“Woop, we can hear the Byron coming”; striker Byron Harrison sure made his mark at the Lamex when he arrived in January 2011. Boro’ boss Graham Westley had gone in search of some extra firepower for his attack. And what he came back with was an undiscovered talent fresh from south London. Would he be up to the task after making the leap up from non-league football to League Two? The answer was, for us, a resounding “yes”. And it’s no mean feat either; Harrison never seeming to get an extended run in the starting XI.
But we’ll get to that in good time. After all, it’s why he’s a Boro’ Unsung Hero in our eyes…
When did Byron Harrison join us?
If you were paying attention two seconds ago, you’ll see that we mentioned it already. As we said bonjour to 2010 and a landmark year for the club, our prospects for 2011 weren’t all that stable. Life in League Two had been a bit of a challenge. The New Year started in the bottom half of the table; Boro’ without a league win since defeating Barnet 3-0 in early November. Even though we needed something, the arrival of Harrison surprised a few.
Even the lad himself didn’t see it coming.
He joined from Carshalton Athletic; telling his local paper: “Apparently Stevenage had scouts watching me against Sutton, and they obviously liked what they saw. Then I got a call asking to go and train with them for a few days then the next thing I know I am being signed and starting my first game. I cannot believe how quickly everything has happened.
“This is an absolute dream for me. Being a professional footballer is something I’ve waited my whole life for, and was the reason I was playing part-time football. I knew I was having a good season and I was hoping somebody would give me an opportunity. Stevenage are the ones that have given me this chance and I will be doing my all to impress them.”
Where did he play for Boro’?
What makes him an unsung hero?
It wasn’t too easy for new players to come into our squad at that point in time. We were, as we can all fondly remember, a close-knit unit that had achieved something we’d long dreamed of by earning promotion to the Conference. In League Two, goals were shared around the squad. But there weren’t enough of them to land the results we hoped for. In came Harrison, then, and the second half of the 2010-1 season tells its own story.
From the bottom half, Boro’ surged up the table and into the playoffs; earning promotion up to League One. We think it’s fair to say that Harrison did more than enough to help in that. While the player spent much of that time swapping between the starting XI and the subs’ bench, he scored goals. Eight of them, in fact. And this made him our joint-highest scorer for the 2010-1 campaign; level with John Mousinho, albeit from half the games.
Sure, Moose got the all-important one at Old Trafford. But Harrison’s goals earned us a point at home to Gillingham; secured three points at Crewe; and helped us bag at least two more draws that helped us sneak into the playoffs on the last day. In six months, he rose from the Ryman League to League One. In anyone’s books, that’s worthy of praise. Not even the arrival of record signing Craig Reid could knock him out of his stride.
The 2011-2 season proved harder for the forward, however. Again, he was in and out of the starting XI. Unlike the previous season, he didn’t have the goals. He made the same number of appearances during the first half of the 2011-2 season as the back half of the 2010-1 campaign – 11 starts, 12 sub appearances. But he only found the net twice as a push for the League One playoffs became ever more realistic.
Even so, his departure was a bit of a surprise; not least as Westley himself was heading on for pastures new. We’ll never know how he’d have done under Gary Smith.
The second spell…
So, barely one year after arriving, Harrison was heading out; tempting AFC Wimbledon into breaking their transfer record to sign him. January transfers seemed to become the done thing for the striker. In January 2013, he moved to Cheltenham Town and, towards the end of the January 2015, he ended up at Chesterfield. Now, the reason this info isn’t under the Epilogue section below is ‘cos we’re not done with the tale of Byron and Boro’.
In February 2016, the striker came back to us; signed on loan with us in a similar league position as the first time. Teddy Sheringham had not long since left as boss after ‘taking’ us to 19th in the table. Darren Sarll took up the task of preserving our league status and pushing us up the table. So, why not turn to a guy who scored the goals that lifted us up from the lower reaches into the playoff places?
The impact was instant; Harrison scoring twice on his second debut – a 2-0 win against Cambridge United indoors. We were, however, a Boro’ team low on self-confidence and quality. History couldn’t repeat itself for us or for Harrison as both struggled to repeat the story of 2011. The player added just one more goal to his career haul for us between his second coming and second departure at the end of the 2015-6 season.
Still, just two players scored more than three times for Boro’ that season. Six lads ended the campaign with three goals to their name. Harrison was one of them; needing just six starts and three sub outings. Each of the other five lads were into double figures with the number of times they played. And you could argue that Harrison’s goals brought home a total of four points. At the time, those points brought peace of mind at the very least.
Byron Harrison: Epilogue
Harrison returned to Chesterfield after his loan spell; departing the Spireites that summer. Next came a move to Barrow, where his goalscoring record was the most prolific since he left Ashford Town (Middlesex) in 2010. He’d have two spells with Barrow – including their 2019-20 National League title-winning campaign. In-between, he spent time on loan with Sutton United and an unsuccessful season on the books with Barnet.
BYRON HARRISON – 28 (27) appearances, 13 goals (2011-2, 2016)