THE EARLY YEARS
In April 1985 at the Dragon Leather Tannery in Harchester, a group of men, led by tannery owner Robert Ball, got together to form a football club in the hope of rivalling the other local club, Harchester St.Augustine. The club was named Harchester United.
There may have been friendly rivalry between United and St.Augustine, but good sportsmanship remained throughout as St.Augustine offered United the chance to play their home matches at their own Palmerston Road sports ground. United gratefully accepted.
Between 1895 and 1898, the club had such a fantastic record in the FA Cup for an amateur side that they managed to get together funds to turn professional. The record was so great that upon an application to join the Football League, they were instantly elected to do so by the other clubs.
The first season in Football League Division Two saw Harchester United win it but a fair distance and they were promoted to the First Division. After a brief yo-yo period of several ups and downs in the next few years.
They won promotion back to the First Division in 1907. However, at the end of the 1907/08 season, Palmerston Road owners Harchester St.Augustine were suffering badly and ordered United to find a new place to play so that they could sell off their ground. United moved into the new Addison Road Stadium and obtained a 100 year lease for the ground.
In 1908, London businessman Ian Mayes brought the club from owner Robert Ball, who by this time had closed down the Tannery. Mayes decided to follow suit of other football clubs and bring in a new manager that had not been involved with the club before. That man was Joseph Peterson.
THE PRE AND POST-WAR ERA
Peterson’s involvement never went down well with local supporters and in 1920 he resigned from the club following back to back relegations. This is where David Cooper came in to repair damage and finally won promotion from Division Three North in 1926/27.
In 1932/33, Harchester United regained top flight status under the reigns of new manager Edward Evans. Sadly, Evans left the club in 1939 following the abandonment of the league due to the Second World War and was never contacted again.
After the War came new changes. First, Trevor Chamberlain became the new owner of the club in 1945 and appointed his friend Arthur Charlton as manager. Charlton had previously played for Portsmouth before the war and was a part of their FA Cup winning team.
Sadly, Charlton’s reign got off to the worst possible of starts with relegation in 1947. However, in a very successful 1957/58 campaign, a Division Two title was in the bag and Harchester United were promoted again. Tragedy would end Charlton’s era as boss in March 1965 as the longest serving manager in Dragons history died following a heart attack during a league game with Blackburn Rovers at Addison Road.
Arthur Charlton’s assistant Jim Stephenson instantly became the manager following the tragedy but disasters on the pitch were to follow with relegation in 1966/67.
THE JOY AND PAIN
By the time of 1970, Harchester United were back in the top flight under the managerial guidance of the first non-English manager – the Scotsman, Robert McClaren. He won the side promotion in 1968/69 and in 1973/74, the club finished 4th – their highest ever! McClaren left at the end of that season to join German club Hamburg.
Former West Ham United manager Harry Sidwell then took over as manager and had nearly 11 years in charge of the Dragons.
The Dragons enjoyed their first ever adventure in Europe under Sidwell in 1974/75 where they reached the 2nd Round of the UEFA Cup, before being knocked out by Dutch side FC Amsterdam.
United would go on to qualify for the UEFA Cup twice more during Sidwell's reign but wouldn't get beyond the 3rd Round in either campaign.
There were a couple of decent domestic Cup Runs during his time, but nothing really materialised other than mid-table positions and he left the club by mutual consent in May 1985.
In June 1985, Kenny Bruce became the new manager and really revolutionised the club. He made young talent Terry Glover captain and built a team around young sensation Kevin Nelson.
The revolution was a success and following a home win over Manchester City in May 1986, Harchester United were crowned Champions for the first time in the clubs history. More good news followed the next month with Kevin Nelson becoming the first Dragon to play for England in the World Cup.
Nelson was then sold to Barcelona and that really damaged any chances of Harchester United retaining their Championship. Following a serious of poorer finishes in the league Kenny Bruce was sacked as manager in January 1990. But this was not for on-pitch reasons, but due to allegations of a relationship with a players wife .
THE PREMIER LEAGUE, FA CUP AND BEYOND
Steve Tomkins took over as boss was responsible for the clubs relegation at the end of 1989/90. In November 1992, former Youth Team player and die-hard Dragon Michael Jacobs took over control of the club. In December 1992, he decided to replace Tomkins as boss with the more experienced Ron Atkinson who’d left Aston Villa to take over.
Big Ron made big changes, so much so that the reward paid off with promotion to the Premiership for the first time in 1993/94. Survival was then they key for the Dragons, and after doing so in their first season, they were sadly relegated following a defeat to Queens Park Rangers at the end of the 1995/96 season.
The following year, Harchester United reached the Semi Finals of the FA Cup and were also promoted back to the Premiership thanks to the fantastic goalscoring abilities of Karl Fletcher. Big Ron wanted to improved the squad this time, but wasn’t allowed funds by chairman Michael Jacobs, so he resigned from his job.
Atkinson was replaced by former PSV Eindhoven boss Ian Coates who helped keep the club in the Premiership at the end of 1997/98. Tragedy struch during that season however as chairman Michael Jacobs sadly died of a heart attack during a training session in which he joined in with his team.
1998/99 saw new changes to the club. Millionaire Building Supplies tycoon Jerry Block became the new chairman and was prepared to plough millions into the club. He signed Argentine sensation Luis Amor Rodriguez and together they’d bring the FA Cup to Harchester.
However, in May 1999 following an emphatic FA Cup Final victory over Manchester United at Wembley, an unknown hitman attempted to shoot Jerry Block’s wife Lynda Block but shot club captain John Block dead instead.
Tragedy followed that September following the clubs first European adventure. After knocking Ajax out of the UEFA Cup, four first team members were killed in a plane crash just off the coast of Dover on the way home from the game.
Luis Amor Rodriguez quit as player/manager of Harchester United in March 2000 but stuck around as a player long enough to ensure the club fort off relegation before leaving for Boca Juniors.
In Harchester United’s European adventure, they went out at the Quarter Final stage to Spanish side RCD Mallorca where former hero Karl Fletcher was ploughing his trade. He returned as a Dragon less than 24 hours after that match!!
EUROPEAN DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES
In 2000/01, Ray Wyatt brought in Nigerian striking sensation Monday Bandele from French side Paris St.Germain in a massive coup for the club. The deal paid off as the signing turned the club around and a 3rd Place finish was enough to ensure Champions League football next term.
The Champions League dream was short lived with defeat to the auld adversary RCD Mallorca in the 3rd Qualifying Round. Under the later guidance of Patrick Doyle, European dreams were made with the Dragons first ever appearance in a European final. It was a 1-0 defeat to AC Milan in the UEFA Cup Final.
The Dragons were severely weakened for that game though following a coach crash whilst travelling to that game in which three players were killed. Following the accident, manager Patrick Doyle promised to bring success to the club but it was later revealed that he had another motive of attempting to relegate the club.
When all this information came to light, it was revealed that goalkeeper Jamie Parker had been in on the plan and the Dragons were thrown out of the FA Cup which meant they lost their final place.
They were allowed to replay their final Premiership game with Everton though which had previously been abandoned at Half Time as a now-mentally-ill Jamie Parker took the team hostage during the interval. He was tragically killed by armed police following that incident. Harchester United did survive relegation but Doyle didn’t as he was found dead.
THE PROMISED LAND
In 2003/04, there was an ongoing court case taking place to decide just who should own the club following a raffle by former owner Phil Wallis.
Whilst this was going on, it was damaging the clubs reputation with sponsors and following a £28million transfer of Luke Davenport at the start of the year, ongoing financial trouble saw Harchester United cease trading in March 2004.
This was not the choice of the club, but more the choice of Coopers Bank who were funding Harchester United’s loans at the time. Following campaigning from players, staff, fans and other Premiership clubs, Coopers Bank gave Harchester United a reprieve until the end of the season.
At the end of that season, qualification for the Champions League was achieved after a 3-2 win at home to Manchester United on the final day of the season. However, the club were relegated on grounds of match fixing by UEFA following revelations by former Chief Executive Pilar Hernandez and former manager Stuart Naysmith.
2004/05 saw Harchester United in the Champions League and the newly formed Championship.
The Dragons were brave in their European adventure reaching the Quarter Finals where they were knocked out by Arsenal. In the league, a Play Off Final victory of West Ham at Cardiff secured promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt.
Volatile and unpredictable goalkeeper Vivian “Jaws” Wright signed for Harchester United on a free transfer in January 2004.
Wright had been without a club after being released by Middlesbrough at the end of the 2002/03 season.
The keeper was released after being handed a 15-match ban by the FA for biting the nose of an opponent during a match – thus earning him the nickname “Jaws”.
In January 2004, Dragons boss Stuart Naysmith needed an experienced goalkeeper to shore things up at the back as Harchester United’s season started to fizzle out. So he called upon an old team-mate from his days at Nottingham Forest in Viv Wright.
Wright made his debut just days after signing in a Premier League match at home to Newcastle and he earnt the honour of being named Man of the Match, keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.
A week later against Fulham, despite early promise in the first half, Wright’s volatile and unpredictability was there for all to see at half time when he was sent off for head-butting manager Stuart Naysmith in the tunnel.
Once he’d served his suspension, Wright earnt the trust to be called back into the first team again and made sure Naysmith was aware he’d made the right decision with a number of fine goalkeeping displays.
In April 2004, his decision making was again called into question. Just a week after costing Harchester United a point at Manchester United, Wright disappeared just moments before the Dragons were due to kick off against Arsenal.
The Dragons didn’t have a spare keeper on the bench and Marcel Sabatier had to fill in as goalkeeper. Amazingly they almost won the game, but Sabatier made a slight error in added time that gave Arsenal a point themselves.
Wright had to again earn the trust of his team-mates and manager and agreed to finally see a psychiatrist about his condition of a mental disorder. He would return to the side and help them on their way to finishing 4th in the Premier League and ensuring Champions League football the following season.
Wright was Harchester United’s number 1 goalkeeper in the Championship for the 2004/05 season, but it looked as if he would be joining Bolton Wanderers as part of a £4million deal. But this transfer could not be completed as Wright’s contracted stated that qualification to the Champions League meant he would have to stay with the Dragons.
Wright enjoyed a great first half of the season on the pitch, but off it his wife Chelsea had decided to part from him. This led to a breakdown with his mental disorder and in February 2005, he had to be sedated at half time during an FA Cup 5th Round tie after attacking striker Lee Presley in the dressing room.
After psychological treatment and medical treatment, Wright would once again earn the trust of his team-mates when he made his return to the side in March 2005. Even ousting young goalkeeper Nathan Woods who had been tipped to permanently take Wright’s place in his absence.
Following the sacking of manager Don Barker in April 2005, Wright was announced as the club’s new player/manager to a lot of surprise. But it was a decision by chairman Eli Knox that paid off.
Wright became a changed man whilst Manager. He had focus and responsibility. He was no longer volatile or unpredictable, but proved to be very clever – even getting the better of the “Master of Mind Games” Don Barker on several occasions during TV interviews.
Despite missing out on automatic promotion, Wright led his Harchester United side to get over this disappointment by winning the Play Off Final against Barker’s West Ham United side 1-0, thus gaining promotion to the Premier League.
Danny Sullivan signed for Harchester United in early December 2000 to strengthen up cover in the Dragons midfield. He made his debut on Boxing Day 2000 against Charlton.
But in that game, Sullivan went on to suffer a broken jaw at the hands of Eugene Rose which would leave him out for two months. From then on, Sullivan remained in the reserves until the end of the season.
In 2001/02, Sullivan cemented his place in the first team and was a part of the team that went on to reach the UEFA Cup Final.
Although he was involved in the tragic coach crash that occurred as the team embarked on its journey to Amsterdam for the final, Sullivan luckily escaped unharmed and went on to play in the Final, which the Dragons lost 1-0.
For the next couple of seasons, Sullivan remained a first team regular and enjoyed an eventful time with the club.
In 2004/05, Sullivan was a main part of helping the Dragons earn promotion back to the Premier League.
Frank Stone signed for Harchester United from Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2004 on a free-transfer.
The tough no-nonsense defender had spent his whole career at Wigan Athletic since making his debut in 2000. He’d also once played for the England Under 21’s, but a career spent outside the Premier League meant he’d never been called up for Senior duty.
In May 2004, millionaire Eli Knox took over the ownership of Harchester United and installed Wigan manager Don Barker as the new boss of the Dragons.
The first signing Barker made was that of his captain, and son-in-law Frank Stone.
Stone performed well in the Championship early in the season, but was completely out of his depth in the Champions League and it showed when he was at fault for Harchester United being hammered 4-0 at home by Barcelona.
After the game, Stone was involved in a huge fight with team-mate Clyde Connelly that led to the latter being hospitalised due to the injuries sustained in the fight.
Connelly later gave a statement to the Police over the incident, but no further action was taken and Stone publically apologised to Connelly.
Back on the pitch, Stone completely turned his performances in Europe around and ended up being the hero when he scored a late winner against Barcelona in the Nou Camp in December 2004 to send Harchester United through to the next stage of the Champions League.
In January 2005, Stone was given the captains armband ahead of club captain Curtis Alexander for league match against Plymouth Argyle – Stone was sent off though on 64 minutes and days later he was in talks to join Portsmouth. But the defender later had a change of heart and decided to stay at the Dragon’s Lair.
In March, an altercation took place between Karl Fletcher and Don Barker on the “You’re On Sky Sports” TV show where Fletcher revealed that Stone and his wife Jodie (Barker’s daughter) were expecting a baby much to the Dragons boss’s surprise.
Days later, Stone scored a penalty against Lazio to help send Harchester United through to the Champions League Quarter Finals and celebrated with a message dedicated to Jodie on his vest.
A month later, on the eve of the Quarter Final 2nd Leg against Arsenal, Stone was outed by Curtis Alexander as being gay. The media intrusion into him and his wife’s personal lives led to Jodie suffering a miscarriage.
Following the heartbreak, Stone coped well with some of the abuse aimed his way by opposition supporters as Harchester United went on to win the Play Off Final against Barker’s new side, West Ham United, and win promotion to the Premier League.
Darren Tyson signed for Harchester United in February 2003 from West Bromwich Albion for a fee of £1.2million.
Tyson was then-manager Patrick Doyle's last signing for the club, infact Tyson signed just a week before Doyle was sacked.
Tyson went on to be a vital part of the squad the helped keep Harchester United in the Premier League during the remainder of that 2002/03 season as well as reaching the FA Cup Final.
In 2003/04 season, Tyson played his part in the Dragons succesful quest to qualify for the Champions League and they did just that by finishing 4th. However, the club was relegated following a match fixing charge for the second successive season.
A mixture of Champions League and Championship football was in store for the 2004/05 season and more success followed as Tyson went on to be a vital part in Harchester United earning promotion back to the Premier League.
Carl Caskey signed for Harchester United as a free agent on a "Pay-as-you-Play Deal" in March 2005 .
Caskey began his career as a youth team apprentice with Harchester United, but was released in May 1992 as then-manager Steve Tomkins felt he didn't make the grade to be a part of the first team squad.
So from there, Caskey was picked up by Derby County where he would continue development with them for 2 years before signing for Premier League side Coventry City.
At Coventry, Caskey went on to excel as a first team regular and was a vital part of the Sky-Blue's many relegation battles during this era.
In 1998, Caskey joined Premier League new boys Charlton Athletic and would enjoy a couple of yo-yo seasons that saw the club go through relegation in 1999, before winning the First Division a year later to bounce back to the Premier League.
It was the Premier League season of 2000/2001 where Caskey suffered a severe knee injury.
Caskey had broken his knee in several places and Charlton had to send him to a specialist clinic in the USA for the knee to be mended.
Sadly for Caskey, he never really got the chance to overcome his injury with Charlton and was released from the club at the end of his contract in 2003.
The midfielder continued his own regime of staying fit and healthy following his release from Charlton and took part in many trials at several clubs, but no club was willing to take him on due to his previous injury as their medical teams felt he wasn't fully recovered.
In March 2005, Harchester United, the club that released him as a Youth Teamer, offered him a chance back into football with a trial - a trial which was successful and he was signed up on a "Pay-as-you-Play Deal".
Caskey worked hard to get into the Dragon's first team, and when he finally broke into it, he stayed there.
He had an exceptional performance in the 2005 Championship Play Off Final - a game which the Dragons won 1-0 against West Ham United to win promotion to the Premier League once again.
Ryan Naysmith arrived at Harchester United as a trialist in October 2002.
After being released by Birmingham City following accusations of arson, a young footballer named Ryan Greene began a trial at Harchester United that culminated in him featuring in a Premier League match against Bolton Wanderers.
Greene didn’t have the best of games, but there was enough potential shown to impress manager Patrick Doyle enough to offer him a permanent contract.
Greene was then found to be the son of Harchester United defender Stuart Naysmith, and the youngster would go on to use the surname of his father.
Ryan Naysmith went on to be a huge part of the first team, until he was accused of leaving the scene of an accident following a hit and run incident on the night of the club’s Christmas Party.
The situation took its toll on Naysmith and frustration boiled over in an FA Cup 3rd Round tie away at non-league Dagenham & Redbridge. The youngster was sent off after just 9 minutes.
After being demoted to reserve team action, Naysmith attempting suicide after being sent off in a reserve match away at Birmingham City.
In the aftermath of the incident, HUTV presenter Tara Keane came forward as the driver of the hit and run incident. The charges against Naysmith were then dropped and no further action was taken.
After getting back to match fitness, Naysmith’s season was ended early following a fight involving club captain Marcel Sabatier. The Frenchman beat Naysmith so badly that he was unable to regain fitness until the following season.
Naysmith returned to the first team in the 2003/04 season and really excelled in playing with the club’s new star signing Luke Davenport.
Davenport brought the best out of Naysmith and both players would be called up to play for England in friendly against Denmark.
Following this call up, Naysmith was involved in transfer talks with Liverpool and a bid was accepted by Harchester United following a medical at Anfield.
This deal was called off at the eleventh hour which led to Naysmith having a bust up with Luke Davenport at the club’s Christmas party. Ryan would then go on to suffer a mental breakdown and was then taken to a rehabilitation clinic, leaving him out of action for almost 4 months.
He made a shock return to first team action when Harchester United desperately needed 11 players to fulfil a league fixture away at Charlton Athletic following the club’s liquidation. They won the game 1-0.
In the aftermath of the match, Harchester United were given a reprieve until the end of the season so long as they finish in the top 4 to enable Champions League football.
Naysmith signed up, along with the rest of the squad, and they would only receive due wages should the club finish in the top 4.
The did just that – winning their final game of the season against Manchester United to ensure a 4th place finish, but Naysmith was absent from the final game due to injury.
He managed to regain fitness in time to be called up for England’s Euro 2004 squad, but whilst preparing for a pre-Euro 2004 warm up tournament he suffered a broken leg.
The broken leg ruled Naysmith out of action for the majority of the 2004/05 season – only returning for the final 7 games of the season. But his contribution to the side was highly important as the Dragons marched on to the Championship Play Off Final.
Sadly, Naysmith missed the final in bizarre circumstances at the last minute despite being named in the starting line-up. The Dragons would go on to win the game 1-0.
Lee Presley arrived at Harchester United as a free agent in October 2003 and began training with the first team.
The young Scouser had been spotted by former-agent Jeff Stein whilst playing football for the local young offenders institute. To allow early-release, Stein agreed to be Presley’s guardian and, upon his release, he introduced Presley to Harchester United for a trial.
The trial period was a success and Presley would go to to make his debut in a Premier League match against Fulham in January 2004 – a game where Presley would also score his first goal.
Then 17, Presley would continue to impress in the Harchester United first team and looked certain to agree terms on a professional contract on his 18th birthday. But there was huge shock when he rejected the contract and begun talks with Chelsea over a possible move – a move which went through.
The fans and fellow players were all said to be furious with Presley’s decision, but striker Luke Davenport sprung to the Scouser’s defence after his own career had just come to an abrupt end due to injury.
Davenport explained that Presley blamed himself for the striker’s injury and he felt this was nonsense. He also said that Presley was 100% committed to Harchester United and that Chelsea would not hold a player to a contract whose heart lay elsewhere.
This proved to be the case as Chelsea cancelled the contract and Presley would sign professional terms with Harchester United.
Presley continued to score vital goals for Harchester United in their end of season run-in towards gaining a Champions League place – and he would score THE vital goal in the 5th minute of added time to secure a 3-2 victory over Manchester United in the final game of the season.
The goal not only secured a victory, it secured Champions League football and it also secured Harchester United’s future as a football club. But it didn’t secure a Premier League future as this was entirely out of any players hands.
During the summer of 2004, UEFA decided to relegate Harchester United to the Championship after a second season involving a match fixing scandal. But they were still able to compete in the UEFA Champions League.
His performances during his first season at the Lair led to major interest from Manchester United and Barcelona to sign Presley during the summer months. But he rejected both, committing his future to Harchester United.
In August 2004, Harchester United played in the final Qualifying Round of the UEFA Champions League, hoping to correct the wrongs of failure they’d endured at this stage just 3 years earlier.
They travelled to Lisbon to take on Sporting, and it was Presley that scored early on to give the Dragons a 1-0 lead. Sadly they would go on to lose the first leg 2-1. But in the return leg at the Dragons Lair, Presley was once again the Dragons hero, scoring a late penalty to give the home side a 1-0 win.
This meant that Harchester United won the tie on the Away Goals rule and had qualifed for the UEFA Champions League group stages for the first time.
The Dragons would go on to progress to the Quarter Finals of the competition, losing out to Arsenal despite a goal from Presley giving them hope in the second leg.
Harchester United went on to win promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt in May 2005 as they beat West Ham United in the Play Off Final in Cardiff – and it was Presley who scored the winning goal to send them up.
Curtis Alexander signed for Harchester United on a free transfer from French club Paris St.Germain in August 2002.
Alexander had been the top goal scorer in the French league for the previous 2 seasons and was keen to team up with former PSG boss Patrick Doyle was again.
Curtis Alexander began his career at Tottenham Hotspur and made his debut at the age of 18 in 1996 during an FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest.
Although Spurs went on to lose the tie on penalties, Alexander's performance was enough to earn himself a place in Gerry Francis's regular first team squad for the remainder of the season and the next.
During 1997/98, Spurs had it difficult under new boss Christian Gross and struggled in the league. Alexander also found it hard to break into Gross's side as the Swiss boss preferred strikers Ferdinand, Armstrong and the incoming Klinsmann ahead of him.
Alexander was angry to have missed out on the opportunity of making England's World Cup squad for the 1998 tournament and he made it clear that he wanted to leave Spurs.
New manager George Graham tried to convince Alexander to stay at the club, but during January 1999, he was signed by French club Paris St.Germain - now managed by English boss Patrick Doyle.
Alexander found the remainder of the 1998/99 season a learning curve as he found out how to adapt to French football.
But in the seasons that followed, Alexander was to find top form. His goals led PSG to the French title in 2000/2001 and he was also top scorer for that season and the season that followed, 2001/02.
Whilst Alexander was banging in the goals for PSG, he also earnt a place in Sven Goran Eriksson's England squad. He'd go on to make 6 appearances in an England shirt, scoring 1 goal. But he'd fail to make the 2002 World Cup Squad.
During the 2001/02 season, Alexander was lined up to be signing for Harchester United.
He went as far as travelling to the Midlands club for a medical, discussing personal terms and Harchester United even had a bid accepted by PSG - however, the deal fell through at the last minute and Alexander remained at PSG.
In February 2002, Alexander's mentor and manager, Patrick Doyle left PSG to become the new manager of Harchester United and, once Curtis's contract at PSG had expired, Alexander finally joined the Dragons in August that summer.
Although he'd enjoyed a good run of scoring in France, Alexander failed to maintain the form at his new club.
He'd clearly lost his confidence as he'd struggled to find goals. Matters were not helped off the pitch when he was wrongly accused, but later cleared, of ❤️❤️❤️❤️ allegations.
After missing a penalty in the 2003 FA Cup Semi Final, Alexander was substituted at half time and was involved in a bust-up with Patrick Doyle in the TV Studio as the now-former-Dragons boss was critical of Alexander's ability whilst offering analysis at half time.
This bust-up seemed to boost Alexander's confidence no end however as he went on to score goals in vital games as the Dragons managed to secure their top-flight status and beat off relegation for another season.
Alexander was now looking forward to the new season and was ready to recreate the form he once had at PSG - however, things didn't help when Harchester United signed Luke Davenport for a record fee from Barcelona.
New manager Stuart Naysmith opted to play Davenport as the sole striker, leaving Alexander either on the bench or left out completely.
Alexander struggled to perform when he was given his chance and it seemed that he would never get back the form he once enjoyed in France.
However, in March 2004, Harchester United went into liquidation and were closed down by Coopers Bank over massively mounting unpaid debts. Alexander took it upon himself to get together with former co-owner Dean Boyle and ensure that the club would not die.
Boyle would attempt to pull the strings at boardroom level with the Premier League and other chairman, whilst Alexander would rally some of the Dragons players together to form a team to fulfill their next Premier League fixture.
After getting the backing from Premier League clubs, the fixture against Charlton Athletic got to go-ahead and Alexander led his 11-players into battle at The Valley. Curtis would go on to score the only goal in an amazing 1-0 win.
Alexander's determination encouraged the likes of Marcel Sabatier and Luke Davenport to sign on for the liquidated club until the end of season and this encouraged Coopers Bank to keep the club open.
Alexander would be a permanent member of the Harchester United squad, when fit and available, for the remainder of his time at the club and was also named as Captain.
For the remaining 2 games of the 2003/04 season, Alexander was named as player/manager following the resignation of Stuart Naysmith.
Although the first game in charge saw the Dragons surrender a 3-0 half time lead at Wolves to lose 4-3, the second game saw an exciting climax to the season as the Dragons went on to beat Manchester United 3-2 and qualify for the UEFA Champions League qualifiers.
However, whilst this match was going, UEFA had decided to relegate Harchester United to the soon-to-be-named Championship after being found guilty for a second successive season on a Match Fixing Charge.
It looked as though Curtis Alexander would leave the Dragons at the start of the 2004/05 season and opt to join a Premier League club - however, once the Dragons had beat Sporting Lisbon and qualified for the Group Stages of the Champions League, Alexander opted to stay at the Dragons.
After an impressive first half to the season, Alexander was wanted by Charlton Athletic during the January Transfer Window. Curtis said it was his dream to sign for the club he supported as a boy but the deal fell through after ❤️❤️❤️❤️ was found in his system during a medical.
Alexander was found to have been drugged at a local nightclub so wasn't banned by the FA, but his deal with Charlton Athletic never did go through.
He stayed at the Dragons for the remainder of the season and suffered torried racial abuse at the hands of Lazio fans during a Champions League in February.
Just hours before the Champions League Quarter Final 2nd Leg against Arsenal in April 2005, Alexander outed Frank Stones homosexuality in a newspaper revelation that severely disrupted the teams performance as they exited the Champions League.
Putting his behind them, Alexander captained the Dragons to Play Off glory as they beat West Ham United in Cardiff to win promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Harchester United’s record goalscorer, and considered by supporters as the best player in the club’s history, Karl Fletcher started his career as a Harchester United player and ended it as one too.
In May 1992, with nothing to play for in the final game of the season, then-manager Steve Tomkins made the decision to bring in young Karl Fletcher to the first team for that game after being impressed with his performances at youth and reserve team levels.
In a Second Division clash against Leicester City, Fletcher did not disappoint as he went on to score the only goal of the game on his first debut in a 1-0 win.
This performance was enough to earn Fletcher a place in the first team squad for the following season. But despite his passion and energy, Tomkins rarely chose to play Fletcher, opting for other strikers instead.
In December 1992, Ron Atkinson replaced Tomkins as manager of Harchester United and the first decision he made was to give Fletcher his big break – and it paid off.
Fletcher’s goals were enough to cement a mid-table finish that season, but 35 goals the following season helped the Dragons secure promotion to the Premier League.
Fletcher took to the top flight as a natural and still managed to bag 32 goals in the season that saw the Dragons relegated back to the First Division.
Never one to lose touch, Fletcher went on to score 42 goals during 1996/97 – a season where Harchester United won promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt and also reached the Semi Finals of the FA Cup, losing out in controversial circumstances to a Dennis Wise penalty against Chelsea.
During the 1997/98 season, Fletcher was required to give a sample during a drugs test organised by the Football Association. He failed the test as his sample was found to contain traces of ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Fletcher was suspended from football for 3 months.
During this period, Fletcher admitted to being addicted to ❤️❤️❤️❤️ and went through extensive rehab to clean up his act. He also fronted Harchester United’s “Harchester Says No” anti-drugs campaign.
In the final game of the 1997/98 season, Harchester United needed only to equal Barnsley’s result in order to survive relegation and stay in the Premier League. Fletcher made his return to the first team in this fixture and went on to score the Dragon’s only goal in a 1-1 daw – enough to keep them up.
The following season proved to be a successful one for Fletcher, scoring 29 goals on the way to claiming his first major medal when Harchester United secured the FA Cup for the first time in their history as the beat Manchester United 2-1 in the final.
Off the pitch though, rumours were rife that Fletcher desperately wanted to fulfil his ambition of playing in Spain. This led to clubs there being on high alert, including Real Betis who had made their interest in Fletcher public knowledge.
During the summer of 1999, Fletcher got his wish and a transfer to Spain was completed. But it wasn’t to Betis, it was to UEFA Cup Winners Cup runners up, RCD Mallorca.
Fletcher’s time at Mallorca wasn’t the dream move he’d been expecting though as constant disagreements with manager Fernando Vazquez led to the striker having limited opportunities in the first team. But when he did play, he’d play well.
In April 2000, Fletcher’s Mallorca were drawn to play against Harchester United in the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Cup.
The first leg at the Dragons Lair saw Fletcher recalled to the Mallorca starting line-up due to injuries within their squad and he made an instant impact by scoring the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win for the Spaniards.
A week later and Fletcher was instrumental in Mallorca securing a 1-1 draw, thus winning the tie 2-1 on aggregate and knocking the Dragons out of the UEFA Cup.
But amazingly, less than 24 hours after this match, Fletcher completed a £2.5million transfer back to Harchester United.
Donning the number 11 shirt which would now be a trademark of his for the remainder of his career, Fletcher scored twice on his debut for the Dragons to put them 2-0 up – but two second half goals from Coventry led to a 2-2 draw and it was clear that Harchester United were in another relegation battle.
Fletcher’s goals in further games went some way to softening the blow, but following a 5-1 defeat away at Manchester United in the penultimate game of the season, Harchester United’s survival was hanging by a thread.
Matters weren’t helped any further when a bust up between Fletcher and fellow striker Wes Kingsley broke out on the team coach on the way back from this match. Fletcher ended up with a broken jaw and would miss the final game of the season.
The Dragons went on to secure the survival with a 3-2 victory over Tottenham in the final game of the season.
2000/2001 saw Fletcher combine alongside Scott Lucas originally in attack before teaming up with new signing Monday Bandele after Christmas.
The combination between the three saw the Dragons have an amazing turnaround of fortunes from the previous season as they were heading for a 3rd place finish and Champions League football.
Following a loss to Aston Villa in the penultimate game of the season however, their chances looked as if they were starting to fade as manager Ray Wyatt resigned from his position following leaked revelations in the press about an affair with former-chairwoman Lynda Block.
New chairman Prashant Dattani installed Fletcher as the new manager, but refused to appear at the press conference in which Fletcher was announced as the new boss.
Less than 24 hours later, Fletcher was replaced by Ray Wyatt who made a U-Turn on his decision to resign and intended to complete his mission of securing Champions League football for the Dragons.
Fletcher later stated that he’d felt humiliated by the situation, and further embarrassment was to come in the final game against West Ham United.
After coming on as a substitute in the game, he was brought off and replaced just 11 minutes later.
As he came off, he was captured by TV cameras to be pointing towards Dattani in the crowd and yelled “This is your fault Dattani!”
Just hours after the game, which the Dragons won 3-2 to qualify for the Champions League, Dattani was found dead in his office after being struck in the head.
Fletcher was the main suspect for the murder when further evidence came to light. He was charged with the offence and went on to face trial in December 2001.
Before going on trial, Fletcher began to play some of the best football of his career and also became more of a team player. Had it not been for the murder charge, many believed he would have received his first England international call up.
The night before the final day of the trial, Harchester United were facing Parma in an UEFA Cup 3rd Round 2nd Leg tie that was 0-0 in the 1st leg.
Fletcher was refused bail to take part in the game. But a massive campaign by players, staff and supporters managed to raise enough money for Fletcher’s bail to take part in the game – and he did not let them down as he scored the winner to take the Dragons through to the Last 16.
A day later, and Fletcher was in the dock to face questions about Dattani’s death. On this occasion, he admitted to walking in on the office to find Dattani’s dead body. This contradicted his previous claims.
The jury would go on to find Fletcher guilty of the murder. But within seconds of the verdict, club Chief Executive Lynda Block confessed to the murder herself.
With an investigation required to take place, Fletcher was sent to jail over the Christmas period before being released once Block was charged with the crime.
Fletcher was rightly angry and even more so at the public’s warmth towards Lynda Block who’d kept quiet about the crime for months and allowed him to take the blame.
He did everything he could to try and force a move away from Harchester United, including insisting on live TV that Barcelona wanted to sign him. However, when it became apparent they were not, a violent outburst from Fletcher towards agent Jeff Stein at a press conference led to all interest in the striker being dropped.
And so he remained at the club, and in his first game back he would suffer a broken arm during a 2-0 win against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup 4th Round.
Fletcher was out of action for a further 2 months and returned in time to help seal an UEFA Cup Semi Final place as he scored in a 3-0 victory over Celtic in the Quarter Finals.
During the Semi Final 2nd Leg, it looked as if Fletcher had secured Extra Time in the 88th minute as his goal made it 1-1 on aggregate. But then in the 3rd minute of added time, captain Stevie Shaw scored the winner to send the Dragons through to the final in Amsterdam.
On the way to the final, the Harchester United team coach crashed on the M1 motorway and Fletcher suffered a broken arm – putting an end to any chances of playing in the UEFA Cup Final or being selected to play for England at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
More tragically though, the crash took the lives of team-mates Danny Rawsthorne, Linton Alexander, Stevie Shaw and new chief executive Claudia Irving.
During his time in hospital, Fletcher got engaged to Abi O’Leary, a nurse who was aiding him in his rehab and they later got married. Abi would go on to become Harchester United’s physio.
Fletcher lost his way during the first half of the 2002/03 season, a many doubted that he could ever rekindle the flame of the previous season. But all that changed when he came on as a substitute against Sunderland and went on to score a hat-trick in a 3-1 win.
Sadly, Fletcher suffered an injury in training shortly after this game and would be out of action for a few weeks.
Upon his return, the Dragons had a new manager as Stuart Naysmith replaced Patrick Doyle due to uncertain league form that saw Harchester United heading towards the bottom of the table. Naysmith was replaced by former boss Alan Rothman shortly after following a bust up with Marcel Sabatier.
Despite their differences during Rothman’s first spell in charge, the new manager made Fletcher his captain and the striker wore the armband with sheer pride and passion, determined to keep Harchester United a Premier League club.
During the penultimate game of the league season against West Brom, Fletcher suffered a heart attack at half time and had to be rushed to hospital. Fletcher would miss the final game of the season against Everton whilst health tests continued.
However, during that game against Everton, the Harchester United goalkeeper Jamie Parker (who was dropped for that game) took the squad hostage in the home dressing at half time. The siege went on for hours and it later emerged that Parker had suffered a mental breakdown whilst taking part in a match-fixing scheme with former manager Patrick Doyle.
During the siege, Parker revealed that he’d poisoned Fletcher on the morning before the West Brom match in order for him to miss the game. But Fletcher didn’t blame Parker for this incident, he blamed Doyle for sending Parker into a breakdown.
The siege concluded with Parker being shot dead by armed police. At his funeral, Fletcher insisted that Harchester United would beat Everton in their replayed Premier League encounter and would stay in the Premier League in memory of Parker.
And they did just that – a 1-0 win thanks to a Clyde Connelly goal, but they had to do so without Fletcher who missed the game after failing a late fitness test.
During the summer, Fletcher had been led to believe that he would be offered a new contract by Harchester United. But upon his return from a summer holiday, he discovered that the club, new under new ownership, were not to offer him a new deal.
After a goodbye testimonial match, Fletcher signed for Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal and the striker set off for a new life in Riyadh.
Whilst there, Fletcher got to know some of the affluent businessman and Sheikh’s in the middle east region. One of them was Sheikh Abdul al Shaziz whom Fletcher introduced to Harchester United in the hope that the billionaire would invest in the club.
However, during a presentation to the potential investors whilst in Harchester, Fletcher attacked Stuart Naysmith as he believed that the Dragons boss was having an affair with his wife. But it was actually the club captain Marcel Sabatier – due to the unprofessional incident, all talks with investors broke down.
Fletcher returned back to Saudi Arabia a broken-man and his football suffered. He was released by Al-Hilal upon his return.
A free agent, Fletcher joined Spanish Segunda side Real Murcia for the remainder of the 2004/04 season. After struggling to make an impact in the final couple of months, he signed a pay-as-you-play deal with the club for the 2004/05 season.
Fletcher was not the player he once was though. He’d put on a lot of weight since his Harchester United days and was struggling for full match fitness – but this didn’t prevent transfer talks taking place between Fletcher and the now-Championship side whilst the club were in Spain to take on Barcelona in December 2004.
A shock move was completed in early January 2005 and Fletcher was a Harchester United player for the third time in his career.
Just as on his previous two debuts, Fletcher would score on his debut on this occasion too – a last minute winner in a 1-0 win over Premier League side Manchester City in the FA Cup 3rd Round.
This appearance would be Fletcher’s last for a while though as he was sent away for rehab to regain match fitness following a poor performance in a Reserve match.
Upon his return, Fletcher would go on to feature in Championship games and Champions League games – he scored in a victory over Lazio in the Last 16 to help the club through to the Quarter Finals where they would eventually lose to Arsenal.
A goal in a league game against Millwall would also make Fletcher the new Record Goalscorer for Harchester United Football Club.
Fletcher was also to take caretaker charge of the side on a couple of occasions during the season when manager Don Barker suffered health problems. But he was overlooked in favour of Viv Wright once Barker had been sacked and replaced in April 2005.
Towards the end of the season, Fletcher was restricted to a place on the subs bench and nothing beyond that. The club also announced that they would not be renewing his contract at the end of the season.
During the final league game of the season against West Ham United at the Dragons Lair, Gina Moliano, the team-assistant and girlfriend of Fletcher, collapsed and was taken to hospital. Police investigations found that somebody was attempting to poison the Harchester United team.
Fletcher was arrested and later charged for the incident. He severely protested his innocence and was back by Moliano and his team-mates as they funded the £250,000 required for his bail.
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