To cover for the injury
sustained to right winger Mark Rivers,
Norwich boss Nigel Worthington swooped
on Friday 12th September 2003 to bring Portsmouth midfielder Kevin
Harper to Carrow Road on a month's loan. Harper was the third
loan signing in eight days following Peter
Crouch and Darren Huckerby. All
three made their Norwich debuts in the 2-0 defeat of Burnley on
13th September 2003.
Although born in Oldham,
Kevin was raised in the Glasgow suburb of Possil. He won international
honours for Scotland schoolboys before joining Hibernian. Debuting
in the 10903/94 season, he made 96 league appearances for Hibs,
scoring fifteen goals, before joining Derby. He made 32 appearances
for Derby, scoring once. He also made 9 appearances and scored
once whilst on loan to Walsall in 1999/2000. He transferred to
Portsmouth for £300,000 in March 2000. He has since made
112 league appearances for Pompey but was squeezed out following
their promotion to the Premiership and the signing of Patrik Berger
Following the death
of Jimmy Davis, Watford expressed an interest in signing Harper
with rumours fluctuating between a £400,000 transfer or
a season-long loan. Whilst Watford deliberated, Worthington pounced
to bring Harper to Carrow Road. "He's one of those players
that you've always got to watch," said the City chief.
"And I'm just grateful to Portsmouth for letting him out
and to Kevin for wanting to come here. Again, to have a player
of that kind of calibre coming in is the big thing."
Harper's deal was initially for one month, though that was dependent
on such factors as the timing of Rivers' return from injury and
the success or otherwise of Harper's introduction into the new-look
Canary outfit. "It's initally for one-month, but if all
goes well then we'll see what's what at a later date,"
Harper nearly won international honours earlier the same week
when he was called up to Berti Vogts Scotland squad after impressing
in the Future Scotland / Scotland B team. If capped, he would
have been the first Black player tor represent Scotland since
Andrew Watson in 1882.
Harper's impressive form, the Canaries' unbeaten run in September
and delays to Mark Rivers' recovery from injury saw Harper's loan
extended until December 2003. However Kevin then himself endured
injury and was limited to just 9 appearances for Norwich before
returning to Portsmouth.
On 8th September 2004, Kevin joined Leicester City on a month's
loan having not made an appearance in Portsmouth's first team
so far that season. Leicester boss Micky Adams said "We
are delighted to bring Kevin to the club on loan. He is a player
who will add creativity to the side from the flanks. He initially
joins us for a month and will be in the travelling party for the
game against Rotherham."
After returning to Portsmouth, Kevin was transferred to Stoke
City on a two and half year contract at the beginning of Febraury
2005. Stoke's Director of Football John Rudge said: "He
comes with plenty of experience and he also knows manager Tony
Pulis which is a good thing. We feel he's exactly what we've been
In October 2006, Kevin was loaned to League One side Carlisle
United. He was loaned out for the second time during the 2006/7
season when he joined Walsall towards the end of February 2007.
He made his debut on 24th February 2007 scoring twice in a 4-1
win over Barnet. Returning to Stoke at the end of the season,
the Potteries-side decided not to renew his contract which expired
at the end of the season.
In early July 2007, Kevin signed for Scottish side Dunfermline.
Harper hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in October 2008
when he pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife. Sentence was deferred
for twelve months.
Harper was released by Dunfermline in the summer of 2009
He became the Under-20s coach at Airdrieonians in July 2015 but left the following September and set up his own coaching agency.
In November 2015, Thorniewood United manager and former Hibernian team-mate Andy Frame, persuaded Harper to come out of retirement and join the club in a player-coach role
He set up his own football academy, the ‘Kevin Harper School of Excellence’ which has helped bring football to disadvantaged children. He has also completed his coaching badges up to the ‘A licence level’ which is accredited by the Scottish FA and UEFA.
Harper was appointed Albion Rovers manager in November 2018. He became the first black, Asian or minority ethnic manager of a Scottish club since Marcio Maximo in 2003. A struggling Rovers side won none of their first 12 matches under Harper, but then won five of their last nine fixtures to avoid relegation.
Albion again avoided relegation by finishing ninth the following season, but Harper decided to leave the club at the end of his contract in May 2020. Harper later revealed that, despite having avoided relegation again, he had been offered reduced terms, in line with a greatly reduced club budget due to prevailing circumstances, to stay and believed the board could match the ambition he had for the club.