WITH 631 Hartlepool United appearances between them, Antony Sweeney and Ian McGuckin are well versed in all things blue and white.

Today, however, is a first for the pair. When Pools take on Brackley Town at Victoria Park in the FA Cup, they will be forming a managerial partnership in the home dug out.

Their debut started swimmingly, an away win at Aldershot last weekend.

At home, however, it’s a different sort of story, a special pressure bestowed on Sweeney and his youth team associate.

“I’m looking forward to Saturday,’’ smiled Sweeney. “I would hope there’s 3,500 people with an opinion who won’t be shy to share it around me! I’m looking forward to how the players perform because if they carry on doing what they have done in training, it’s a game to look forward to.’’

Sweeney and McGuckin took the youth team to Stockport in midweek for an FA Youth Cup tie and won 6-0. Six days earlier, Sweeney was there alongside Craig Hignett as Pools lost 2-1 and the manager lost his job.

Of McGuckin, who was two years retired when Sweeney made his Pools debut in 2001, the caretaker boss admitted: “He’s been a massive help. I get on really well with him so we can be open and honest, no being guarded. He can say what he thinks, I can say what I think – and you don’t always agree, which is a good thing.

“We tend to agree on most things and he has helped a caretaker out before with Sam Collins, so he knows what to expect.

“He knows the football club, knows the players, the fans. He’s been great for me and helps ease the burden as well.

“We’ve gone from being two and a half staff with first team coaching – me being the half with the under-19s too – to one and one with the 19s. He’s been excellent, a massive help.’’

Sweeney the player at Pools has had plenty of experience of managerial changes. He played under 13 managers, caretakers included from 2001-2014.

“I’ve been a player here when a manager has left. I understand what they need and want,’’ he reflected.

“In the past sometimes a caretaker has come in and it’s all changed. As a player you tend to think if that was the thought process before then why wasn’t it done then, why need a change in management?

“I’ve learned from that. It would be disrespectful to Craig and Ged to go and change things drastically. I was part of their team, so if I didn’t agree with them they why didn’t I say so at the time?

“That I didn’t disagree, then it suggests that a large part of me agreed.

“In football you can do everything but sometimes results don’t click.

“We have not scored enough goals, that’s clear to see. If we had scored more then defenders become more confident that mistakes won’t be as costly.’’

Thrown into the job last weekend on the back of no training with the players, Sweeney has this time had a week to prepare for today’s game against a side from a division below.

“It’s been a good week for me personally. I’ve learned so much,’’ he admitted. “Being part of a three-man coaching team and it’s divided out a bit, being the sole one to deliver, to time things, to coach and it’s learning process in itself. Team selection, substitutions...

“It’s going to be different, but I’ve enjoyed the experience and no matter what or how long it goes for I will see it as a positive.

“I’ve been able to speak to people I’ve played with and played under. Darrell Clarke rang me, but I’ve missed his call so I need to ring him back.

“I spoke to Ben Clark and in football terms he has had one of the hardest caretaker roles at Gateshead and he is on the end of the phone for me.

“Previous players, coaches and managers and I won’t be afraid to use their numbers if need be. They’ve always said when they were part of the club if I needed them they would be there.’’