A catch-up with... Mark Harrison

OUR Publications Editor Dave Bowler sits down with the characters woven into the fabric of West Bromwich Albion. Up next - Academy Manager Mark Harrison.

Mark on Albion’s Academy producing first-team coaches… 

“It’s a unique situation, certainly at Championship and Premier League level.

“Jimmy Shan started his journey as an under-11s coach, working his way through. It’s a fantastic example to all English coaches or homegrown coaches.

“In terms of Darren Moore's journey, he joined us as a coach working with the under-18s and the under-23s, and that evolved into a role where he was managing the loan program.

“The one thing that stands out about Darren is that he did all of his coaching qualifications early. He had his A License, his Pro License, and we gave him the opportunity to make mistakes, because you can when you’re working with the younger age groups. 

“It’s a great opportunity for those aspiring first-team coaches to come through the Academy pathway.”

On bringing young players through into the into the first-team…

“The great advantage is that, when I go around the country now, everybody’s saying ‘you’ve got utopia’. We’ve got a Head Coach and a First-Team Coach who know the players coming through.

“So the suggestion would be that, if the Head Coach and First-Team Coach aren't supporting the players coming through, then I might have a bit of an issue as Academy Manager that we’re not developing players who are good enough.

“But what people need to remember is that these players are evolving and developing. Even in the Championship, there aren’t many 20-year-olds. Rekeem Harper has been playing in the Carabao Cup - and people might need to remind themselves that he’s still only 18.

“He played against Crystal Palace the other evening, and he’s playing against some vastly experienced players. If you go through what that team had cost Palace, it was a big figure.

“As the Head Coach has said, the experience that those young players are gaining is only going to put them in good stead for the future - and that’s certainly good for the Club.”

On the backing from supporters…

“I think if the fans stick by them and believe in them - and we all want home grown players, there’s nothing better because of the affinity that they have from being part of the Club - that we’ll have some really good players in there.

“All I can say to people is that those players have been on a lot of radars over the last five years and have been wanted by many a club because others clubs can see the potential in them as well.”

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