Footballer and coach and assistant manager at Raith Rovers

Born: September 19, 1941;

Died: November 25, 2019

MARTIN Harvey, who has died aged 78, was a footballer and coach who largely avoided the limelight and let his considerable talents do his talking.

A Belfast boy, his talent was spotted with Boyland Boys Club in his native city – first club too of George Best – and in 1959 he crossed to England, to undertake an unsuccessful trial with Burnley. Undaunted, he moved on to try again, at Sunderland, this time with more success. He would go on to spend his entire playing career with the Makems, before, after 314 games, switching seamlessly to coaching.

He made his Sunderland debut, on 24 October, 1959, against Plymouth Argyle, at Home Park, while still only 17. He was something of a pioneer – back then British football was moving from the time-honoured 2-3-5 formation to 4-4-2; this meant one of the wing halves had to stay back as a second centre-half, and Harvey – who was an excellent tackler – was one of the first of these players.

Although naturally left-footed, Harvey preferred to play on the right, having the ability, once he had won the ball, to switch play to the other side, to the likes of Sunderland team mate Jim Baxter.

He impressed with the Northern Ireland B team and, in April, 1961, still a teenager, he replaced the unavailable Danny Blanchflower at right-half in the Northern Ireland team which played Italy in an away friendly. He had to wait until the great Blanchflower retired before becoming a Northern Ireland regular, going on to win 34 caps over the next decade. He also added three Under-23 caps to his collection.

Sunderland won nothing of note with Harvey as a player, but, after he hung up his boots in 1972, he was kept on and was a member of Bob Stokoe's coaching staff when they improbably beat Leeds United to win the FA Cup in 1973.

He remained a hard-working and well-thought-of member of the coaching staff at the club until he joined former Scotland captain Bobby Moncur as his assistant when Moncur took charge of Carlisle United in 1978.

He was appointed caretaker boss when Moncur left in 1980, guiding the team to some improved results and being appointed permanent manager. However, a poor start to the new season saw him sacked – with Stokoe taking over, and Harvey rejoined Moncur, as assistant manager at Plymouth Argyle.

Moncur left in September, 1983, with Harvey again becoming caretaker boss, remaining at Home Park, back as assistant manager until 1990. During this period he twice left Devon for warmer climes, assisting Billy Bingham the Northern Ireland manager at the World Cups of 1982 in Spain and 1986 in Mexico – he also sat beside Bingham for a short spell in Saudi Arabia.

In 1990, one of the players in those Northern Ireland World Cup squads, Jimmy Nicholl, embarking on his own career in management realised he might benefit from an experienced Number Two, so he persuaded Harvey to join him at Raith Rovers.

“As a young manager, I felt I needed an older head beside me, and Martin had impressed me with his work in the Northern Ireland World Cup squad. He was an endless help to me as I found my feet in management, and a lovely man as well,” said Nicholl.

The partnership was not without its successes, two First Division titles and promotion to the Premier Division and, in 1994, they had the fans 'dancing in the streets of Raith' as they guided the Fifers to their first and still only major Scottish trophy, when they beat Celtic in the League Cup final. This also qualified Raith for Europe, and that unforgettable trip to Bayern Munich.

He followed Nicholl and what seemed like half the League Cup-winning team south to Millwall, and, when that adventure went wrong, Harvey retired to live just outside Plymouth.

He is survived by Ruth, his wife of over 50 years, their three children and grand-children.