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Gloucester City: Tim Harris worried about 'lost generation' of fans

By The Citizen  |  Posted: February 28, 2014

Tim Harris

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The opportunity to return to Gloucester City and manage his hometown club was one Tim Harris just could not turn down.

Reinstated to the role of Tigers boss after a five-year stint as director of football at Newport County, Gloucester-boy Harris cannot wait to get cracking.

But the 54-year-old former Cheltenham Town and Tigers goalkeeper is not just looking at overseeing an on-field improvement – he wants to see progress off it too.

The manager at the time that the club were flooded out of their Meadow Park home, Harris could be the man who sees plans turned into reality and takes the Tigers back there.

Based in Churchdown, Harris has never cut his ties with the Tigers despite spending nearly five years on the Welsh side of the Severn Bridge.

“Every time I could get to a game when Newport weren’t playing I would be there, paying my money on the turnstiles,” Harris said.

“Every opportunity I have had to try and help this club I have done it, and it saddens me that there are people who have forgotten about us.

“I understand it, and I have nothing but praise and respect for those guys and girls who have kept going through thick and thin with the belief that we will one-day go home.

“The plans that we have got to exactly that, and the chance that I have got to help realise those plans excites me massively.

“We should be getting five to six hundred people turning up every week to see us play in the city of Gloucester, I genuinely believe that is possible.

“But to do that we need to energise those people who are dyed-in-the-wool Gloucester City fans and get them back involved.”

That task will be anything but easy for Harris, who knows from personal experience that some fans have grown tired of the long and painful years on the road.

“I was in the supermarket doing the shopping for my wife on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago and bumped into a Gloucester fan I had known for a while,” Harris recalled.

“He was a lifelong fan and we got chatting about a few things and he was saying about how well it was going for me down at Newport.

“I asked him about what he thought of City at the moment, and he replied by saying that he hadn’t been over to Cheltenham to see them.

“I asked him why not? And he said that he had got a bit disillusioned by it all. I had a bit of a go at him, saying that it was people like him that were hurting the club.

“We’ve lost a generation of supporters since we’ve left Gloucester and being a Gloucester lad and someone with a passion for the city that concerns me greatly.

“Somehow we have to get out into the community and get those people back.”

Harris already has a group of hard-working volunteers at his disposal, such as long-standing head of youth Kenny Blackburn (inset) and community officer Jim Hart.

And with Harris able to call on his own business contacts as well as his friends in football, he believes there is a lot to be positive about.

“The challenge that lies ahead is first of all to get out of the trouble we are in, then secondly to develop the club’s youth and community wings,” he said.

“I think it’s massively important to energise all aspects of the club for us to move forward not just the team.

“Kenny Blackburn knows that I have great belief in the youth system. It’s vitally important to a club like us.

“When clubs have got problems like Gloucester have had in the past few years with the floods, the ground and finances, the youth side can get neglected

“That’s one area where energy needs to be strengthened and improved. Likewise with the links to the community.

“We need to get businesses behind us and get the club growing again and the only way we are going to do that is to get back to the city.”

Harris would love nothing more than to emulate the success he saw in South Wales as Newport rose from Conference South to the Football League.

But crucially he is also a realist and he knows that the only way for that to happen is for everyone at the club, from the staff to the players to the fans, to pull together.

“To come back now, this is a bigger challenge than it was when I came back before,” Harris said.

“It’s a unique challenge but there are similarities with what happened at Newport. They started from nothing but always had a passionate fan base.

“We have that passion too, and we have got to build it over a period of time like Newport did. We need to get more people involved in the club, to help make it a success.

“I had a commitment and a passion for this club right through the time I was away, that never left me.

“I will give it everything I have got to make it a success.”

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  • beetleman  |  February 28 2014, 8:41PM

    best luck tim hope you promote local talent glos got ,over years alot players gone through the net due to previous manager going back to is old club getting players on loan .thanks boris for your time at glos city but you never looked at the talent in glos