Hartlepool United appoint Dave Challinor as new manager but the job Antony Sweeney has done won't be forgotten
Tuesday’s match against Solihull Moors may be Antony Sweeney’s last in charge as Hartlepool United caretaker manager – but it’s a spell that has surpassed all expectations.
Time is something you don’t often get in football. Clubs often race against the clock and one another to sign players and bring in managers in an attempt to conjure up some form of success.
Some react hastily and find themselves in a worse position than when they started. But those lucky few that have time are able to properly assess things and take the appropriate course of action.
Regardless of the result at Victoria Park on Tuesday, the job Sweeney and Ian McGuckin have done in buying Pools that time could prove to be vital come the end of the season.
The club announced that former AFC Fylde manager Dave Challinor is set to take charge as first team manager at Victoria Park, something that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the job the caretaker duo had done.
A few weeks ago, the role wouldn’t have been on Challinor’s radar as he looked to resolve ongoing contractual issues at Fylde following his dismissal. But Pools were able to be patient thanks to the positive results Sweeney and the side were picking up.
And just under a month after leaving Fylde, Challinor has been able to reach an agreement with Pools to take over. And credit must go to the caretaker management team for that.
Since taking over on a temporary basis following the sacking of former coaching team Craig Hignett and Ged McNamee, Sweeney and McGuckin guided the club to the first round of the FA Cup while also claiming the biggest win of the season in a spell that restored confidence at Victoria Park.
Hignett's sacking was one that divided opinion at Hartlepool – some felt it was necessary others saw it as a hasty move given the club were only four points off the play-offs. But it’s fair to say that the process involved in appointing his permanent replacement has been far from hasty.
Sweeney has proven himself to be more than capable of coaching and managing a side at National League level under the muted pressure of being caretaker.
Now he’ll remain involved as a vital part of Challinor’s coaching staff.
The United legend’s conduct in all areas since taking temporary charge has garnered unanimous praise and thrust him into serious consideration to be given the job permanently.
It’s unclear whether he wanted it as he never claimed his preference either way, just that he’d do it as long as required in order to help the club.
Challinor was always thought to be the club’s preferred option though Sweeney certainly never wrote himself out of the picture given his approach to training and the results the team were picking up.
It goes without saying how much Hartlepool means to Sweeney and it’s important Challinor has someone that ‘gets it’ as much as he does at his side.
This will be the first time the former Tranmere Rovers defender has left the north west in his 25-year career in football. And as anyone who has spent time in Hartlepool will tell you, it’s not a place you just pass through or visit on a whim, you come to Hartlepool and if you embrace the town, it will embrace you back.
In terms of available non-league managers, Pools have gone out there and got arguably one of the best available.
In eight years at Fylde, Challinor never finished a season outside of a play-off position, achieving three promotions and last season’s FA Trophy to boot.
A record of 226 wins from 415 games with The Coasters is a remarkable record though it probably goes without saying that the challenges and pressure that comes with the job at Pools could prove to be quite different.
There will be question marks over Challinor given the fact he’s often been well backed with a large budget at Fylde and also had arguably the best goalscorer outside of the Football League in Danny Rowe at his disposal.
The record aside, the most impressive thing about Challinor is his ability to deliver success over a sustained period. Pools don’t need another manager who will come in and look to leave at the first opportunity, they need to present a project for someone who is willing to stick around and work with it.
He’s by no means a guaranteed success, but what manager is? In terms of an appointment, Pools have done well in taking their time to bring in someone who ticks the right boxes and will excite fans rather than another unproven manager or has been.
Time will be the judge of Challinor, but time is what he’ll need. To expect consistent results straight away could be asking too much though the expectation remains very much to be in a play-off position come May.
Still, credit must and will go to Sweeney for the near perfect job that he has done as caretaker manager.
His performance allowed things get to the point where some were in favour of appointing him permanently over a manager who has achieved consistent success in non-league football.
It will be interesting to see how the dynamic works with Sweeney now stepping back down to his coaching role.
Now there's almost a pressure for the new manager to sustain the upturn in form under Sweeney and things won’t get much tougher than Yeovil away in the FA Cup this weekend.