Four key areas for new Hartlepool United manager Craig Harrison to get stuck into

Can Craig Harrison get this season's top scorer, Padraig Amond, to stay on at Hartlepool United in the National League next term?
Can Craig Harrison get this season's top scorer, Padraig Amond, to stay on at Hartlepool United in the National League next term?

Craig Harrison has arrived in the Hartlepool United hot seat – and the new manager faces a crunch time.

The 39-year-old, who succeeds Dave Jones, arrives at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium on the back of season after season of success in Wales with The New Saints.

Under Harrison, TNS have won SIX consecutive League of Wales titles and played in the Champions League, so success and confidence are not in short supply.

But what faces the former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace defender at Pools?

SportMail today examines four key areas.


The tricky job of sorting out a retained list has already been done for him by the club’s head of recruitment, Paul Watson.

Nine players were taken off the salary list at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium, while two more have been sold – Nathan Thomas and Lewis Alessandra.

With Rob Jones and Billy Paynter departing, that is four big earners off the wage bill, giving some scope to Harrison to rebuild.

Given that a full XI has now been lost, Harrison will need to add quality and quantity.

Pools will line up in the National League, FA Trophy and FA Cup next season.

If they are to be successful, it means somewhere in the region of 55/56/57 matches – that is a lot of football.

The new boss needs to come out of the blocks and sign players pretty damn quick.

According to chairwoman Pam Duxbury, a list of targets has been drawn up.

But it is all well and good having targets, they must be players Harrison wants.

He will face a meeting or 10 with the head of recruitment..

Current squad:

Before Harrison could even examine the players at his disposal, Pools have already flogged two of their attacking talents.

Pools let Thomas go to Sheffield United for a bargain fee, while Alessandra left yesterday to join Notts County.

The duo were Pools’ joint second top scorers this season, weighing in with 18 goals between them.

That is a lot of ability lost to the manager.

There will be some key decisions to take over the future of a number of established figures.

What is the future of Trevor Carson, Padraig Amond, Nicky Featherstone and Michael Woods?

All are under contract, but will they want to play outside the Football League?

Amond has recently plied his trade in the National League, but will he relish another season on the treadmill?

Will Pools stand in the way of players if they want to move on? These are matters he must attend to.

Contract talks:

While the new manager might face a decision or two over some of the players listed above, he must also deal with the club’s three out-of-contract players.

Pools have offered terms to three established first-team players – defenders Carl Magnay and Brad Walker plus striker Rhys Oates.

Magnay has knowledge of the National League from his time with Grimsby and is one of the side’s few ‘talkers’.

Oates has performed strongly when played as the main striker, though he has been used primarily as the support to the frontman.

Walker was switched from midfield to defence with great success and should form a long-term partnership with Scott Harrison.

And, without wishing to sound mercenary, the 21-year-old, if he keeps developing, could bring in a cash windfall in the future.

All three could prove vital men to keep hold of.

Pre-season programme:

Pools have only pre-season friendly on the list so far – a match with Wigan Athletic on Tuesday, July 25.

If that came as part of the deal which took Josh Laurent to Wigan, then it was a good piece of negotiating.

There might be other opponents in the pipeline which have yet to be announced, but Pools require matches on two levels.

Firstly, they need games to get ready for life in the fifth tier, maybe a home and away derby with National League North sides Darlington and Spennymoor are plausible?

Also, potential money-spinners would not go amiss.

Pools need cash and a couple of decent July gates would be handy – neighbours Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland have all been at the Vic in recent years.