Mark Harrison on a mission

HARARE - The sabbatical at his base in Cape Town, South Africa was treating Mark Harrison pretty well.

Life was laid back, relaxed, good and the pressures of multiple seasons being on the touchline had already subsided.

Then he received a phone call from a Harare City official with the ambitious Castle Lager Premiership club looking for someone who could rescue their season following a difficult start to the 2017 campaign.

The Sunshine Boys had earmarked Harrison as one of the suitable candidates to drive the club out of the abyss following a string of poor results.

The Briton had left a lasting impression during a short but turbulent period in charge of CAPS United in 2015.

Upon leaving Zimbabwe, Harrison found himself in Botswana where he went on to lift the league title with Township Rollers that same year.

After being invited for the job, Harrison did more than the ordinary such that the Sunshine Boys hierarchy ended up offering the former Southampton and Stoke City goalkeeper an even bigger role of technical director.

Harrison, a holder of Uefa A, Caf A and Diploma in Football Management, arrived in the country last month to assume his new job and he has already identified a critical area of training facilities that needs to be improved.

“We are looking into and what we want to do is build Harare City a training facility where all our teams can train from the juniors right through to the PSL team under one umbrella,” Harrison told the Daily News on Sunday.

“I have seen many English teams’ training facilities and I know we can’t achieve that level because of the expenditure and the expertise required but it doesn’t stop you implementing some of it.

“I have set myself a target between now and January (2018) to get all things in place and ready to roll at the start of the new season and the schools calendar.

“We want to have a youth development for the girls and boys and we have a catchment area of 32 schools which we will be tapping talent from.”

Sports science and data are now playing a major role in football world over but Zimbabwean clubs are still lagging behind.

However, Harrison has quickly moved to address this problem at the Sunshine Boys by inviting a tech company to provide the necessary software and expertise.

“We are also engaging a company based in South Africa called Instat Scout,” he said.

“Basically it’s used by all the clubs all over the world for example Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea etc. It’s a programme which allows you to video your games and do match analysis on individual players.

“It’s also used by clubs around the world to scout your players online without the need to come here. They come here and did a presentation to show how the system works and we invited Zifa, the two platinum teams, Triangle among other teams.

“Hopefully we will be able to link up with the European clubs which gives us a little bit more structure and at the same time build the brand of Harare City.”

Harrison is hoping to use his European links to open up doors for some of the talented Harare City academy graduates.

“The major part of my mandate is to restructure the football side and create an academy from grassroots to the first division side,” he said.

“I think that’s the major part of my mandate really because it’s the long term future of the club. If we can put development structures in place, it serves well for the club in future because in the modern game, it’s impossible to survive by just pumping money.

“You ought to be self-sufficient, self-sustainable really and if you can have a good development programme, then obviously you bring up good players for the senior team and probably sell some exceptional players outside the country even to Europe and get your rewards.

“Obviously me being European as well and having the knowledge of European market, I will try and implement the sort of right things in our training programme and development programmes to equip the player to be ready to go when he goes out there and I hope that’s how it goes.

“They also want me to try and link them with the clubs in Europe and I have since started working on a couple of things already.”

The 56-year-old former Mpumalanga Black Aces, African Warriors, Chippa United, Bay Stars and Golden Arrows coach is aware that he has a big task to implement all the Sunshine Boys’ plans.

“I’m excited, I’m positive. I believe we can make Harare City the biggest club in Zimbabwe,” he said.

“I don’t mean by comparison to Dynamos, Highlanders or CAPS United as in like support base or popularity but I mean we can make Harare City the biggest club because of its infrastructure because of its background because of its doing and where they are going.

“It’s not just about the numbers, who come through the gates but it’s about the infrastructure of the football club. I think myself and the executive share the same vision.

“It’s a big task. After I signed my contract and sat down, I realised it’s a massive job and it’s gonna take time. We are not gonna see results tomorrow morning.

He continued: “We are not gonna see results in three months or six months but yes, we will see a slow build and a slow development over a period of time. But surely instant results are not there. It’s a daunting task I’m gonna be honest. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.

“In three years’ time I would like to believe our development programme will be up and running and starting to bring the conveyor belt of players from the little ones all the way through.”

Harrison feels support from the club as well as the general football community will be key in achieving their vision.

“It’s not easy and I am gonna be relying on a lot of people inside football to support me, to help me find the things we need to implement,” he said.

“I can’t do it on my own, it’s impossible. I’ve got all the ideas, I’ve worked in different levels all over the world I’ve seen what is needed, I’ve seen what it takes and for me to get all the information on the table is not a problem.

“To implement the information is the big problem and as I said I need the support from the football club and willingness to go and do these things. I need support from the schools, I need support from the school masters, and I need support from the parents and children themselves.

“I do believe at the end of my contract which is three years, the programme will be running nicely and whether I stay or not afterwards I would like the next person who comes to inherit something firm and sound so that they will maintain and keep going forward.”

* Don’t miss the second part of Harrison’s interview in tomorrow’s Daily News.

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