A tribute to Stan Harland
Stanley Clarence Harland : 19th June 1940 - 30th August 2001

Stan Harland : 1940 - 2001
Stan Harland, player-manager of Yeovil Town, 1975-1978
Stan Harland, Yeovil Town player-manager from 1975 to 1978, died unexpectedly at his home in Tintinhull of a heart-attack on August 30th 2001, only a few hours after coming back from work that day. He was 61.

Stan was born during the first summer of the Second World War on the 19th of June 1940. He was never expansive about his childhood, but those who knew him tended to presume he came from a hard and less than prosperous background. His playing career saw Stan notch up over 500 League appearances across all four divisions. He began his football apprenticeship with two years at Everton, moving to Bradford City, then in the Fourth Division, to gain first team experience. In 1964-65 he won a Third Division Championship medal with Carlisle United. He moved to Swindon Town for the start of the 1968-69 season. Although only with the club for one campaign it was to bring Stan his greatest moment in football. It has not been the fate of many men to fulfil that boyhood fantasy of being a captain leading his team up the famous steps at Wembley to lift a major trophy, but Stan Harland could claim that honour. In one of the greatest upsets of all-time Third Division Swindon Town beat the mighty Arsenal 3-1, with two goals in extra-time after the first ninety minutes had ended 1-1. The League Cup went to the County Ground. Swindon are (along with QPR - who achieved their feat thanks to Alec Stock) one of only two clubs in the modern game to have lifted a major cup whilst in the Third Division.

Swindon Town squad, 1969
Stan Harland, back row third from the right, in the Swindon squad that won the League Cup.
Swindon also gained promotion to Division Two that season, but Stan was moving on again, to another Second Division club, Birmingham City managed by Stan Cullis. He was still there when they won promotion to the First Division under Fred Goodwin in 1972, but Stan's playing days at the higher levels of football were coming to an end. He was an uncompromising defensive player (of which more later) who knew how to stop the opposition coming down the middle of the park in the days when the tackle from behind, indeed the tackle from almost any angle and any height, was all part of the game.

In the early Seventies Yeovil Town had been going through one of the best periods in the club's history on the pitch, but off it things were less positive, with money worries and in-fighting dogging The Glovers. All three aspects were to impact on the tenure of the new player-manager who arrived in 1975.

Cecil Irwin's contract was not renewed towards the end of the 1974-75 season, in which Yeovil finished third in the Southern League Premier Division. It came as little surprise as he was already in dispute with the chairman over the board's decision to release a number of players over his head during the run-in. The club looked first to Derek Dougan, and then Mike England, to take the vacant post, but both turned it down. It was Stan Harland who took the job on 28th May, 1975. As usual with Yeovil Town the brief was deceptively simple: get us in the Football League. There was the added complication that the creation of a new national Non-League structure, headed by The Alliance, was thought to be imminent - though as it turned out it was to be another four years before it materialised.

That first season soon brought home to Stan that whilst on the surface things looked promising at Huish, underneath the club was in crisis. On the field it could be deemed a successful campaign. Millwall were taken to a second replay in the F.A. Cup and only sqeaked through 1-0 after a 1-1 draw at Huish and a 2-2 draw at The Den. In the league Yeovil finished second, and once again applied for election to the Football League. The Champions, Wimbledon, were not eligible for election on ground criteria and hopes around the town were high that this time the vote of the League chairmen would go Yeovil's way. It was not to be. With four other Non-league clubs applying the vote was split, and in the final analysis Workington Town got three more votes than The Glovers and retained their place. The next season the Southern League agreed that only the name of the top eligible club would be put forward for election, but it was too late for Yeovil as by then its problems were cracking the very foundations of the club.

Harland's achievement in finishing second in the league looks remarkable when we discover that, panicking at mounting losses, the board had insisted on drawing up the retained list for the following campaign with twenty matches to go. Stan publicly described this move as "ludicrous", and it's potential impact on team morale is easy to imagine. The long-running row within Huish about whether a Reserve team should be part of club policy was still simmering along. The pro-Reserves faction gained the ascendancy at this time and it was decided to resurrect them the following season. However not all Stan's problems came from above. Harland was seen by many as a difficult man to work with, and the skills he possessed did nor always appear to include tact and diplomacy. Dressing-room tensions were already growing, with the manager not seeing eye-to-eye with a number of senior players. Yeovil fans too - not the least critical in the world! - had grievances. For the previous five to six years a diet of attacking football, and the dynamic wing play of Stuart Housley and Johnny Clancy, had become the norm. Stan's style was seen as too defensive, even dour. Despite the fact that Yeovil still scored the second highest number of goals by any club in the league that season Harland's tactics of playing without genuine wingers did not go down well at all. Any manager at Yeovil, particularly until the last decade when they have rather disappeared out of our consciousness, takes a risk with the crowd's affections when he allows a player to end up at Weymouth. When that player is Stuart Housley, released after 360 matches for the Town, he's playing with fire.

As the pressures built up Harland's own game became more and more rugged. He started the next season suspended, and was to be suspended twice more. This was in an era when the likes of Jack Charlton might pick up a couple of bookings a season. With the club deep in the financial mire there was no cash for any signings at all over the summer, and the campaign started badly. The team was knocked out of the F.A. Cup by Falmouth Town, and eleven games into the league had only accumulated eight points - the worst start since the war trumpeted the local press. By November The Glovers were in the relegation zone and the press were using the phrase "controversial manager" of the Yeovil Town boss. Harland and his leading striker Dick Plumb were at logger-heads, with Plumb putting in a second transfer request. Harry Rednapp turned down Harland's attempt to bring him to Huish to strengthen the team, but Don Rogers accepted. He was a disaster. A low was reached when Stan accused the side of cheating the club with its defeat at home to Weymouth. Yet amidst all this apparent chaos Harland dragged the team up to a seventh placed finish in the league, and took the club into one of its most remarkable adventures: the Anglo-Italian Cup.

Over the summer of 1977 the club did find some money and at least Harland was able to make some signings, but the ground was in decay - and the pitch a disgrace according to Stan. On this point no one could disagree. The start to the campaign was if anything even worse than the previous year. The club didn't manage a win until October, and by then had been knocked out of the F.A. Cup by Frome and the Southern League Cup by Weymouth. The writing looked to be on the wall for Stan, but out of nowhere he conjured six straight wins in the league. Eventually Yeovil finished the season mid-table, along with warnings from the board that the club was heading for bankruptcy. Top-scorer Dick Plumb finally walked. According to those that knew the relationship had reached the stage that he and the manager referred to each other by their surnames.

Before the 1978-79 season Harland signed a six-month extension to his contract. Terry Cotton was brought back from Salisbury Town, and two other signings of note were Clive Green from Portsmouth and David Platt from Grantham. All were to have a major impact at Yeovil, Cotton for the second time, but not under Harland. Stan had already been associated with a League job when he nearly moved to manage Mansfield in 1976. This time it was Portsmouth who were interested and Stan went to Fratton Park as assistant manager with responsibility for the reserve and youth teams at the end of August.

An assessment of Stan Harland's time at Yeovil Town is not easy. He came in at a time when, from the perception of the average fan (of which this author was one), the club was going well and the move to the League an ever gleaming grail just one more stride away. In those terms Stan's tenure at Huish seemed to move us backwards. Yet with hindsight we know that the club was in fact in a terrible mess behind the scenes - riven by dissension and increasingly crippled by financial constraints. Maybe in those circumstances Stan was not the right man with the right skills, but given what was to happen to the club in the years after his departure the more charitable view would be to thank him for holding things together for as long and as well as he did.

After Portsmouth Stan went solo again. Gravesend & Northfleet were, like Yeovil, founder members of the Alliance. But when Harland was brought in in January 1982 it was to a club in crisis. Heavily in debt and deep in the relegation zone Harland got them to the last game of the season needing a draw to survive. Sadly it was not to be, and they went down on goal difference. The following season the chairman walked away leaving debts of £ 80,000, and Stan and the players he'd brought in were swept away in the fall-out.

Some good memories must have come out of his time at Yeovil because when Stan decided to retire from the football scene it was to Somerset he came, going to live in Tintinhull. He and his wife Joyce, British National Ice Skating Champion years before, ran a village shop. More recently those supporters old enough to recognise Stan could come across him working in Asda, almost within sight of the new Huish Park. Stan had always kept himself fit and his sudden death at such a relatively young age was a shock to all.

Stan leaves a wife and two daughters. Our sincere condolences go to his family and friends.

NOTE: Photography © Western Gazette and Swindon Town F.C.

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