Hartlepool United boss Craig Harrison on returning ‘home’, his failed Gateshead job applications & goalscoring memories

Craig Harrison reacts at Victoria Park on Saturday.
Craig Harrison reacts at Victoria Park on Saturday.

Craig Harrison is hoping his next professional visit to the Gateshead International Stadium brings as many happy memories as his last.

But Gateshead born-and-bred Harrison admits there will be no home comforts as he takes his Hartlepool United side north.

The last time Harrison played at the ground he netted a rare strike for Middlesbrough in a pre-season encounter.

And he’s hopeful his team will enjoy just as much success this afternoon (kick-off 3pm).

The one thing the manager wants to make clear, though, is that he might be heading ‘home’ today, but that’s where the connection ends.

“I am from the area - I am Gateshead born and bred,” admitted the 40-year-old former Boro defender.

“My family are from the area, my parents still live there, my sister and my friends, too.

“I grew up there but that is where it starts and ends.

“I’ve no connection with the club, in fact I do not follow a team at all. Obviously I look for the results of my former teams Airbus, TNS, Crystal Palace, Preston and Middlesbrough.

“My Dad was a Newcastle fan and used to go but I was at Middlesbrough from a young age.

“For me this is a chance to play a team from where I was brought up but nothing more than that.

“I am with Hartlepool United and that is all that matters on the day.”

Reflecting back on his last outing on the banks of the River Tyne, Harrison said: “The last time I was at Gateshead brings back happy memories.

“When I was with Middlesbrough we played a pre-season game there and I scored. It is not often that happened.

“It was the type of goal that took an age to roll in, with my right foot.

“Hopefully we can produce the goods on the day and come away with three points.

“We have a busy festive period and it is our job to make sure we come out the back of it with points on the board and a platform to kick on this season.”

Another interesting caveat to this clash is the fact that Harrison could well have been sitting in the opposite dugout, had things gone differently off the park.

Harrison was in the running for the Heed job twice, but narrowly missed out having impressed the then owners with his progressive, forward-thinking approach.

On both occasions he was overlooked and instead continued his managerial progress in Wales with TNS before Pools and Pam Duxbury came calling early last summer.

Harrison, though, did not want to speak to much about his applications for the post when quizzed.

“Obviously I was in the running for the Gateshead job but things did not work out,” he said.

“That’s in the past.”

What he is expecting is a tough outing in the North East derby, something Pools have lacked really since the capitulation of regular rivals Darlington.

“It will be a tough one,” he said.

“I watched them last week and they looked good going forward. We have good players here and need to make sure we are all singing off the same hymn sheet.

“We have the same staff as we did with one defeat in 12 and we are not a million miles away from that.”

While defensively Pools have not been up to scratch of late, Harrison is pleased with the attacking weapons in his armoury.

“The encouraging thing against Maidenhead was the creative side of things,” he said.

“Going forward the last few weeks have have been good, if we weren’t giving away terrible goals.”