Keith Harvey, from Crediton, made over 483 league appearances for Exeter City and is second only to Arnold Mitchell in the list of those who have played the most league matches for the club although, once cup games are taken into account, Keith actually appeared in the greater number of games. Making his first-team debut in 1952, Keith played his final game in 1969 and died at the age of eighty-three in 2018.
Living in Dean Street, Crediton as a child, Keith left school in 1950 and signed as a professional with Exeter City in August 1952. Making his debut against Bristol Rovers on 27 September 1952 - with Arnold Mitchell also in the side - Keith only made eight league appearances during his first two seasons as a professional. It was not until the second half of 1954/55 that Keith - safe in the air, a firm tackler and never one to hold back - won a regular place in the side at centre-half taking over from Fred Davey. Becoming a favourite of the St James Park crowd, and making 41 league appearances in 1955/56, Keith soon drew the attention of other clubs including Second Division Lincoln City who tried to sign the robust defender in September 1956.
The Exeter board rejected the deal, and after making his first 100 appearances for the club, Keith had a joint benefit match with Arnold Mitchell in April 1957 with a game against an All-Star XI. With 43 league appearances in 1956/57 followed by 37 in 1957/58, Keith then suffered a broken leg in October 1958 and did not play another first-team game until the third game of 1959/60 which proved to be another injury-hit season for him..
Bouncing back by playing 36 times in the league in 1960/61 - and 44 times the following year - Keith had appeared in 267 league matches for the Grecians when he suffered a broken ankle in a pre-season match in August 1962. On the sidelines until Boxing Day, Keith appeared in all the remaining games of a season which, because of weeks of snow and ice, continued into late May. He subsequently reached the pinnacle of his Exeter City career when, playing all 46 games - and scoring five times along the way - he was a member of the first-ever Exeter City team to win promotion in 1964. Playing another 42 league games in City’s first season in Division Three, Keith added a further 40 appearances to the tally in 1965/66 when - in what proved to be a relegation season - he won the player of the year award. On 18 May 1966 at Reading, Keith featured in what was to be Arnold Mitchell’s final game for the club a few months short of fourteen years since their first appearance together in 1952.
Having now made over 400 league appearances himself, Keith was appointed trainer in July 1966 and made just seven league appearances in 1966/67 before relinquishing the role to concentrate on playing again. He was to play another 59 times to bring his final total of league games to 483 as he made a farewell bow in the professional ranks against Peterborough on 1 March 1969. He then returned to the role of trainer remaining at St James Park until 1972 thereby ending a twenty-year association with the club.
Given the longevity of his time in the first-team Keith, with better luck with injuries, may have played many more games than he actually did. However, once his 21 FA Cup games were added to 13 in the fledgling League Cup, Keith’s overall tally of 517 matches inched him ahead of Arnold Mitchell, his exact contemporary in the annals of Exeter City.
On leaving the club Keith became a postman in his home town of Crediton before later moving to Worthing. He died aged eighty-three on 4 October 2018.
mIn 2017/18 Ben Strange spoke to Keith Harvey about some of his memories of his time at Exeter City.
“Well, the one I used to like happened to be at Exeter City. A local lad, and he was already at the club when I joined after moving from Plymouth Argyle. Ray Goddard was a very good friend of mine, we got on very well. He taught me a lot of things. Ray was a centre half which was a position that I eventually took over, he could read the game well.”
Best friend at the club?
“He’s sadly passed away now, another long-lasting City player, Arnold Mitchell. He had 15 years with the club, like me, and I had three years as a coach.”
Best coach you worked under?
“There’s lots of good ones, and it was always changing over the years. I would probably say Frank Broome, he was very good, he did everything. I wanted to take a coaching course but I didn’t get around to it. Whilst I was there I enjoyed helping out with the coaching staff when I could over three years.”
Best player you played with?
“There were so many players and it’s difficult to pick one out. Perhaps, a player that came to us later in my time and that was Alan Banks. He used to play as a forward, he came down from Liverpool and he was a very good player. He had some very good times with the club scoring lots.”