Alex Harris getting his career back on track at York after Hibs exit
Life hasn't exactly turned out the way most would have expected for Alex Harris, the kid who announced himself to the football world with a wonder goal which sparked one of the greatest Scottish Cup comebacks as Hibs recovered from being three goals down to defeat Falkirk in 2013 and earn themselves a place in the final against Celtic.
At the age of just 18, a sparkling career looked assured for the former Edinburgh Academy pupil, but he quickly discovered just how fickle fate can be.
A broken ankle at the start of the 2013/14 campaign put him out of action for five months and by the time he was fit enough to return, Hibs had already hit that slump which ended in relegation.
Then manager Terry Butcher was sacked, Alan Stubbs came in and having finally ended Hibs’ 114-year wait for the Scottish Cup in 2016, he too departed, making way for Neil Lennon.
Throughout it all, Harris struggled to pin down a regular first-team place, finding himself on loan to Dundee and then Queen of the South before finally quitting Easter Road to join Falkirk in June 2017.
But when it became clear he was no longer in the thoughts of Bairns boss Paul Hartley, Harris decided to strike out for pastures new, the smile back on his face as he now turns out for York City in the England’s National League North.
Incredibly, still only 24 despite all those trials and tribulations, Harris has no regrets, his focus being entirely on the future rather than being burdened by the past.
“I’ve been through quite a lot of highs and lows,” he admitted. “From scoring that semi-final goal and playing in the Scottish Cup final at the age of 18, to being relegated the next season.
“There was a lot of expectation back then, but things happen. I broke my ankle which was a big set back in terms of my development. It was my first real injury so I was perhaps a bit naive to think my fitness would come back right away and I rushed back.
“Was it the right thing to do? I’d probably do the same again. I wanted to play, to prove to people I was missed when I was away.”
Harris was initially in Stubbs’ thoughts, but found himself taking a seat on the bench more often than not before spending the rest of the season at Dens Park and all but one game of the following campaign with Queen of the South.
The arrival of Lennon saw Harris part of the squad but, again, injury played a major part, sidelining him for five months and with his contract expiring, he knew a parting of the ways was imminent.
Harris joined Falkirk, but halfway through the season was informed by Hartley that he’d be changing the squad. He said: “A lot of boys left in January and again in the summer. I’d got myself involved back in the squad and when we came back for pre-season training I worked hard, made sure I did everything I could.
“I wanted a fresh start. I didn’t train with the first team but with the youths, I was coming in to train in the afternoons and, at the end of the day, if your face doesn’t fit, there’s not a lot you can do.”
Harris did have offers to stay in Scotland, from clubs at the lower end of the Championship and in League One, but he decided to head for north Yorkshire and a trial at Bootham Crescent.
He said: “The easy option would have been to stay in Scotland. I’d never had to move out of my comfort zone, so I wanted a new challenge.
“I’d spoken to a few managers who were really interested in me, but then the chance to go to York came up. I’d actually had the chance to go there a couple of years ago. It didn’t happen, but I knew a bit about the club.
“I came here on a trial basis and did enough to prove my worth. I’m 24 and wanting a new challenge. I wasn’t scared to go anywhere, I just want to play every game.
“No matter who I play for I always try to do my best. I want to test myself and I’m glad I’ve come here. I’ve been here for a couple of months. We had a good start to the season, won five and drew one of our first six games, although we’ve had a couple of disappointing results.
“The manager [Sam Collins] has ben good with me. Towards the end of that first run of games I was tiring a bit, probably because I hadn’t played a lot of football in the past few months. He took me out, but now I’m back in and feeling sharp.”
A 3-1 win away to Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Trophy at the weekend broke a winless run but, insisted Harris, the focus is on lifting York City back through the leagues.
He said: “It’s disappointing they find themselves where they are at the moment, but we have to produce on the pitch and look to get a club of this stature back to where it deserves to be. I’m here short-term, but we’ll talk longer-term. I’m really enjoying it. I want to play at the highest level I can, but I’m looking to my own personal performances and showing them they can rely on me.”