Hartlepool United have made the perfect appointment in Craig Harrison to lift them out of the National League.
That was the confident prediction from a man who knows the manager, Pools and the town as well as anyone.
Pools needed someone who is going to push them – it’s a tough league the club is going intoRYAN BROBBEL
Ex-Middlesbrough winger Ryan Brobbel played under Harrison at The New Saints and is a former Pools forward, not to mention being Hartlepool born and bred.
Harrison has moved to Pools from TNS where he enjoyed what can only be described as unprecedented success.
The 39-year-old won the Welsh Premier League with the Saints in all six seasons with the club, plus four Welsh Cups during his reign, not to mention playing in the Champions League.
To be in double figures on the honours board is pretty good going.
“Pools needed someone who is going to push them – it’s a tough league the club is going into,” said Brobbel, who has starred in two WPL crowns after Harrison signed him in February 2016.
“They needed a manager with a winning mentality to take over and Craig has that.
“Craig is known for winning and he pushes you all the time.
“It’s human nature for complacency to creep in, but not here.
“Training gets no easier or the demands, no matter where you are in the league.
“I think we only needed something daft like three points from our last 10 games to be champions.
“In the end, I think we won eight or nine of those games.
“We start our Champions League qualifiers at the end of June so Craig would not tolerate a dip in form – we kept going and winning right to the end.”
A hard taskmaster is not a bad character for Pools to have in charge, but Brobbel says there is more to the former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace than a desire to win, win, win.
Pools had a good boss last time, on paper at any rate, in Dave Jones, but there was little chemistry between him and the players. Or not the right chemistry anyway.
“Craig is not really a shouter, but he’ll tell you how it is if he has to,” Brobbel told SportMail. “He knows what he wants from his players. He’s very organised.
“He lets you know what he wants through the week and he’ll say his bit before the game but the preparations are very good. He gets the team ready and he expects the team to perform.
“One of the good things about him is that he talks to you like a human being. He always seems to have time for people, he’s very approachable.
“It’s not that long ago he was a player himself, he knows the ropes.”
The gifted forward was grateful to Harrison for restoring him to full-time football again after short spells with Darlington and Whitby Town following his release by Boro in 2015 after a 15-year stay at the Riverside.
He never made a senior appearance for Boro, though he played plenty of games in the Football League with York City and Pools.
Brought in by then boss Colin Cooper he made 17 appearances for his hometown club before returning to Boro.
“Craig had remembered me from a pre-season friendly Boro had with TNS,” said the 24-year-old, who made 31 appearances for Northern Ireland between U17 and U21 level.
“He rang Jenks [Boro coach Paul Jenkins] to ask what I was doing. He rang me up and asked if I’d fancy going down to TNS for a week to see how it went.
“It must have went well because he gave me a contract. It was brilliant coming into a side winning the league. We won the Premier and Welsh Cup double.
“We broke Ajax’s world record for consecutive wins and took the league again this year though we lost the cup final this time. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for me, I’ve loved it.
“I played in the Champions League which was fantastic – we beat the San Marino champions home and away and then went out to APOEL Nicosia 3-0 on aggregate.
“There was 20,000 at the away leg in Cyprus, I’ve never played in an atmosphere like it, it was crazy, you couldn’t hear your team-mates shouting for the ball.
“APOEL made the last 32 of the Europa League this season. I know the Champions League has just finished, but we start our qualifiers at the end of this month and we’ll know the draw in a fortnight I think.”