Joseph Montgomery Harper (born January 11, 1948, in Greenock) was a Scottish footballer mainly remembered for his two spells with Aberdeen, during which he became the club’s record goalscorer.
Harper started his professional career with Morton, and returned to the club after a brief, unhappy spell with Huddersfield Town. He had at times a difficult relationship with some Morton supporters, but most fans recognized his ability and enthusiasm.
In 1969, Aberdeen manager Eddie Turnbull paid £40,000 to sign Harper for Aberdeen and in his first season with the Dons he helped them win the Scottish Cup for the second time in their history. Harper opened the scoring from the penalty spot as pre-match favourites Celtic were defeated 3-1. He rapidly developed a reputation as a prodigious goalscorer and following a record-breaking haul of 33 goals in 34 league games in the 1971-72 season was the subject of much interest from English scouts.
Everton paid £180,000 for his services in December 1972 but his time in English football was not as productive as his Pittodrie spell and he returned to Scotland with Hibernian in early 1974, for the second time signed by Eddie Turnbull who had by this stage moved to Easter Road. Harper rediscovered his Aberdeen-era form in Edinburgh and scored a hat-trick in the 1975-76 League Cup final. However John “Dixie” Deans also scored a hat-trick that day, and Celtic defeated Hibs 6-3.
Harper returned to Aberdeen for the start of the 1976-77 season in a £50,000 deal and inspired instant success, the Dons defeating Celtic 2-1 (aet) to win the League Cup in November. Harper made further final appearances in each of the next two seasons, as Aberdeen lost both the 1977-78 Scottish Cup final and the 1978-79 League Cup final to Rangers, by a scoreline of 2-1 on each occasion. By the 1979-80 season he was considered a veteran and no longer a regular in the Dons first team but his seven goals helped Aberdeen to their first league title since 1954-55. He left Pittodrie after only one appearance the following season.
In total Harper scored 205 competitive goals for Aberdeen, a club record. Of that total, 125 were scored in league fixtures, 72 in domestic cup games (including the Drybrough Cup) and 8 in European competition. His iconic status amongst Aberdeen supporters was recognised when he was amongst the first players to be inducted to the club’s “Hall of Fame”.
Harper first played for Scotland against Denmark in October 1972, scoring on his debut in a 4-1 win. He played in Scotland’s next game but then fell out of the international reckoning, only earning a recall in 1975. By coincidence, the occasion was another away match with Denmark but this was overshadowed by a controversial off-field incident as Harper and several team-mates were involved in a disturbance at a Copenhagen night club, leading the Scottish Football Association to issue him with a life ban from the national team. The ban was later lifted, and he was selected in the Scotland World Cup squad in 1978, appearing against Iran as Scotland exited in the first round.
In 1981 Harper was appointed manager of then Highland League side Peterhead. He helped the Blue Toon to a second place league finish but his reported wages were beyond the club’s means and he was replaced for the 1982-83 season by former Pittodrie team-mate Dave Smith.