In the early 2000s, David O’Leary’s Leeds United were one of the finest outfits in England with a brilliant roster of young talented stars. At left-back, Ian Harte was slowly establishing himself as one of the finest in the Premier League, a capable defender with a match-winning left foot.
At Elland Road, the Irishman is still a cult hero, playing for the club for nine seasons, however, in 2004, at just 27, he made a bizarre move to Levante and from there on, his stock value plummeted like the crash of 1929. Harte was never one blessed with pace, but during the latter stages of his career in England, quick, athletic wingers were tearing him to shreds.
Even his knack for scoring a fair few goals a season had disappeared, but once he made the move to Spain, things just seemed to get worse for the Irishman as he faded into obscurity. Well, to be fair, in the Spanish second division after Levante were relegated, Harte enjoyed a fairly productive season, one in which the club were promoted back to the top-flight.
However, upon their return, a 30-year-old Harte was told he was not in the manager’s plans and this was the catalyst in a dire journeyman career through England’s lower leagues, culminating in one last effort at Bournemouth before his retirement in 2015 – in reality, such a decision should have been made much earlier.
After he was cast away from Spain, Sunderland was the Irishman’s next port of call, but he flattered to deceive. Just eight games were played for the Black Cats before he embarked on his next northern experience, the sunny shores of Blackpool.
Maybe Harte was too focused on the thrilling Pepsi Max ride on Pleasure Beach rather than his career because the orange shirt certainly did not help rebuild his tattered reputation. Four appearances later and before the end of the 2008/09 season, the Irish defender packed his bags and was heading as far north as possible in England – the city of Carlisle.
#OnThisDay in 2001.
⚽️ Ian Harte
⚽️ Alan Smith
⚽️ Rio Ferdinand pic.twitter.com/VvyT1wZGMX
— William Hill Betting (@WilliamHill) April 4, 2017
Here, the former Elland Road favourite had something of a renaissance, well, at least in League One anyway. The 2009/10 season will serve as a positive reminder for Harte as he finished the campaign as the team’s top goalscorer with 18. No, he wasn’t moved into midfield, he was still playing at the back but yet he still managed to register such a significant volume of goals – not even Sergio Ramos can do that.
The next campaign, Reading took a risk and signed the goalscoring left-back where he actually played a pivotal role in their return to the Premier League – he really must have slipped under the radar. He made 16 appearances for the club in England’s top-flight before moving further down south to the beaches of Bournemouth.
The Cherries was the last stand for Harte, one final attempt to save his career. Well, it didn’t go too bad but perhaps his most famous act on the south coast was his card on Fifa 15, just have a look at it below:
29 pace? Like an Irish Per Mertesacker on the left-hand side. Finally, after a few sporadic appearances from the peripheries of the Bournemouth bench, Harte hung up his once promising boots and pursued a new career avenue – being a football agent.
So far, his work has not reached the heights of super agents Jorge Mendes and Mino Raiola but who knows, in the next few years, the Irishman may just orchestrate the next record-breaking transfer. Or, he’ll continue to represent those in the lower leagues. Our guess? The latter.