Vale striker speaks about Ipswich Town legend Marcus Stewart inside tonight’s match programme.
- Ellis Harrison | “If I moved out of my lane, he would be the first on the phone to me to remind me”
- Ipswich Town legend Marcus Stewart was the Vale frontman’s coach at Bristol Rovers and worked with Darrell Clarke at both Bristol Rovers and Walsall
- Stewart was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease last month and the Vale will be raising awareness of MND and supporting the Darby Rimmer Foundation at this evening’s match with Ipswich Town
“If I moved out of my lane, Stewy would be the first on the phone to me to remind me”
After just 15 minutes in the company of Ellis Harrison it is clear to understand the influence the striker’s former coach – and Ipswich Town legend – Marcus Stewart has had on the Vale’s Welsh frontman.
Harrison worked with Stewart during his time at Bristol Rovers, where the former Tractor Boys striker was assistant to Darrell Clarke for the majority of the now Vale boss’s four-and-a-half years at the Memorial Stadium.
As a player, Stewart scored over 250 career goals, with his most notable spells coming at Portman Road and Sunderland AFC, following prolific periods with both Rovers and Huddersfield Town.
Last month, the football world was saddened to learn that Stewart had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), and this evening we will be raising awareness for the Darby Rimmer Foundation, which was set up by former Liverpool and Bradford City defender Stephen Darby and his close friend Chris Rimmer, both of whom have been diagnosed with MND. The Foundation aims to create awareness of MND, to fund and assist research into the illness with the quest of finding a cure, to raise funds and offer grants to those with MND, as well as creating a network to help provide information and an emotional support network for those diagnosed with the disease.
Stewart’s wife, Louise, has recently created a JustGiving fundraising page, with all funds directed to the Darby Rimmer Foundation. If each supporter in the Stadium this evening donated just £1, we could take the Stewart family over 25% of their fundraising target.
“When I first met Stewy, I was a first-year professional that was pushed aside to the Academy and Under 23s squad,” Harrison explained. “The rest is history, with the two promotions we achieved. He is a guy that has always wanted more from me, even more so when I am going through a good spell.
“What I mean by that is that you can be getting all of the outside praise but when you have someone like Marcus Stewart saying ‘I still need this from you’, you can’t argue, and over the years I have become really good friends with Stewy.
“If I did come out of my lane and got carried away by scoring goals, I know the first person on the phone would be Stewy.
“I have spoken with Stewy since his diagnosis and he is positive; he has had a positive outlook on everything in life since I have known him and I wish him nothing but the best. He is a great friend and moving forward hopefully we can raise money and awareness, not just for him, but for the condition and with a stroke of luck we can help towards finding a cure.”
With Stewart’s friendship with both Harrison and Clarke, as a club we were keen to provide our support at a home fixture this season, and with Stewart’s legendary status at Ipswich in mind, tonight’s game provided the opportunity for a collective effort to raise awareness.
Harrison is hoping to mark the meeting with his former club with another win for the Vale, and despite his record of seven goals in 11 matches for Clarke’s side this season, the influence of former coach Stewart is clear, when the Newport-born striker is asked about his goal record.
“I would rather less goals and more wins; we have looked dangerous against some of the better teams in the division.
“Our fans have been amazing and it is a cliché but they have welcomed me so well. I feel settled here as a player, I can play free, and I will continue to work hard.
“We have just got past the first quarter of the season, and I can’t rest on my laurels now because the hard work would go down the pan.
“It is not just me and my family that will benefit from us doing well; it is the fans, all the players, the staff – the whole club.”
Harrison also carries affection for this evening’s visitors to Vale Park, having spent a year at Portman Road in the 2018/19 season.
Despite playing for the club during an ultimately unsuccessful period, Harrison speaks fondly of the club and its supporters and only wishes the East Anglian side well in their pursuit of a return to the Championship.
“As a club, Ipswich were incredible and the professionalism around the club was the best I have experienced over a period of time,” he explained.
“I just wish it was more successful for me, in terms of experiencing the relegation and injuries there. It was the right time to go the club and if I had to make the choice again, I would still pick Ipswich because it was so good.
“We were at the bottom of the table for the last three months of the season and the fans treated us like we were top of the table. That made such a difference because they didn’t kick us while we were down and I will always be grateful for that.
“It is nice to see the direction the club is now going in; it feels like the rejuvenation is something the club has needed from when I was there.
“I played with Evo [Lee Evans] and Wes [Burns] for Wales, and JD [Janoi Donacien] and Kayden [Jackson] for Ipswich, while I was with Marcus Harness at Portsmouth for two-and-a-half years. Marcus gave me a call to say that the move could be on and I said it would be a great club for him.
“Save for Tuesday and the reverse fixture, I wish them all nothing but success.”