By Jeff King
Moving On Up
Chester-le-Street United had one of those bittersweet moments last week which was a tad sweeter than it was bitter. Indeed, it was one of those moments and reasons the Club was set-up for, to give players a chance to progress.
The bitterness, and it’s hardly that came when we lost one of our most promising young players. The sweetness came with the same player signing a professional contract with top-flight Scottish Premier League outfit Livingston.
Following a successful trial, defensive midfielder and a player that has graced our senior side in the Wearside League as well as our under-18 set-up at Park View Academy of Sport, Harrison Clark is taking those first strides as a professional footballer.
Harrison who only turned 18 in May of this year had made a very favourable impression during his time at Chester-le-Street with his combative style, great engine, ball-winning abilities, and eye for a pass. Now he’s got the opportunity to showcase those skills at a higher level.
Harrison has been loaned out to Championship side Arbroath who he played against in one of his trial games not just impressing the Livingston staff but also the Arbroath coaches as well. Coming on with 20 minutes left to play he made a quick impression on the game showing skill, strength and pace.
So, Arbroath were delighted to acquire Harrison’s services and he went straight into the first-team squad for the League Cup Tie against Elgin City last Saturday. With the score at 0 – 0 Harrison made his bow as his side went on to record a 1 – 0 away win.
He then followed that up with a debut start for his loan club on Wednesday night playing the first 60 minutes of a 2 – 0 home win over East Fife and coming off to warm applause from the 600 strong crowd at Gayfield Park.
Harrison is now poised to play in the next League Cup fixture on Saturday 17th Julywhich is a huge fixture for both Arbroath and him as the Red Lichties travel to the famous Tannadice Park to take on the mighty Dundee United.
We caught up with Harrison prior to his visit to Dundee and it’s far to say he’s a happy young man to have signed for Livingston.
“To be fair I wasn’t sure what was going to happen as it all happened so quickly. I went in to see the Manager on the Thursday after playing in a couple of trial games and being involved in a couple of training sessions and he offered me the contract there and then.”
“I was buzzing to be honest and absolutely delighted to be given the chance to step up and push on. I thought I’d done okay but you never know what they think so I was buzzing when they offered me the contract and it didn’t take long to say yes.”
To be signed from Chester-le-Street in the Wearside League to Livingston is a massive achievement for Harrison and testament to his ability. With the future in mind, Livingston decided to loan the youngster out to Championship side Arbroath.
Harrison was happy enough with that decision and commented favourably on the move.
“It was a good move for me and I already feel that I’m fitting in well. Game time is the most important thing to me and I knew that it would be a chance to get out on the pitch and play a few games which has been true.”
So far so good then for Harrison who is delighted with the start he’s made and getting that chance to showcase his talents so quickly. He was particularly impressed with his teammates and the way they played against East Fife.
“We played well. We probably should have been 4 – 0 up in the first half to be fair but we got the result in the end which is what matters and it was good to play in front of a crowd again. I think the standard is tough, more intensive and more competitive than what I’ve been playing and it’ll probably take me a couple of games to get used to it but I feel like I fitted in well.”
Both Livingston and Arbroath seem well pleased with the acquisition of Harrison both saying good things about him on their social media channels and websites. For Harrison it’s a reward for patience and hard work.
“I feel that I’ve earned the opportunity 100%. It’s a long game really. Some people quit at 16/17 and think that’s it. But if you just keep pushing and working and believe in yourself you’ll get opportunities and you’ve just got to take them.”
As mentioned after two wins, three goals and none conceded Arbroath go to Dundee United in what is a big match-up for the Championship side against Premier League opposition.
“It’s a massive game and I’m very excited for it. It would be huge to get a result there and it’s something that I’m not used to but a chance to test myself and I hope we can do well and push on.”
Dundee United actually finished a point behind Livingston in last season’s Scottish Premier League so it’s a chance for Harrison to see what sort of standard he’s aspiring too.
“I’m looking forward to playing in a really big stadium and one of the biggest if not the biggest I’ve played in. It’ll definitely be the biggest game I’ve played in if selected and on the biggest platform. It’ll be a lot of pressure but I’m ready for it.”
Harrison wanted to give a perspective of his time at Chester-le-Street United and everything the Club had done for him.
“I want to say thanks a lot to everyone at ‘Chester’ who helped me along the way and gave me a platform to push on and develop in different ways playing the senior football on a Saturday and in the junior leagues on a Wednesday. It gave me the opportunities to move forward and get better and I can’t thank everyone enough.”
“It’s a very exciting project that they’ve got setup at the Club and if you go there and work hard you’ll definitely get opportunities to develop further and that’s good. It’s a great platform for young players.”
Everyone at Chester-le-Street United is proud of a very level-headed young man that is taking nothing for granted. We know he will continue to work hard to achieve his dream of a career in the professional game. We wish him all the luck in the world and will be watching his progress with interest.