Why Leeds winger Jack Harrison saw NYCFC as his best bet to get back home to England

Jack Harrison - Leeds United - tight shot

Even as Jack Harrison left England and the Manchester United youth system to go to high school and then a year of college in the United States, he always hoped to get back to Europe.

As he told New York City FC broadcaster Ian Joy in a recent interview with the club's local broadcaster YES Network, turning pro with NYCFC — a club under the City Football Group umbrella — was an important step.

"It’s just something in the back of my mind I always wanted to come back," Harrison recalled. "I knew once I went to New York, I knew with the affiliation, it could be a possibility that way."

That came to fruition after two MLS seasons, when Harrison signed a contract directly with the parent club.

"To sign up with Man City always just kind of seemed a bit weird to me, coming from the MLS signing with Man City just seemed a bit strange," he admitted. "But it all happened in the end and now I'm at a stage now I'm looking for the next thing. Just trying to keep pushing myself really."

After signing Harrison, City loaned him to the League Championship, first to Middlesbrough for the end of the 2017-18 campaign and then to Leeds the past two seasons. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic halting the current season, Harrison had started all 37 matches for first-place Leeds, who currently hold a one-point lead over West Bromwich Albion and a seven-point edge over Fulham in third. If the season can resume, the top two finishers will earn promotion to the Premier League, with the third through sixth teams entering the promotion playoffs.

Having begun in the red half of Manchester, Harrison credits his affiliation with City on both sides of the Atlantic for helping his progress, beginning with his relationship in New York with longtime experienced Premiership player turned NYCFC manager Patrick Vieira.

"I think, in New York I was really lucky getting in with Patrick [Viera]," Harrison said. "He was so approachable, and I was able to talk with him about anything."

Once in England, Harrison the club's support staff have been crucial in helping him through some early tough times in his first season with Leeds.

"They have a team of people that work with on loan players. So there's someone that overlooks everything and you have a psychologist, a video analysis, like a coach, and you have a physio there if you need it," Harrison said. "And so for me having that behind me, it was incredible. I can just use those resources to get through some difficult times in my career that I never really experienced before and I think working with a psychologist, they've really, really helped me in ways that I never really thought that were possible either."

Watch more of Ian Joy's chat with Jack Harrison for more on what it's like to play under legendary Leeds manager Marco Bielsa, and his relationship with former NYCFC teammates Frank Lampard and David Villa.