How a drunken birthday conversation set Craig Harrison on road to stellar management career

Craig Harrison
Craig Harrison

You’ve heard of accidental heroes, now meet the accidental football manager.

New Hartlepool United boss Craig Harrison has arrived at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium following a stellar career in Wales.

After starting at Airbus UK, he moved on to The New Saints, where he reeled off six straight Welsh Premier League titles in six seasons.

But football and management were the last things on his mind when his break came, in the most surreal of circumstances.

“It was a lightbulb moment, yes, quite bizarre really,” said the 39-year-old, who had been out of the game since retiring aged just 25 after suffering a broken leg.

“My partner, Danielle, organised a surprise 30th birthday party in our garden.

“She’d hired a band and one of the guys was ex-Wrexham player Gareth Owen, the manager of Airbus UK, who were in the Welsh Premier League at the time.

“I got introduced to him and we got talking and he’d just parted company with his assistant manager.

“We were talking about it, but it was more a drunken conversation and thought nothing more of it, I had no intention of getting back into football.

“But a month or so later, I’d read in the local paper that they still had not filled the vacancy, so I texted Gareth

“He was the player-manager at the time so he needed someone on the sideline.

“He offered me the job after a half-hour conversation.

“Gareth moved on to Rhyl and Airbus UK gave me the job and a few years later, TNS head-hunted me.”