Hartlepool United’s Craig Harrison opens up on takeover body blows, dealing with the stresses of fronting a crisis club and putting his head above the parapet

Pools boss Craig Harrison. Picture by Frank Reid
Pools boss Craig Harrison. Picture by Frank Reid

Craig Harrison knows he’s had to deal with more than most having assumed the role of spokesman-in-chief at crisis club Hartlepool United.

But he says he’s got broad enough shoulders to take the heat at cash-strapped Pools.

This month, young managers across the land have enough on their plate trying to navigate their way through the January window without disaster.

Harrison, by contrast, has well and truly been thrown in at the deep end at Victoria Park.

Having been handed his big break in the game, the manager has gone from sitting down with a three-year plan, drawn up by absent owner John Blackledge, to scrabbling around under transfer embargo, trying to pick up the pieces after the club he joined just eight short months ago is put up for sale, pushed right to the edge of extinction, almost saved, then plunged into yet more uncertainty.

All that with the constant threat of not getting paid, and having to deal with the day-to-day concerns of his playing staff, some of whom don’t earn the mega bucks many assume.

Many have kids to feed, even more have mortgages to pay and all have bills to square off.

Pools are in such turmoil that the normal lines of communication, between those at the top to the managerial staff, even from press to club, have been blurred significantly in recent weeks.

As a result, Harrison, almost by default, has been thrust into the role of spokesman, often being asked to provide updates on situations he has little control over.

He’s gone from speaking about tactics and injuries in a Welsh backwater, to jobs, players’ livelihoods and a club’s proud history on the verge of being rewritten, having stood proud since 1908.

It’s a role he’s not shying away from, though.

“I’m a leader, at the front to take the shots, and I will protect the players and staff. I do enjoy it, I’ve never been a follower,” he said.

“I like to be myself and not be a sheep. That’s the way I am. I’m a big target at this moment in time, but I wouldn’t change it.

“It is not easy focusing on the football when jobs are on the line.

“As a manager, you grow hardened to it. Your job is under threat every week. I have a thick skin. If you haven’t you’re in the wrong business.”

Harrison is as honest as they come. He really is a straight up and down character, a very positive one at that.

He knows his side have not been good enough. He knows Poolies expect much better.

Privately, he must also wonder whether his tenure would have been cut short had the cash been readily available to the Pools hierarchy.

One thing he has learned at the Vic, is that he’s now armed to deal with anything the game he loves throws at him.

“The timing of the statement on Tuesday was ridiculous,” said Harrison, who found out about Chris Musgrave’s withdrawal from takeover talks by text, during the players’ pre-Chester team meal.

“But I can’t control it. It is what it is. It’s about fighting fires at the moment. The problem is they are cropping up all over.

“If nothing happens [re the takeover] it will be deja vu. The benefit will be we’ve all been through it before.

“I’m a person who can take positives from bad situations. Once it has happened once and it hasn’t killed you then it makes you grow stronger.”