There was an air of sadness as Manchester United Under 16s arrived in Slovakia for training at AquaCity-Poprad.
It had just been announced that Eric Harrison who was the team’s legendary youth coach, had died aged 81.
A statement issued by United this morning (Thursday) read: “We are extremely saddened to report that our former youth coach Eric Harrison passed away last night. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Eric’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time.”
Eric, between 1957 to 1972 played for Halifax Town, Hartlepool United and Barrow – but it was what he did later that created his footballing legacy.
After joining United Eric became youth team manager and developed the famous ‘Class of 92’ which had Gary Neville, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville among its stars.
Eric who was diagnosed with dementia in 2014 spent his final few months in a nursing home. He was awarded an MBE for his services to football in the 2018 New Year Honours.
David Beckham’s said: “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.”
Gary Neville paid tribute to him on Twitter saying: “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.”
Perhaps there is no finer tribute to Eric Harrison’s legacy than the young people who regularly fly in to AquaCity in Poprad to train using its facilities.
But there was a palpable sadness as their plane headed for the city Poprad at the foot of Slovakia’s High Tatras Mountains.
Dr Jan Telensky, founder of AquaCity, described as the world’s greenest hotel for a number of years running, said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Eric Harrison’s passing, he did so much to help young people with their dreams and ambitions.”