Craig Harrison: Former New Saints manager's 'fresh challenge' at Hartlepool

Craig Harrison
Craig Harrison succeeded Mike Davies as New Saints boss in 2011

Ex-The New Saints boss Craig Harrison says he is looking forward to a new challenge as Hartlepool United manager.

Gateshead-born Harrison has taken charge of Hartlepool following their relegation to the National League.

The 39-year-old left Saints after winning a sixth consecutive Welsh Premier League title.

"I've had great times at TNS and really enjoyed every minute of it but I just feel it was the right opportunity," Harrison told BBC Wales Sport.

"The opportunity arose and I thought it was the right time to go and have a fresh challenge somewhere else.

"Everything just fits - the geographic location, facilities, (the) ambition of the club with new owners and new investors and the big fan base.

"I'm an ambitious person, driven on through having a shorter football career than what I should have had."

Harrison, who played for Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace before injury prematurely ended his professional career, had been TNS boss since 2011.

Saints won six Welsh Premier titles, four Welsh Cups and three League Cups during Harrison's time at Park Hall.

Craig Harrison and Carl Darlington
Craig Harrison (left) won the first of his four Welsh Cups at New Saints in 2011

During the 2016-17 season Saints broke Ajax's 44-year-old world record for the longest winning streak in top-flight football with 27 victories in a row in all competitions.

Hartlepool in contrast have been relegated from the Football League for the first time.

"Hopefully I'll bring that winning mentality to Hartlepool," Harrison added.

"We want to get promoted at the first time of asking, but just as important is that we're building a solid foundation along the way as well."

Coaches Scott Ruscoe and Steve Evans have been put in interim charge of Saints following Harrison's departure.

And Harrison said his former assistants were "perfect" to take charge of the Oswestry-based club.

"They know the club inside out and understand what's expected of the club," Harrison said.

New Saints players
New Saints reached the semi-finals of the 2016-17 Scottish Challenge Cup

"They were both fantastic players and the best two players in the history of TNS.

"They both captained the club, played in massive European games and have both seen huge progression over the last 10-15 years as players and coaches.

"For me they'll keep the success up."

Harrison, who was in charge of Airbus UK Broughton before joining Saints, says the Welsh Premier League has improved and continues to develop.

"There's better players coming into the league and there are better coaches because the FAW coach education is absolutely fantastic," Harrison said.

"Hopefully Bangor City and Connah's Quay maybe are looking to go full-time and try and push TNS as best as they can.

"The league is definitely on an upward curve and I'd like to think I've had a small part to play in that."

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