After a glittering career played out in front of millions of fans former Leeds United keeper, David Harvey, tells Leon Wobschall he still follows the Whites – but away from the spotlight.
THE Orkney outpost of Sanday - population around 600, 17 miles long, two miles wide – is a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life and for David Harvey, it represents his perfect idyll.
The legendary former Leeds United goalkeeper played in three FA Cup finals watched by TV audiences of millions and too many high-profile Division One matches to mention, with crowds of over 50,000 pretty commonplace.
Not forgetting a starring appearance in the World Cup finals, which Harvey achieved with Scotland under Willie Ormond in 1974 – he was famously named as the best keeper in the finals and claimed a clean sheet against Brazil.
Yet full contentment was not found picking up bouquets on the football field when Leeds were in their pomp for most of the 70s, but amid the tranquillity of the Orkney Islands, where Harvey, now 63, has lived the quiet life for the past decade-and-a-half.
Reached only by ferry and air from the Orkney mainland, Sanday is as inconspicuous a place as you could wish for, with father-of-seven Harvey enjoying his retirement amid glorious beaches and stunning scenery after hanging up his postbag after delivering the Royal Mail for many years on the island.
In good health again after fully recovering following a heart attack suffered shortly after falling ill on Christmas Eve 2009, Harvey keeps in touch with footballing developments by phone with ex-team-mates, though visits to the arenas he graced, such as Elland Road and Hampden Park, are somewhat rarer occurrences.
But with the wonders of satellite television having not precluded Sanday, the Leeds-born custodian, who made 442 appearances in two separate spells at his hometown club, is able to view on-pitch developments occasionally – and expect him to be tuning in on Tuesday night when United renew hostilities with the red side of Manchester once again.
Harvey, who was born to a Scottish father who hails from Ayrshire and English mother, said: “The Sky Sports channel is usually the first thing I put on in the morning and the last thing I watch at night. I watch the Leeds and Scotland games, although it’s been a while since I was at Elland Road. I was actually at Hampden Park back in March to watch Scotland versus Spain, so I do keep up with things a bit.
“I live on a farm in Orkney, I’ve just got 10 acres, and I’m outside most of the day. I’m a bit far away from it (football) really! But I still watch football, every day without fail.
“Hopefully, we’ll be back in the top division soon. We’ve just got to have a bit of patience.”
Feeling well again following his health scare, he added: “Touch wood, I seem to be OK now. I had loads of messages of support from Leeds fans – although I’m not that good on the computer, but my girls worked it for me and showed me the messages and it was lovely.”
Harvey slipped off the footballing radar in the mid-80s following his second spell at United where he served under former team-mate Eddie Gray, who brought him back to Leeds in March 1983 following a spell in the former NASL (North American Soccer League) with Vancouver Whitecaps.
After leaving United in early 1985, a short stint followed under another ex-Whites colleague, Trevor Cherry, at neighbouring Bradford City before he was appointed player-boss at non-league Whitby Town, his sole spell as a ‘gaffer’, in May 1985.
His managerial career lasted around a year before he had a season at Harrogate Town, with the North Yorkshire town his home before he upped sticks and moved to Scotland in the mid-90s.
While in Harrogate, Harvey worked in the pub trade and even helped deliver fruit and veg for a spell before becoming a postman in neighbouring Knaresborough ahead of a sentimental move north of the border, something he was desperate to do.
On his days after United, Harvey – complete with a gentle Scottish twang these days – said: “I enjoyed the spell at Whitby and loved it in terms of the total involvement, 24 hours a day. I then went to Harrogate and just played for a year.
“But I was desperate to get back up to Scotland and never gave management much of a thought after the first spell. I wanted to find somewhere up here and that took over really.
“I ended up running a pub for three years, something like that before moving to Scotland. And coming to Orkney was my last choice really; I kept looking for somewhere along the west coast, but I could never find the right place.
“I’d seen places on Orkney before but, at that time, I wasn’t a good sailor. So I put it to the back of my mind.
“But after not finding anywhere on the west coast, in desperation, we just came here one day and found our place straightaway.
“It’s just so peaceful. But you do still see people; my nearest neighbour is about half a mile away and there’s probably about 600 people on my island.”
Having joined United at the age of 17, former Foxwood and Seacroft Grange Schools pupil Harvey may have had to bide his time to become the established first pick after being understudy to Gary Sprake for several seasons, but patience proved a virtue.
A big moment arrived when he was sworn in for the FA Cup final replay against Chelsea at Old Trafford in the spring of 1970 with Gary Sprake sidelined, although it took until the tail end of the 1971-72 season for him to become first-choice keeper, that campaign culminating in United winning the Centenary Cup Final against Arsenal.
It was somewhat of a turnaround in fortunes for Harvey, who was made available for transfer for £40,000 in November 1971 by boss Don Revie after being on the list since that February.
But in early 1972, Harvey opted to stay loyal to Leeds and asked to be taken off the transfer list and it proved a sage decision with a knee injury to Sprake ahead of the cup semi-final with second division Birmingham City that April marking the beginning of the end for the Welshman, who played just one league game in 1972-73.
A rock-solid presence in the famous Wembley showpiece against Arsenal, Harvey was also a formidable last line of defence in the then record 29-game unbeaten start to the 1973-74 league campaign when Leeds were the talk of the nation.
An unfortunate car accident in February 1975 did see him lose his place to David Stewart and miss out on a European Cup final appearance at the end of 1974-75 campaign and he split No.1 duties with his fellow Scottish international for a few seasons before re-establishing himself ahead of his eventual move to Canada in 1980.
On the highlights of his largely joyous time at Elland Road, Harvey said: “They were just fantastic times. Don was a fantastic man and like a father to me.
“I remember leaving school and I went to work in Stylo’s shoe factory for two weeks. But I’d been training at Elland Road since I was 11 and soon signed for Leeds.
“I had to be patient (to become a first-team regular), but it was a great experience.
“I just enjoyed every single day. The travelling, training – everything.
“We were due to be in at 10 o’clock in the morning, but half past nine was late! Just to be there was wonderful. All the games gave me pleasure, I couldn’t really cherry-pick the (best) games. Just being part of it was fantastic.
“The (72) FA Cup final was a big moment, but it’s hard to say it was a highlight because you don’t really remember that much as the days like that pass so quickly. I think it was the sheer relief just to win something that I remember. Mick’s (Jones)injury was the only dampener on the whole day, while 73-74 was just wonderful.
“I remember coming back to Leeds as well and that was a shock. I played in the American League, but was based in Vancouver. There were five of us altogether and I was the first one to go – Ray Hankin, Terry Yorath, Peter Lorimer also went out and John Giles was the manager for a couple of years and I really enjoyed it.
“Two days before I was due to fly back John told me that Eddie had been on the phone, he was manager of Leeds at the time, asking if I’d go back for a year and I just thought it was a joke! It was just the type of thing we (at Leeds) would have done to each other.
“I just totally ignored it and never got in touch with Eddie.
“I was 33 at the time but I got a phone call the next day and it was right. I went back originally just to play for a year to try and push John Lukic, and finished up being there for four years. Things were a bit different then (to before) though.”