When Hartlepool United succumbed to an almost inevitable relegation into the National League last season the need for change became even greater.

harrison pools 500

Not just a need to change in the boardroom, or the playing staff or coaching staff, but a change of philosophy throughout the club.

A change of outlook, new ideas, a new way of thinking.

Since relegation back into League Two in 2013, Pools have finished 19th, 22nd, 16th and 23rd.

Positives have been few and far between, and the only celebrations have been miracle escapes from relegation.

Under Ronnie Moore they flickered into life.

In 2014/15, his infectious nature, managerial nous and enthusiasm rubbed off on an under-performing squad as he led them to safety, despite Pools sitting bottom of the League Two table and ten points adrift of their nearest rivals.

Survival was secured in the penultimate game of the season and led to a wonderfully colourful celebration on the final day at Carlisle United.

Over 2,500 Pools supporters made the trip from the North East to Cumbria, dressed in rasta outfits.

Moore joined in, taking the pre-match warm up wearing a colourful hat and dreadlocks.

Better times looked to be just around the corner.

But more struggles followed.

It feels like the club sleepwalked into last season’s relegation and now they need to be woken from their collective slumber and given a new direction.pools down

The man chosen to take on that task is former TNS manager Craig Harrison.

Harrison achieved great things with the Welsh club but this represents a new type of challenge for the former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace defender.

At TNS, he was expected to win leagues and cup and he duly delivered.

Since his appointment in 2011 he won six league titles, four Welsh Cups and three Welsh League Cups.

In two hundred and eighty five games in the TNS dugout, he has a win percentage standing at just under 72%.

He even helped the club set a world record, winning twenty seven games in a row.

That run surpassed a forty five year old record set by the all-conquering Ajax side containing the likes of Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens and the great Johan Cryuff.

Winning is in Harrison’s culture, it is what he does.

But Pools present him with a different challenge.

For years, all the Victoria Park faithful have known is disappointment.

In the last ten seasons their average league finish is nineteenth.  They’ve been on the wrong end of FA Cup giantkillings.  Cup runs, of any form, have been few and far between.

The heady days of Ritchie Humphreys, Joel Porter and Eifion Williams (pictured below left) seem a lifetime away.  

Strange to think that they were on the brink of the Championship not so long ago.

Harrison is fighting a battle against a club where disappointment and poor performance has become engrained.

williams caridffBut if anyone knows about battling back from disappointment then it is the man now in charge at Victoria Park.

In 2003, at the age of twenty five, Harrison announced his retirement from football after suffering a double compound fracture of his left leg whilst playing for Crystal Palace Reserves against Reading.

With his playing career over he moved into coaching and after a three-year stint as Airbus UK Broughton assistant manager and then manager, he began his successful spell at TNS.

At Hartlepool, the early signs are promising. Harrison has made a positive start.

Keeping key defender Carl Magnay is a huge boost and the additions of Ryan Donaldson and Jack Munns will offer endeavour and creativity.

Former Watford and Notts County goalkeeper Scott Loach brings Championship experience in a key position.

Chester’s Luke George and former Guiseley striker Jake Cassidy will be key components this season.

All five signings give them knowledge and knowhow in the National League.

But most of all the new additions – and I am sure there will be more – will bring a move away from the disappointment.  

They can become part of Harrison’s new positive culture.

The National League is a tough league and bouncing back into the Football League at the first attempt is near impossible.

But it is possible and that is what Pools supporters need to believe in.

After all, they believed that an escape from relegation under Ronnie Moore was possible, even when the wisest of pundits were telling them they were down.

It may take time for Harrison, there will be negativity lingering from their relegation.

But he brings a new way of thinking and that coupled with the undoubted potential within the club could be a potent combination.

If he gets the continued backing of the board and the Victoria Park faithful can buy into what he is trying to do, then they can become one of the challengers at the top of the table this season.

Article: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Main Image: Hartlepool United FC Other Images: Reuters Media

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