he had been associated with a title winning side.

A month after the title success, Kenny Dalglish was promoted to the position of Director of Football and the board made an offer to Harford to fill the manager's seat. On arriving at Ewood Park he had vowed never to make a fourth move from the position of assistant manager to manager but went back on his word and accepted the offer.

Frustrating time as manager

1995–96 was a frustrating season for Harford and Blackburn. Chris Sutton and Graeme Le Saux missed a lot of games through injury and Tim Sherwood lost form. Alan Shearer was still brilliant though, with 31 Premiership goals. Despite an early exit from the UEFA Champions League, Blackburn improved as the season went on.

Although they never looked like regaining their Premiership title, they were in contention for a UEFA Cup place until the very last game of the season but lost out to Arsenal and finished seventh. It wasn't at all a bad finish, though, considering that Blackburn had been in the bottom half of the Premier League for much of the season.

During the summer of 1996, Alan Shearer was sold to Newcastle United for a then world record fee of £15 million, and Harford failed to adequately replace him.

The 1996–97 season also started badly for Blackburn. They failed to win any of their first ten games and were knocked out of the League Cup by Division Two Stockport. Harford handed in his resignation on 25 October and was replaced temporarily by coach Tony Parkes, who took charge until the end of the season and guided Rovers to 14th in the final table before Roy Hodgson was appointed as permanent manager.

West Bromwich Albion

In February 1997, Harford was named as West Bromwich Albion's new manager in place of Alan Buckley. Albion were hovering just above the relegation zone in Division One (which had been a familiar pattern since their promotion in 1993) and Harford did much to keep the club clear of relegation. Despite a promising start to the following season, he found it tiring to travel the 100+ miles from his Berkshire home to the Midlandsmarker on an almost daily basis, and in December 1997 moved to Division One rivals Queens Park Rangers.


Queens Park Rangers were struggling in Division One, they had slipped from the Premiership in 1996 after 13 consecutive seasons of top division football. Harford was appointed as successor to Stewart Houston and was hopeful of getting the club back into the Premiership. At the end of the 1997–98 season the Loftus Roadmarker club avoided relegation at the expense of Manchester City, Stoke City and Reading but the club's directors and supporters expected more. And after a poor start to the 1998–99 season, Harford was sacked in September and replaced by Gerry Francis.


In the summer of 1999, Harford made a return to football as first team coach under then Millwall manager Keith Stevens. Millwall had been in Division Two since 1996 and the club's directors were desperate to win promotion. Stevens was young and inexperienced, and by September 2000 the Millwall board had decided they wanted a more experienced manager so they terminated his contract. Harford was appointed manager on a temporary basis and it seemed possible that he might be given the job permanently. But that fifth promotion from within never happened and Mark McGhee was given the job instead. Harford remained on the club's coaching staff and was crucial in Millwall's Division Two championship that season which ended a five-year exile from the upper tier of the English league.

In 2001–02, Millwall finished fourth in Division One and qualified for the promotion playoffs. Everyone at the club was hopeful that a second successive promotion could be achieved but those hopes were ended in a semi-final defeat by eventual winners Birmingham City.

Retirement and death

In October 2002, the 57-year-old Harford was diagnosed with lung cancer and spent much of the season away from his job at Millwall receiving treatment for his illness.

On 9 August 2003, Harford died at the age of 58 while he was still officially a member of the Millwall coaching staff under Mark McGhee. His funeral was held in All Saints Church, Bansteadmarker, Surreymarker, with many members of the football community in attendance.


as a Manager

with Luton Town


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