George Harrison was a flying winger and set-piece master, who, with Sam Chedgzoy, provided the First Division with its finest wing pairing of their generation. His career straddled both sides of the First World War, but there was no let up in standards during this four-year football hiatus and he earned honours on either side of the conflict.
The Derbyshire-born youngster started out with Gresley Rovers and got his break in professional football with Leicester Fosse while still a teenager. He served the Leicester first team for three years but financial difficulties at Filbert Street necessitated his departure in April 1913. £750 was enough to secure his signature and that of full back Bob Thompson. ‘He is exceedingly fast, centres well, and is also a good shot. In the past season he scored six goals (Three from penalty kicks),’ reported Liverpool Post and Mercury of his arrival.
Indeed Everton conducted brisk business over the summer and the Liverpool Courier remarked: ‘Without paying any of the fancy prices now demanded for first class footballers. Everton have secured several new men who should prove of good service to the club. This at least, was the opinion of many of the club supporters who witnessed the first practice game at Goodison Park.’ Harrison, they added, was a player who could cross with ‘unerring accuracy.’
Of Everton’s plethora of new signings Harrison was the one who made the most lasting impact. His pace and incisiveness on the Everton flank brought a new dimension to their play and stretched Everton’s opponents to their limit. He was potent from set pieces too, and his fierce shot was a testing weapon in the club’s attacking armory. He was, wrote the Liverpool Courier, a player who can ‘deliver a powerful left-footed drive that can score without the help of the inside forwards.’ When Chedgzoy returned to the team for the 1914/15 season they helped propel Everton to the League Championship.
Harrison appeared in the first two years of the wartime leagues before being called up for service. But his partnership with Chedgzoy was one that was resumed for club and country after the four-year break for war. In October 1921 they appeared alongside each other for England in a 1-1 against Ireland in Belfast. ‘Chedgzoy was the most brilliant player in the team, and Harrison his club mate was little inferior,’ reported the Liverpool Courier. ‘Harrison dropped the ball into the goal mouth for [Billy] Kirton to head into the net for the equaliser.’
Speculation around this time linked Harrison with a move to Manchester United. But a 1920s footballer’s career was a precarious business. Virtually ever-present through the 1921/22 season he suddenly found himself out of favour at the start of the following campaign. The signing of Alec Troup effectively spelt the end for him and while there was, wrote one correspondent, ‘a certain amount of popular clamour - for the player was always a favourite with the spectators’, his departure carried a degree of inevitability.
In December 1923 a £2,000 bid from Preston North End was accepted and Harrison left for Deepdale, having collected a £650 benefit. He provided eight years excellent service for the Lilywhites, making nearly 300 league and cup appearances. A brief spell with Blackpool took his playing career almost up to his fortieth birthday.