Craig Harrison opens up on his Welsh success, why he came to Pools and his battle with depression

New Hartlepool United manager Craig Harrison at Victoria Park
New Hartlepool United manager Craig Harrison at Victoria Park

Dave Jones wasn’t shy to tell you how good a record he possessed in football.

Even if you didn’t ask him he’d tell you.

New Hartlepol United manager Craig Harrison at Victoria Park

New Hartlepol United manager Craig Harrison at Victoria Park

Forgive the sarcasm Dave, it’s the only way this reporter can try to bury the disappointment of seeing Hartlepool United outside the Football League for the first time in their history.

To be fair to Jones, his curriculum vitae was pretty impressive, though sadly not at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

However, he could not light the proverbial candle to this fella.

Craig Harrison’s record is not good, it’s not great, it’s out of this world. And he’s only 39.

The former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace defender has won SIX Welsh Premier League on the spin with The New Saints.

This reporter will say it before you shout it, ‘it’s only Wales’ but to do it season after season shows you have a certain knack.

Give or take a percentage point here and there, Harrison won NINE out of 10 matches at TNS. I kid you not.

Oh how the people of Hartlepool would worship him if he could produce some numbers like that at the Vic.

He has also managed in the Champions League. No other Pools boss can say that.

Given he must be regarded as a god for what he has achieved in Wales, you have to question the Gateshead man’s sanity for leaving.

However, he wants to test himself in England, and, while he’s not a Poolie, wants to bring some good times back.

“I could have stayed with TNS, but this is an opportunity I couldn’t turn down,” he said.

“Everything fitted here – the club, the supporters, the players, the stadium, the training facilities, everything.

“I had a fantastic time there, I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity I was given and the brilliant experience.

“I’m now looking forward to my time in Hartlepool and I hope in a year or two or three we look back at the fantastic experiences we have had here.

“Obviously we need to win games, but the style of football my teams play will cross over to this club nicely.

“Hopefully I’ll carry on winning games in the same way as I have previously.

“It was always difficult decision to leave. Not many managers can say they have managed 16 or 17 times in the Champions League and won a few games in it too.

“Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and wonder if it’s real, but it did happen but I’m looking forward to a new opportunity with Hartlepool, it was time for a new challenge.

“I think, off the top of my head, my percentage win rate at TNS was 87%.

“This season I was beaten only five times in 54 games and that included Champions League matches.

“I’d like to think that the winning mentality spreads to the whole football club.

“I will be enthusiastic from beginning to end and my work ethic is really strong – if it takes 24 hours a day to get it right, I will do .

“And I expect the same standards from everyone else coming on the journey.”

For those cynics among you who ask, what would be a legitimate question, about how he will cope when Pools lose a few, well, Harrison has seen the bad times too.

He is not afraid to admit he suffered depression after a broken leg ended his playing career at a criminally-young age, 25. Life for Harrison, a husband and a dad, has not been all glory.

“It took me three or four years before I even watched a game after I had my injury,” he explained. “It turned my life upside down. It sounds a bit dramatic, but it really did.

“When you are a young boy, you dream from seven, eight, nine years old of being a footballer.

“I think there is a stat that only 2% of all young boys who enter the game play in the Premier League.

“I was fortunate to be one of them, and it was a huge achievement, but it was taken away through no fault of my own 15 years ago.

“Back then there was not the open-mindedness there probably is now talking about depression.

“It’s not like it is now.

“The Crystal Palace doctor was fantastic, but apart that, it was the era of ‘you’ve been a footballer, get on with it’.

“These life experiences are things I can bring to the football table. I’ve been through a lot.

“I’ve had a fabulous career, I was very lucky to play to play at a fantastic Premier League club like Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace and I had a short spell at Preston.

“I’ve had a grounding of managing at a lower level and I’ve managed in the Champions League.

“I have a huge array of experience for someone who is relatively young, in football and in life.

“I’m 40 in November, I don’t know where it’s all gone.

“I think the experience I’ve had, the highs and lows, will be priceless moving forward.”

Moving forward, they are two words which will be music to the ears of Pools fans. And they come from a winner.