Having played almost 450 times for Pools during his career, Antony Sweeney is well-placed to judge what is needed to make it in the First Team at Victoria Park.
Sweeney is now prospering in his current role as Lead Phase Coach for the Club’s Academy, helping to nurture the talent of tomorrow as they make their journey towards senior football.
The former midfielder was a huge favourite during his playing days at The Vic and he has admitted that having that bond with the Club makes him even more determined to drive talent towards the First Team.
Having been diligent in studying for his coaching qualifications before hanging up his boots, Sweeney has been back in the classroom over the past year studying for his UEFA A Licence.
And at the start of the month news came through that his assessment was complete and he has passed the course, though he won’t be getting carried away with his latest qualification.
“You have to walk before you can run,” said Sweeney, who scored 62 goals in 444 appearances for the Club between 2001 and 2014.
“Someone who has passed their A Licence yesterday is nowhere near as qualified as someone who passed 20 years ago and has all of that experience under their belt.
“I have passed the course but now I have to put those competencies I have learned into the level I am coaching at now. You have to be able to consider the age of the group you are coaching as there is obviously a very different approach to coaching an adult team to an Under 14 group.
“Just because you have passed that qualification doesn’t mean you are going to stop learning. Every day is a new experience and you have to take them all on board and continue to develop. It is all about putting it into practice now.
“Hopefully now I can use what I have learned to help to produce a First Team player for the Club. It does help that I have been at the Club so I know the structure and the fans and what they expect.
“It probably means a little bit more if we get one of the lads through to the First Team here with having that connection to it.”
The A Licence is highest outfield qualification available at the moment so Sweeney is delighted to have made the grade having worked towards that goal since the start of 2017.
“You have got to be deemed competent over the period of the course,” he explained.
“The Youth Educator comes out and watches you perform sessions and on matchdays and when you perform consistently at Level 4, you send your pack off to be finalised.
“You do six blocks of three days at St George’s Park and they started in January 2017 and finished in November. In between those sessions, you get set tasks to do that form part of the pack. There is no real timescale of long it takes, it is just about how long until you are deemed competent of being a Level 4 Coach.
“The qualification applies to coaches from the Premier League down to non-league Academy Coaches like I am at the moment. There is a broad range of subjects that you have to cover, including formations, analysis, modern trends, how things are going to change, what your philosophy is – it is all quite time-consuming.
“They are good enough to get people in to talk about their philosophy and we had Gary Rowett in who is one of the most highly-regarded English coaches and he is doing a good job at Derby County and it is interesting to see how other people do it.
“John Carver was another coach who came in and he has obviously been coaching for over 30 years so we had a good range of people with different knowledge and experience and that was good to tap into.
“I’m really enjoying the job and the challenge back here at The Vic; I know what it feels like to wear that shirt and my motivation is to make sure many more youngsters from this area get the chance to experience that.”
Everyone at the Club would like to congratulate Antony Sweeney on his A Licence success.