Brown, Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Giggs, Hughes and two Nevilles. Man Utd and Engla
Exclusive: Brown, Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Giggs, Hughes and two Nevilles. Man Utd and England have a lot to thank Eric Harrison for...it's all about respect as he tells TheFA.com
Eric Harrison is currently in his 21st season at Old Trafford, a significant number for someone who has helped so many Manchester United superstars 'come of age'.
The list of players who played under the legendary youth coach in their formative years reads like a Who's Who of football.
When he arrived to take over the United youth team in 1981, his strikers were Norman Whiteside (Northern Ireland) and Mark Hughes (Wales) - both to become full internationals within 12 months.
Ryan Giggs followed in the late 1980s and latterly England have benefited hugely from Harrison's ability to mould young men who can handle the technical side of the game and the pressure that comes with fame and fortune.
David Beckham, Wes Brown, Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes - all are happy to pay homage to the 64-year-old who went part-time at the club four years ago but is now also Mark Hughes' assistant for Wales.
"I've got so much pleasure from seeing lads develop both as footballers and as people," says Harrison.
"All the players at United hear me use the word respect a heck of a lot whether it's to Ryan Giggs or the new right-back. As coaches, we respect the youngsters and it's important the youngsters learn to respect other people as well.
"I get as much pride from seeing these lads become good role models as anything else. I know people look at David Beckham with his haircuts and pop star lifestyle but if you know him you realise he is a great kid."
Harrison had a journeyman playing career with the likes of Barrow, Halifax and Scarborough - "I tell people that clubs always drop out of the league after I leave," he jokes, but it was clear that being a youth coach was where his greatest talent lay.
"For some reason, coaches have never had a good image. People seem to think you should just let the kids play as they want to.
"That is changing thankfully because game-teaching is important; letting players play football without educating them about the game doesn't work.
"I try to teach players the difference between confidence and arrogance. You must be a confident player but arrogant, no. It means you never think you can learn anything and that is fatal.
"I can be a hard taskmaster, don't worry about that, but I've always done it for the youngsters not my own ego. That's what youth coaches must be. Assistant-manager might be a grander title than youth team manager but that never interested me."
With Sir Alex Ferguson rebuilding the United empire on youth, Harrison's role has been absolutely fundamental over the past 15 years.
His 'class of 92' with Beckham, Scholes etc formed the nucleus of the team that was to dominate the Premiership for the rest of the decade.
But Harrison also remembers the tougher side of being at a club like United; consoling the players who weren't on the retained list.
"Alex Ferguson would always be the one to tell any lads the club was letting go although he would only take the decision after consulting with a group of coaches," recalls Harrison.
"I've seen many kids come out of his office in tears, they would then usually come to see me and I would try and pick up the pieces - get them fixed up with another club if I could although that is getting harder with the current financial climate in the game.
"I remember Robbie Savage was my youth team striker but it was eventually decided he wouldn't make it as a Manchester United first-team player. Robbie was absolutely devastated about it, no question, but he is a great example about how to come back.
"Nobody works harder than Robbie Savage and what he's done since leaving United is fantastic."
Harrison is busier than ever these days; two nights a week at United, helping with the Welsh qualification campaign for 2004 and doing work for FA partners McDonald's who are currently running a scheme to create 10,000 newly-qualified football coaches in Britain - 80 per cent of them in England.
"My wife thinks I am absolutely crazy," admits Harrison. "I told Alex Ferguson four years ago, I didn't want to work morning and afternoons every days of the week anymore. As it is though, I see less of my family in supposed retirement!"
Look at how David Beckham has coped with the pressures of being England captain and part of the country's most famous husband-and-wife team and you realise Eric Harrison deserves our thanks - and respect.
Eric Harrison was talking to Joe Bernstein