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Tributes paid to long-serving sports reporter

A sports reporter who worked on a regional daily for 44 years has passed away after a long illness at the age of 71.

Chris Harper, who retired two years ago from the Stoke-based Sentinel, joined the paper from the Daily Mail in 1968.

He was the paper’s Port Vale correspondent for a quarter-of-a-century until 1993 before switching to cover non-league football and for his last 19 years he chronicled events at the region’s leading semi-professional and amateur clubs.

His informed reporting of Port Vale won widespread acclaim as he monitored their fluctuating fortunes for 25 years.

Chris Harper died at the age of 71

In 1989, he reported on Vale’s promotion to the second tier of English football after an absence of more than three decades before making the switch to non-league football.

He was also a respected figure on the local cricket, golf and rugby scene as he turned his talent and experience to almost anything – even martial arts when pushed.

Sentinel sports editor Keith Wales told the paper’s website: “This is a very sad day. A whole generation of Port Vale fans grew up reading Chris Harper’s measured reports of their club’s trials and triumphs.

“In later years, he ensured non-league football received the recognition it deserved through his respected columns.

“But Chris was more than just a football man. Through his efforts, rugby became an established part of the Sentinel sporting scene, while he was an unstinting supporter of local golf, particularly the Sentinel’s charity golf tournaments.

“Chris Harper was a respected journalist, a treasured colleague and a gentleman. He will be sorely missed.”

Chris, pictured right, with Sir Stanley Matthews and Sentinel reporters Peter Hewitt and Ian Bayley

John Rudge, manager of Port Vale between 1983 and 1999, described Chris as a trusted friend and said he was deeply saddened to hear of his death.

“I knew he was poorly and had kept in touch with him during his illness,” he said.

“I’ve got a lot of praise for his wife Elaine, who has looked after him so admirably over the past few years.

“It was great for us all to gather for his surprise 70th birthday party at the end of last year because we all knew then how ill he was.

“He was a talented writer, somebody you could always trust, and he clearly had a lot of affection for Port Vale.”

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  • March 3, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    So sorry to learn of Chris Harper’s passing. Another outstanding football writer has been lost to the regional press. Chris was gloriously old school in that he told it how he saw it.
    If Port Vale played well, he would explain to readers why, and if they played badly he was constructive in his criticism, aided by a delicious turn of phrase.
    Chris never became an arm of Port Vale’s public relations. Nothing was ever viewed through rose-tinted spectacles. As a fellow football scribe, I would often stop on the M6 , while returning from a match, to buy a copy of The Sentinel just to admire his style.
    Vale legend John Rudge’s glowing tribute to Chris underlines the quality of the man, and his writing.

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