“If you want to see some good stuff from Saturday onwards, get yourself down to a little place called Hartlepools. It won’t be a little place for very long.”
Those were the words of a certain Brian Howard Clough on his arrival at the then Hartlepools United, half a century ago.
I have a thick skin and I’m confident in my own ability and my staff’s abilityCRAIG HARRISON
Clough was tasked with the challenge of reviving a club which had fallen on hard times and been through a succession of managers.
Story sounds depressingly familiar, doesn’t it? Those quotes could easily have come from the latest boss.
Today a bright, confident young fella is taking his first managerial steps in English football and he is intent on turning Pools into a success story. Step forward Craig Harrison.
Clough left Pools 50 years ago, but he built the side which won the first promotion in the club’s less-than-glorious history and Harrison must now get the team out of its non-league home and back in the EFL at the first attempt.
There are striking similarities between the two men – both had good playing careers ended prematurely.
Clough was 29 when a knee injury forced him to hang up his goalden boots, while Harrison was just 25 when his time as a top-notch defender with Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace ended following a broken leg.
Both were handed their first managerial jobs at an age when they should still have been at the top of their game as players.
Clough took over Pools aged 30, the same age Harrison was when he was appointed manager at Welsh outfit Airbus UK.
The similarities don’t end there – both were former Middlesbrough players who appointed old Boro pals as their assistants, Peter Taylor in the case of Cloughie with Paul Jenkins coming in as Harra’s right-hand-man.
Both bosses took to management like ducks to water – Clough winning the Second and First Division titles at Derby while still in his thirties and Harrison did the same in Wales, taking the Welsh Premier League every year for five years at The New Saints.
Now, he has a stage in England and an aim, to win the National League with Pools and get the club back on the map.
“That Wales chapter is now closed, I enjoyed it thoroughly and learned a lot,” said the 39-year-old.
“At this moment in time, Hartlepool United are the most important club in my life and will be for as long as I am the manager.”
The Victoria Park faithful will be heartened to hear that.
Harrison’s premature end to his playing career was harrowing and it took him a while to recovery but how he has taken the opening.
“It’s all about opportunity, timing is everything in football,” he told SportMail. “If you don’t grasp it, then it’s your own fault.
“One thing is for sure that I will be doing everything I can to be as successful as I can for Hartlepool United Football Club.
“When my reign ends here I know for a fact that I’ll be able to look back and there will not have been one day when I haven’t given everything I’ve got.
“I’ll do everything I can to make us a better team.
“I’m definitely more self-confident as a manager than I was was a player.
“I was very fortunate to play at a young age in a good team.
“If you are a footballer you have to be self-confident.
“You talk about life-defining things that happen.
“Me breaking my leg and having to retire was probably the best thing that could have happened in my managerial career.
“I’ve worked hard to get where I’ve got to, I’ve ticked all the boxes, got experience at different levels.
“I’ve done all my coaching qualifications, right up to the UEFA pro licence.
“I know if I was a player I would not have done all that.
“I was probably a young man full of himself, which all young footballers probably are, I think you need to be,
“I am self assured, I am confident about what I say and do.”
Like Clough, there is no shortage of self-belief in the Harrison veins but the Gateshead-born boss insists the success he is targeting at the Vic will be a team effort.
“You can afford to be confident when you have the players we’ve got,” he said.
“I have good people around me, Paul, Matty, Bernie, Craig, Phil, Tom and Sean who do the analysis, and the players.
“It’s not about me, it’s the team – I don’t go out there on a Saturday, I’m not going to win the game, it’s the players who do that.
“I have a thick skin and I’m confident in my own ability and my staff’s ability.
“And, more than anything, the players I have in this squad are top top players and really good guys who will run through a brick wall.
“I’m 100% confident in every single one of them to go out and play well.”