Steve Harmison makes happy return from Ashes to Ashington

For England bowler now managing in the Northern League

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The Independent Football

How’s that? On a freezing night in Northumberland, about as far away from an Ashes summer as you could conceive, the unlikely football management career of Steve Harmison began with a victory last night.

Harmison, as of Sunday manager of Ashington AFC, 16th in the Northern League, took charge of his first match last night. It was against Bishop Auckland in the local League Cup. Ashington won 1-0. “We’re up and running,” said Harmison.

He was smiling as he leant against a corridor wall at Ashington’s Woodhorn Lane ground. There was boot muck all over the floor.

“Great,” he said, “just great. I’ve just said to the players ‘thank you’. Yesterday afternoon we were struggling to fill a team and I just asked them for energy, belief and desire.

“Nerves? No nerves. When I played cricket in front of big crowds I was excited. So I was fine, my assistant was bouncing off the ceiling.”

An Ashington lad, Harmison knows the club inside out. His father, Jimmy, played for the club, as did his uncles Mel and Kevin. Steve himself turned out for Ashington as a teenager. This is his team and he says: “Anyone who thinks I’ll soon lose interest in this doesn’t know me.”

Harmison’s first transfer involved his brother James, a centre-half, who arrived from neighbours Bedlington Terriers. James was straight in and earning appreciative comments from manager and fans.

Ten minutes into the second half, Glen Taylor scored with a fine header. Harmison was restrained but inside he must have been bubbling.

Not since Malcolm Allison took over at Willington in Co Durham in 1984 has there been such a high-profile dugout arrival in the Northern League, known in part for its curiosities: last Easter a horse broke into Woodhorn during a game and at North Shields last Saturday a linesman was taunted with a fish. Harmison is a most welcome addition.