CRAIG HARRISON has likened Hartlepool United’s demise to a slow, painful death.

“It’s like being poisoned slowly, that’s the feeling. The town and football club feel like that. It’s slow and that’s my best analogy, being poisoned slowly,’’ he said.

Harrison’s side has struggled since the state of the club’s finances unravelled last November, as players started to wonder if they would be paid on time.

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He takes them to Barrow tomorrow in the National League on the back of one win in 15 games. If Pools entered administration then they would be in the bottom four of the table.

An outstanding tax bill of around £48,000 was paid yesterday, the balance settled directly by supporter Rachel Cartwright who created an on-line Just Giving page which reached £86,000.

Wages for staff and players are due in two weeks and the outcome of the remaining funds has yet to be determined.

Harrison said: “The killer for me is wondering about being paid. We got paid last month and then the countdown starts again for next time. It ramps up the anxiety as time goes on, three weeks, two weeks and people are talking about it.

“That’s how it is and it would be the same in any job not just football. Families are depending on it, and not just players, wives are concerned asking and it’s not a nice situation to be in. Everyone at the club is the in the same situation, office staff and players, top to bottom.

“We all need to be paid, we all have bills to pay. It’s not nice, and the sooner something is done to stop the uncertainty then we get on with it.’’

However, there appears little hope of a saviour on the horizon and the club is living day by day. Administration could happen at any moment, but chairwoman Pam Duxbury doesn’t want to go down that road.

Harrison’s playing career was curtailed by a broken leg, suffered while playing for Crystal Palace reserves in 2002. He had a double compound fracture.

He was aged 25 and signed for Palace from Middlesbrough. The experience of having his playing days taken away early has built him for challenges like this at Victoria Park.

“Just drawing on my own experience, when I broke my leg the time, not knowing if I was going to play again was worse than actually being told I couldn’t play again,’’ he reflected.

“I could visualise what I’m doing now, pull myself together and get on once I knew and had been told it was over.

“But when I was recovering, there was six months where I needed another operation, and another and having the uncertainty of not knowing was the worst part. Worst-case scenario you can plan, deal with it and get on.

“Not knowing is the hardest part. At some time there has to be an end to it, for everyone’s sake.

“I’m a positive person, so at this moment in time from my point of view I’m going week by week and looking at Saturday and the next game.

“We have that to focus on.

“Forget what’s going on in the background, we are building up to hopefully have a high point on a Saturday and that’s how I’m channelling my thoughts.

“We look at the game, one point, three points, no points, and we break it down to get through to the next weekend without looking too far ahead.’’

He added: “Training is a release for us, it’s our sanctuary. Once we are out there training, we put the troubles aside.

“In recent weeks I’ve looked forward to training more than anything else. We get out there, we plan training, we are engrossed in what’s going in.

“We come off training and then straight away someone tells us what’s going on. But out there we are away from the problems.

“Everyone is different and as a manager you realise that. Some people take it on the training ground with them because that’s how they are. Myself and staff try to keep everyone focused, but it’s only natural it will creep in.’’

Paul Watson, the club’s head of football operations – formerly head of recruitment – is to leave his position.

He arrived at the club under former chairman Gary Coxall, but will exit in the coming weeks.

And, after a number of players departed when their contracts were up and with club staff under threat of redundancy, Harrison warned of more exits.

The manager said: “Paul is part of the club and was part of the interview process when I came in and he was head of recruitment at the time, dealing with contracts and the like.

“It’s one of those situations we have to deal with and I’m sure he won’t be the first to leave, players have left who we couldn’t renegotiate contracts with and that’s the sad situation at the club right now.

“The exit door is well and truly open, the entry door is well and truly closed. That’s the reality.’’