Youth role is Pools win­ner...

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Jack Miller

WHILE younger legs in­creas­ingly rule the world of foot­ball, the likes of An­drea Pirlo, John Terry and Michael Car­rick are do­ing every­thing they can to ex­tend their time at the top.

But for Hartle­pool United leg­end Antony Sweeney, the lure of a move back to Pools was enough to make him hang up his boots at just 32 years old.

The mid­fielder had started the sea­son at Gateshead hav­ing moved from Carlisle in the sum­mer, but did not start a sin­gle one of the Na­tional League side’s games in Au­gust with man­ager Neil Aspin mak­ing 14 other sum­mer sign­ings.

So an of­fer to coach the youth side at the club where he rose through the ranks and made more than 400 ap­pear­ances be­tween 2001 and 2014 was re­ally a no­brainer.

“Tim­ing in foot­ball is every­thing, and when this job was of­fered to me I thought I might not get the op­por­tu­nity again,” he said.

“I’m turn­ing 33 next week so there’s not that much time left if I was to carry on play­ing any­way. It was about weigh­ing up whether an­other year or two in foot­ball would be more ben­e­fi­cial than this.


“Full-time po­si­tions don’t come around that of­ten, and I think this is the right de­ci­sion for both my­self and my fam­ily given this can be a long-term ca­reer.

“Go­ing to Gateshead had ab­so­lutely not panned out as ex­pected. It’s a long sea­son and I have no doubts that even­tu­ally I would have played a lot more, but the tim­ing of the of­fer re­ally made my de­ci­sion for me.

“I’m thrilled to be back. It’s in a hugely dif­fer­ent role to when I was there last time as a player, but to come back means a lot to me, so I’m re­ally happy.”

Sweeney, sixth on Hartle­pool’s list of all-time ap­pear­ance mak­ers, was al­ready work­ing part-time as a coach at the academy, and boasts a UEFA B coach­ing badge with his A li­cence also on the way.

Hav­ing re­turned ‘home’ full­time, he will take charge of the club’s un­der-12 side through to un­der-16 level as the new youth lead phase coach.

Like play­ers, man­agers in foot­ball seem to be get­ting younger and younger, with Jose Mour­inho and Pep Guardi­ola hav­ing set the tem­plate for a host of young mav­er­icks to burst onto the scene in Europe.

But while Sweeney cer­tainly has time on his side, he in­sists he does not nec­es­sar­ily fancy him­self as the next Diego Sime­one, Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino or Ed­die Howe.

“Who knows?” he said. “At this mo­ment in time I’m just con­cen­trat­ing on the youth side of things, and be­com­ing an ac­tual man­ager will have dif­fer­ent chal­lenges and re­quire dif­fer­ent tech­niques.

“Maybe af­ter I’ve got my teeth into this, in a few years time I’ll start to get the itch to test my­self, but that will be a good few years down the line.

“There’s still a lot of peo­ple at this club who I con­sider friends hav­ing been there so long, so it’s nice to come back and be a col­league of theirs once again.

“The fans were re­ally good to me as well, so hope­fully I can play a small part in shap­ing the fu­ture at Hartle­pool.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

GOOD TIMES: Antony Sweeney play­ing for Hartle­pool United

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