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From open-bus to top-flight: the rise of Jersey's Luke Harris

From open-bus to top-flight: the rise of Jersey's Luke Harris

Tuesday 23 August 2022

From open-bus to top-flight: the rise of Jersey's Luke Harris

Tuesday 23 August 2022

Jersey’s newest top-flight footballer – Fulham FC’s Luke Harris – could step off the bench this evening, making his competitive debut for the first team.

The 17-year-old has been an unused substitute in two of the club’s three Premier League games this season – in Fulham’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool and Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Brentford.

However, tonight he could be selected to play in the team’s Carabao Cup clash at Crawley Town.

The Jersey-born midfielder, who also plays internationally for Wales at under-19 level, has long been touted as a player to watch.

Last month, he played a key role in Fulham’s 2-0 win over Nice in the Algarve Trophy, a three-team pre-season friendly tournament which also involved Benfica.

Luke’s progress is being closely followed by his former coach and teacher Richard Heaven, who managed the St. Clement’s Primary School team that Luke played a key role in.

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Pictured: Luke scored a hat-trick in Fulham's U23 side's 3-0 victory over Chelsea.

Reflecting on those days, before Luke left to join the Fulham Academy full-time, Mr Heaven – who is now the school’s headteacher – said: “He was such a skilful player. 

“He could play with his left and right foot - his skills and ball control were fantastic.

“He was one of those people who was just a sporting talent - I think if you gave him a badminton racket or table tennis bat, he’d probably pick them up in an instant.

“He won the primary school cross-country championships in both the autumn and spring races, and the long-distance race in the primary school athletics championships too.”

Mr Heaven, who also coached Luke’s brothers Tom, Matt and Joe, added that his determination and resilience were also of note.

Pictured: Fulham FC's social media says it is time for manager Marco Silva to "unleash this gem".

“He never gave up, even when we were losing matches. 

“One example was when we won the Danone Nations Cup in 2016 - the first side from Jersey to win that competition.

“We were losing 2-1 in the first group game, and I remember, in the last minute, Luke scored a thumping header. It just showed his determination to play right to the final whistle.

“That goal had a real impact on the whole team: it galvanised and lifted the team for the rest of the day, and we went on to win our quarter-final, semi-final and the final, which we won on penalties. 

“His goal really set the tone.”

Mr Heaven also said that Luke led by example. 

“He raised everyone’s game: we had good players who played better because he was in the team. They thought ‘we can up our game and match that’.

“But he was also really well grounded. He came from a lovely family and parents Steve and Natalie never got over-excited. They were aware of the challenges of reaching the top-flight of football.”

Mr Heaven added: “I remember Luke went away to Fulham one weekend and St Clement were playing Plat Douet on the Saturday. We beat them and when Luke came back, he asked me how the team had got on.

“He was pleased we’d won then told me in a very matter-of-fact way that his weekend had involved flying to Munich to play against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin. 

Pictured: Luke was on the bench for The Cottagers' first Premier League game of the season, against Liverpool. The match ended 2-2.

“I had to dig the information out of him; he was very unassuming and really grounded.”

Luke’s talent was identified by Fulham scout Malcolm Elias, who used to scout for Southampton when the likes of Theo Walcott and Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain joined the club.

Luke joined Fulham aged nine and has remained with the club ever since.

Asked if he thought his coaching might have some influence on Luke, Mr Heaven said: “Luke was a very skilful and talented player. A vast number of people will have contributed towards making him the player that he is today – from his family kicking a ball around the garden when he was very young to his current coaches at Fulham.

"I may not have taught Luke new skills, but my role at the school gave him the opportunity to play against a variety of schools, both locally and in the UK and learn from these experiences.

"I believe that these experiences, among a wealth of others, will have shaped the character and talent that he is today."

He added: “I obviously would love to see him play for the first team. When we went to the Danone Nations Cup, [then headteacher] Sheila Ponomarenko and I made a promise that we’d return to watch Luke play if he achieved his dream of playing professionally.

“There aren’t too many players from Jersey who make it all the way but if Luke doesn’t make it, then I don’t know who would.

"All of the staff and pupils at St Clement’s School hope that he makes his debut for the first team at Fulham soon and wish him all the very best for the future." 

Former Janvrin pupil Marlon Fossey also currently plays at Fulham FC.

Pictured top: Luke lifts the Danone Nations Cup in 2016 when he played for St. Clement's Primary School. The side won the national primary school tournament, after winning the final in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out at Premier League winners Leicester City's King Power Stadium.

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