Non League Daily

Ashington's Harmison Returns To His First Love

EBAC Northern League club Ashington may well have surprised a few people with appointment of former England cricketer Steve Harmison as their new manager but the man himself insisted the new "was not a surprise to the people who really know me".


Former Durham bowler Harmison was appointed as successor to the Colliers' long-serving manager Gary Middleton on Sunday evening and he took charge of his first game fourty eight hours later as Bishop Auckland made the trip to Woodhorn Lane. It was a successful managerial debut for Harmison as strker Glen Taylor gave his side a 1-0 win over the County Durham outfit and it left his manager to admit the experience felt like he was returning to "his first love".

"I played football before I played cricket to be fair and up to the age of eighteen when I signed my first professional cricket deal with Durham, I missed the first games of the cricket season because I was finishing off my football season. It is my first love. It's why those people who know me, those who really know me, won't be surprised by the move, they know what the game and this club in particular mean to me"

harmison2There have be some who have reacted with cynicism to the appointment, with many calling it simply a PR stunt by the Colliers. A determined Harmison scoffed at those accusations and cited his experience of hostile crowds during his cricket career as a reason why he was able to feel positive ahead of taking his first steps into football management.

"I know people will look at it as a PR stunt and the honest answer is no it's not. There will be people who will mock the decision and make fun of it, I know there will be but I've spent twenty years in professional cricket having every Tom, Dick and Harry have a go at me whether that's in the press or opposition players and supporters. I've never been bothered about it and all I was ever bothered about was my performance and the performance of my team"

One aspect of his new role that Harmison admitted he would have to get used to was watching from the sidelines. In a test match career that spanned eleven years Harmison played a vital role in one of English cricket's most successful spells, including the historic 2005 Ashes win. However the man who is listed a England's thirteenth most successful test match bowler of all time will now have to experience the action from a watching brief only.

"It's my team and obviously I can't affect the action directly but I will do all I can protect them and to prepare them in a professional manner, the way I have been prepared throughout my cricket career. I want to give them the best possible chance of being successful and that is something we will do together"

And a professional attitude is something that Harmison wants to instill into his playing squad as he looks to put a poor start to the season behind them. The Colliers currently sit in sixteenth position in the Northern League's top tier, ten points and five places above Sunderland RCA, who occupy the final relegation spot. Harmison had recruited former Bedlington Terriers manager Ian Skinner and former Colliers player Lee Anderson to assist him at Woodhorn Lane and he feels that his new coaching team can propel the club up the league before the end of the season.

"We want to build a group of players who are prepared to play in a winning environment, one that will be fun but disciplined and one that will be successful. I wouldn't have gone for any other job, it's my town and my club. The foundations are the club are in place and the former manager did a great job doing that, from that point of view I think it's too good of an opportunity to miss. We have experienced coaches in place to support me and I think we can help the players enjoy playing and get us back up towards the top six where this club belongs"

ashHarmison is tasked with overseeing a much hoped for revival at the club and will do so against an exciting backdrop, with the club announcing plans to redevelop their Woodhorn Lane ground, including plans for a new main stand. The new manager wants to use that to inspire the supporters to get behind his new regime and admitted that he was looking to a Northern League rival for inspiration.

"We want to take this club forward and take the relevant actions accordingly. We want to say to everybody that we realise expectations are high here, there has been success under Gary Middleton and we know that. The people of Ashington have a lot to be thankful to Gary for and I want to take this club forward with the new exciting plans and to take them on and build on the foundations that Gary has put in place. Look at North Shields, Graham Fenton and Andy Bowman have done a great job and they have instilled a mentality that we want to show here at Ashington"

Interview by Mark Carruthers

Pictures by Action Images & Ashington FC



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