Antony Sweeney on a new challenge at Brunton Park
Former-Pools midfielder Antony Sweeney ends his near 15-year stay at Victoria Park this summer having agreed terms on a two-year deal which brings him to Cumbria until the summer of 2016.
We caught up with him to talk to him about his new challenge shortly after the final phase of his talks had been completed.
“It does feel strange to be leaving Hartlepool after so many years because I’ve been there since I was 15 years old,” he said. “I think it was always going to feel strange but I’m excited about the fact that I’m joining Carlisle and I can’t wait to get started.
“It’s always a big decision for any player to make any kind of move but, in this case, I think it was something I needed to do. Sometimes you run your course at a club and the best thing you can do is take on a fresh challenge.
“Kav has given me an opportunity to do that here and it’s one I’m really looking forward to. I’m sure it will be a good move for me and one that will work out well for everyone.”
“I used the words ‘fresh challenge’ and that’s exactly what it is,” he confirmed. “I was in this league last year and it isn’t easy in any way. Carlisle United have had the blip they had and I know, from speaking to Kav, that they’re looking for a fresh impetus.
“It’s up to the new players who come in to help to get this club back up in the league and I’m definitely here to do that. I want to play my part in bringing success back. I’ve suffered relegation myself in the past and it’s a really difficult thing to go through.
“It can go one of two ways. It will either bring the club together, and make it stronger, or it can go the other way and you start to see a bit of fear and worry around the place. From what I’ve seen and heard this will be an exciting place to be and I’m more than pleased to be part of it.”
“I don’t mind admitting the talks I had with Kav are a huge part of why I’m here,” he revealed. “He outlined exactly what he wanted and expected from every player at the club, including me, and it was very good to hear.
“I’m under no illusions at all about what I will have to do and about how hard we are going to work, so it’s up to me to step up to that and to repay the faith he’s shown in me in giving me a two-year deal.”
“The next few years aren’t about me, in my opinion,” he continued. “I want to help bring successful times back in any way I’m asked to contribute.
“Kav knows how I play and I’ll always put everything in to the 90 minutes out on the pitch. I’ve chipped in with a few goals over the years and I hope that continues. It’s a natural part of my game to get into the box and to try to support the forward movement, but I also know that my main job, as a midfielder, is to stay solid and compact and to work hard to win the ball back when we haven’t got it.
“I wouldn’t ever claim to be a flair player but I’ll always work hard for the team. I’m looking forward to being able to do that in a few weeks time.”
“Obviously I looked at the fixtures when they came out and you won’t be surprised to hear me say that going back over to Hartlepool before Christmas will be a strange one,” he said. “We’ve got them over here for the last game of the season as well and the ideal situation would be a promotion party for both clubs.
“Hartlepool has been a big part of my life and it would be fantastic to see them do well. I have so many fond memories of my time there, and of people I’ve worked with, and it really is a good club. In terms of highlights, again, I have so many.
“Getting to the play-off final against Sheffield Wednesday was amazing, even though we lost the game. We had a couple of promotions and they are always amazing experiences. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work on and off pitch, as everyone here will know, so you have to make sure you enjoy it.
“I’ve been through a lot of different situations over there so it’s a club I will always hold close to my heart. I take a huge amount of good memories with me and I think I leave on very good terms. I wish them all the very best but, as I said earlier, sometimes you have to do what’s best for your career and perhaps take a chance or two. That’s what I’ve done with this move.”
And the trip across to Brunton Park reunites him with another former-Pools man in Matt Robson, who joined the Cumbrians from the north east back in 2009.
“I haven’t had the chance to talk to him yet but I’ll definitely give him a bell to find out as much as I can,” he said. “It’ll be good to see him again and it’s always a bit easier to settle in when you know someone.
“I’m in a good position because I’ve played against Carlisle a lot of times and I know what the club is about. The fans are passionate and they really get behind their team home and away. That’s something players always appreciate.
“It really is a case of just getting on with it. Ideally pre-season would start now but at least I have a week or so to get myself prepared mentally for the job of taking on new surroundings and this new challenge. I have no doubt the manager will work us hard and my part of it is to put the effort in to make sure I’m part of the team when we kick off against Luton.”