David Beckham has led the tributes to Manchester United’s former youth team coach Eric Harrison, who has died aged 81.
Harrison, who forged the fledgling careers of the ‘Class of 92’ stars Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Gary and Phil Neville, was diagnosed with dementia four years ago.
On Thursday, Manchester United announced Harrison had died on Wednesday night.
Beckham said: “We’ve lost our mentor, our coach and the man who made us. He taught us how to play, how to never give up, how important it was to win your individual battles and what we needed to do to play for Manchester United Football Club.
“He was always watching and always with us every time we played, I can still hear him telling me NO MORE HOLLYWOOD PASSES. I can still see him as we played on The Cliff training ground looking down on us either with a proud smile or a loud bang of his fist on the window knowing any minute he would be on his way down to probably advise me in the most polite way to stop playing those passes.
“More importantly he made us understand how to work hard and respect each other and not just on the pitch. We won’t forget the life lessons he gave us. Eric we love you and owe you everything. ❤ Gary, Phil, Ryan, Paul, Nicky and David.”
Sir Alex Ferguson, who worked with Harrison at Old Trafford and reaped the rewards of his sterling efforts, hailed his “hard work and sacrifice”.
“Eric’s contribution to football and not just Manchester United was incredible,” Ferguson said on the club’s official Twitter account.
“I got to see the work he did and not just with the Class of 92 but with all the young players. He built character and determination in those young players and prepared them for the future.
“He was a teacher, he gave these players a path, a choice and he only did that through his own hard work and sacrifice. He was able to impart that education to the young which made him one of the greatest coaches of our time.”
Former defender Gary Neville said: “We’ve lost our mentor, our coach and the man who made us.
“He taught us how to play, how to never give up, how important it was to win your individual battles and what we needed to do to play for Manchester United Football Club.
“Eric we owe you everything.”
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who was part of the treble-winning team in 1999, said: “Eric Harrison, one of footballs greatest people has sadly passed away.
“Responsible for the development of The Class of 92 and so many other great players that came through the @ManUtd academy he was one of the clubs biggest heroes. RIP Eric.”
Michael Carrick, who had a 12-year playing career at Old Trafford before joining the coaching squad, also paid tribute to Harrison.
He said: “So sad. Thoughts are with Eric’s friends and family.
“I’ve heard so many stories over the years about the influence Eric had on the lads coming through the youth team. Schooling and developing them into some of the worlds best players.
“Such an integral part of the club. RIP.”
Former Wales international John Hartson, who worked with Harrison with his national team, said: “Sorry to hear the passing of Eric Harrison, worked with Eric when he was Mark Hughes’s assistant with the Wales National team.
“Lovely man. RIP Eric.”
The Premier League also paid tribute to Harrison.
“The Premier League is deeply saddened to learn that former Manchester United youth coach Eric Harrison, has died at the age of 81 Our thoughts are with Eric’s family and friends at this difficult time,” the Premier League said in a statement.
Manchester United midfielder Ashley Young said: “Eric Harrison had a huge influence in shaping the club and its dedication to developing young players over the last 30 years. His place as a club legend is definitely assured. RIP”
Everton said in a statement: “We’re saddened by the passing of Eric Harrison, youth coach, reserve coach and assistant manager at Everton in the 1970s and early 1980s. Our deepest condolences go out to Eric’s family and friends.”