Mitigating circumstances for Craig Harrison's Hartlepool reign but his time was up

Hartlepool United boss Craig Harrison
Hartlepool United boss Craig Harrison

Craig Harrison's time had come.

Poor results - with little sign of an upturn - coupled with fan anger meant, regardless of the difficult situation off the pitch, Pam Duxbury needed to act.

In truth, it could have been earlier. Much earlier.

Despite financial worries tying his hands behind his back this campaign, the harsh reality is that they probably kept Harrison employed a lot longer than would normally have been the case for a team performing so poorly.

A 3-2 win at Woking on Saturday was a stay of execution but last night's worrying 2-0 reverse at part-timers Halifax Town was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Harrison said last night after defeat he would not turn his back on Pools. He claimed he is "no coward". Getting to know the man over the last eight months it's clear he is not one to shirk a fight, but it must be noted that things had changed at Pools in recent weeks. The spark, so evident in the Autumn months, had disappeared.

Harrison leaves with his side just three points above the National League relegation zone. He set out on this journey with aims of getting Pools back into the Football League. At no point this season have they ever looked like getting close. And for that reason he has paid with his job.

There are mitigating circumstances, of course. And in a season where nothing has been straight forward for the club, I don't think we've ever seen the best of his team.

Financial woes off the field have hampered his progress. He could not sign players from November. He had the rug pulled from under him by losing two of his best players - Jonathan Franks and Keith Watson - in January. Injuries this campaign have been freakish.

But do I think Hartlepool would have managed to get themselves into the play-off mix had those issues not arisen? I'm not convinced.

Even in that long unbeaten run Pools were far from flattering on the eye. They stumbled through to earn Harrison a manager of the month before the John Blackledge Atom bomb which shocked Pools to their core on and off the field.

Ever since their shocker of an introduction to the division they were playing catch up.

Maybe it was a step too far to appoint an ambitious but inexperienced manager, who had not worked at this level, to a club which was essentially falling apart at the seams. It was just one risk too many.

"Get out of our club..."

More than 200 travelling Poolies sang it on the terraces at last night's woefully inept Halifax Town defeat. And now they have their wish.

But what next?

Honestly, who knows?

Can Pools, a club who have no clue if they can afford to pay wages from month to month, afford to appoint a new manager?

Well, they've agreed to cancel a lucrative three-year contract with Harrison, so there must be some kind of money there, although he is not thought to have been given all of his contract as recompense for this exit.

Moving forward, Matthew Bates and Paul Jenkins to take the reins though the club insisted in their statement that they have already started the process of finding a new manager

The question also has to be asked would anyone want the job? I'm not sure many people would walk into a risky job not knowing whether they, or their players, would be rewarded for their efforts when payday comes around.

But football managers are not all that normal. Many are egotists. I'm sure there are plenty of managers out there, out of work, who are watching this process with a keen eye, thinking they could be the man to turn around Pools' fortunes.

The next few days could yet prove to be the most intriguing in what has been the most utterly forgettable period in the club's proud history.