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The first time Jack Harrison met Jesse Marsch the circumstances were not ideal.
A teenager playing for New York City FC in the American MLS, Harrison made his debut in what they call the ‘Hudson River derby’ against Marsch’s New York Red Bulls in 2016. ‘They beat us 7-0,’ smiles Harrison.
The next significant time the two men met, things were different but not much better. Marsch had just taken over at Leeds United last February and, on the American’s first day, Harrison was late.
Leeds United's Jack Harrison has opened up on his relationship with boss Jesse Marsch
‘I was waiting on the cleaners to come to my house,’ laughs Harrison. ‘They showed up late and because they didn’t have keys I had to wait for them. I was thinking, “This cannot be happening right now”.
‘Jesse was like, “Hey, Jack, I hear you were late this morning…” On his first day. Can you believe it?’
Under Marsch’s regime at Leeds’ training ground at Wetherby, fines go straight to a member of staff. So Fiona on reception got a £500 John Lewis voucher from Harrison that day. ‘That did actually make me feel better,’ adds Harrison. ‘But I have done my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’
Jesse Marsch took over midway through last season as he ousted club legend Marcelo Bielsa
Harrison, 25, is sitting in the games room in his training gear, two days out from Sunday's home game against Chelsea. He was last off the pitch. ‘I was practising my free-kicks,’ he tells Sportsmail.
Things feel good at Leeds right now, certainly better than they did towards the end of last season. When the enigmatic Marcelo Bielsa was replaced by Marsch, the new manager took a while to steer the great Yorkshire club upwards.
Much changed under the 48-year-old but for a while results did not. Only when Harrison scored in the last minute of the final game at Brentford did Leeds know they were safe from relegation.
Harrison scored in the final minute against Brentford last season to guarantee Leeds' safety
‘People cried that day, it meant that much,’ recalls Harrison. ‘We were almost rock bottom. The home game against Aston Villa (a 0-3 defeat) was the epitome of that.
‘Fans were chanting for Marcelo and not everyone was on the same page. We had new tactics and new ways of playing. It was tough.
‘So to survive meant everything. I have watched that clip back from the Brentford game so many times. Players were on their knees. People were crying while we were actually still playing.
Harrison enjoyed several loan spells at Leeds before eventually making the move permanently
‘As we went back to the kick-off after my goal, Junior (Firpo) was playing behind me. I had never seen him cry before. Never. But he had a tear in his eye.
‘I had to tell him to concentrate on defending! The manager was on his knees. It was an incredible moment and it’s amazing now to look back at that period and what we went through. It’s like night and day.’
Having taken four points from their two opening games, Leeds are a settled football club. Plans are afoot to expand Elland Road — there are 25,000 on the season-ticket waiting list — while there is an intent to move the training ground to the same site.
Harrison is determined to be at the forefront of it and spent much of the summer working on his fitness at the Marbella Football Centre in Spain. It is something he has always done.
Harrison joined Leeds from Manchester City on a permanent deal last year
In his fifth season as a first-team player, Harrison wants to take his game to a new level. He wants to be a leader. He also wants to play for England. Subject of an enquiry from Newcastle in the summer, Harrison was asked about it on pre-season tour of Australia and was rather ambiguous with his answer. He regretted it immediately.
‘I knew nothing about it and it threw me off,’ he explains. ‘My answer gave the wrong impression from what I meant. Social media was talking about it and people were like, “What have you said?”
‘But it was nothing. My intention is to be here and work hard for this team. If anything I want to make a greater impact than before and I think this is the best place to do that.
Harrison has become a fan favourite at Elland Road