Craig Harrison


In the last edition of Monkey Business I was mega-critical of the lamentable performances of Craig Harrison and his merry men on the pitch during the month of December, having played five matches and gained the sum of one solitary point in the process. 

Okay, technically, Pools only played four league matches in December as opposed to five in January as the other one was the cup exit against the mighty Workington. I won't go there. Come to think of it, I didn't.

In the press we continually hear Craig Harrison talk about positivity, looking on the bright side and not being negative in thought, word and deed. etc etc. Having studied Pools' stats and results in depth for January then ran them through the Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer at Monkey Mansions, I have got to admit that I am starting to come around to his way of thinking. One only has to look at January's points haul of two, to see that things are definitely improving. That, my friends, is a 100% increase, or some might say, double that of December's points tally.

It just gets better, when we study the goals for column; that also has seen another 100% increase in its favour, up from four in December to eight in January. Without trying to sound like the BBC's Election Night Special, at the time of writing this, and bear in mind that we still await the results of the goals against column, the early indicators suggest that the swingometer is whizzing around uncontrollably and pointing to Craig Harrison still being in a job in February ...March ... April and beyond.

Having listened to to Craig Harrison's motivational speaking in the media I am now in the zone and within his mindset, and as such I view things in a different light. Look, we are only thirty four points off the title and a mere twenty two off a play off spot so we are still in with a shout. To the prophets of doom that shout might indeed sound like 'Help!' but with my new Harrison-instilled ultra-optimism, let's stay positive, team! (said in an American accent). Despite these encouraging stats, I hear the pessimists among you say that Pools are hurtling down the league table in dramatic style and are now only four points adrift of a relegation place.

Can I take you back to the 1992/93 season when Pools had one of their worst runs ever. Playing 18 games and only hitting the net on five occasions. During this spell they went eleven games on the trot without scoring (1,227 minutes) a record that we proudly share with the Coventry City side of 1919. Despite that dismal run they still managed to pick up three points along the way on a par with todays side. However they eventually came good, and despite scoring only 42 goals that season, the lowest in that division, they finished 16th in the old League Division Three (now Division Two for our post-metric readers) with a respectable 54 points to their credit. What was responsible for this spectacular change in fortune and how was it achieved? Pools sacked the manager (Alan Murray). So, as Craig Harrison advocates, let's all remain optimistic and hope the past repeats itself.
"Not once have I heard him take the blame for anything."

Meanwhile back in the real world Craig Harrison must be acutely aware that had it not been for Pools' financial plight he would have been handed his P45 well before now. He must come clean and start taking some or perhaps the majority of the responsibility for the mess that the club finds itself in on the pitch. Not once have I heard him take the blame for anything. We are always informed by Harrison that it is always the players making the same mistakes. That indeed is true, but it is up to him as a manager to eradicate this trait.

He bemoans not having a full squad to choose from through injury and yet when a player does return to first team duty after time on the treatment table, with the notable exception of Keith Watson, they,(think Blair Adams, Conor Newton, Nicky Featherstone, Carl Magnay and Lord Lucan....sorry I meant Luke George), they make little or no impact and are every bit as bad as the players that they have replaced in the side.

I thought Featherstone would have been a better player when he returned from injury but they obviously did not recalibrate his gyroscope correctly as he still keeps spinning around on the spot and moving side to side.

As said many times in this column the manager needs to question his team set-ups, tactics and as well as having a plan A, he also needs to consider having a plan B, as well as a C, and, to be on the safe side, a plan D to cover all eventualities.

Prior to kick off there was a great atmosphere in the ground for the Wrexham game; the Vic. as in the good old days. was bouncing but once again, and not unlike the away game at Gateshead, Harrison's troops managed to silence the massive pro-Poolie crowd with their brand of football.

I was talking to some Borer supporters who came to watch the game and they could not get over the backwards and sideways passing movement of our team which invariably ended up down a cul-de-sac. They noticed that Wrexham on the other hand took no more than three forward passes from one end of the pitch to the other to score their goals, one of which was due to leaving a sole striker up front when defending a Pools corner. I replied, saying "I know that you are used to watching dire football over at the Cellnet but after watching Pools, Borer must look like Manchester City on a good day."

Purely as a precaution, should the club fall into the hands of administrators, Harrison's priority must be, in the short term, by fair means or foul, to pull ten points clear of the bottom four. Points in the bank so to speak, If this means a more direct style of play so be it.

Playing 4-4-2 with the two main strikers up front within sight of each other and not the width of the pitch apart would be a start. Having won a corner one of these strikers, preferably the one who can head the ball, should be put on the far post a la Paul Baker.

When defending corners one of our strikers should hang around the half way line acting as a lone striker on the off chance that he could pick up a stray clearance from the back.

Craig Harrison should also be pulling favours in, with the likes of Steve Gibson at the Borer and with some of the clubs more sympathetic towards Pools plight to see if he can get some experienced players in on loan, as opposed to untried kids, at nil cost to HUFC. It was great to see the Borer fans join us in our hour of need but publicly, and I might be doing the Borer a disservice here, we have heard nothing from the Middlesbrough FC itself who would have been long gone without Pools' help in 1986.

Were I in Craig Harrison's shoes, as a matter of pride I would not want it on my CV that I was one of the worst managers in the history of Hartlepool United Football club.

According to my records, The Official History of HUFC (covers up to 2008), percentage-wise based on the number of wins and games managed by Harrison, he just scrapes into the all time top ten of our worst managers. Half a dozen more defeats will see him in the august company of the likes of Mick Docherty, Viv Busby and Allenby Chilton, who managed Pools in 1962. With a distinguished name like that, Allenby should have been the been Queen's equerry, not the manager of some lowly struggling fourth division football club.