Honing his craft within a highly competitive sporting environment, Athlone native, Anthony Hayes, continues to enhance his burgeoning coaching career in the second tier of English professional football as Lead Development Coach of the Charlton Athletic U18 squad.
Now in his fourth season with the South London club, Anthony has been garnering much experience in the higher echelons of the professional football sphere, following a six year stint with Brentford, whom he joined in a coaching capacity in 2011.
Coaching is an obvious passion and speaking from his Chingford home to the Athlone Advertiser this week, Anthony’s voice is laden with passion as he recalls his the inaugural coaching course in which he participated, Kickstart 1, in McCarty Park, the home of St. Peters.
Having recently received news of his inclusion, as one of twenty coaches, to partake in the FAI UEFA Pro Licence culminating in 2022, the seventeen year journey will a journey of reward and a fulfilment of initial aspirations.
“That first coaching course was in 2005 and I am still learning and evolving in the ways of the professional game today,” Anthony remarked.
The son of Seamus and Dympna Hayes, Anthony harboured plans to take over the family business, Music World, but as the industry transitioned towards a streaming service, he discussed his future option with his parents with football coaching very much a prevalent thought.
“I had two playing spells with Athlone Town and one with Limerick FC, making my debut for my hometown club as a 16 year old in Terryland Park, but unfortunately, my career was cut short due to a cruciate ligament injury. Having had a flavour for the game at such a competitive level, I realised that I wanted to remain involved in football in a coaching capacity,” Anthony commented.
Anthony made the decision to retire during the 2009/10 League of Ireland season, and having broached the coaching topic with Athlone IT Careers Officer, Denise Dolan, chose to commit his future to his present working environment.
“I travelled to the US in March 2010 where I was based in New Jersey coaching players from in an age bracket from three to eighteen years. I was also involved in the coaching of college and womens’ teams in the locality. The work would take me to Maryland and into New York City at times, but it afforded me an initial wealth of experience,” Anthony added.
It was during his time in the US that he met his wife, Athena, and although he planned to stay for a two year duration in America, he decided to return to London after twelve months.
“It is January 2011 and I am back in the UK, no work, but hoping to continue along the coaching road. Fortunately, through contacts, I was offered the opportunity to work with a number of community groups in west London with links to Brentford FC.
“This allowed me to build upon my coaching ability and as time elapsed and an impression was made, Stuart English, Brentford Assistant Academy Manager and Shaun O’Connor, Brentford Recruitment Manager, approached me to host a training session with a view to obtaining a more prominent role with the club.
“Thankfully, it went well for me and I was offered a role working with the U10 squad in the club’s academy. Working on a part-time basis initially for an 18 month period, I eventually fulfilled a full-time position as the club transitioned from a centre of excellence to academy status in May 2012,” Anthony continued.
The Griffin Park based club, who currently occupy a play-off position in the Championship, made the decision to close their academy in 2016 and with that Anthony had to find alternative employment.
“Hull and QPR were interested in my services, but I opted for Charlton Athletic being in close proximity to where I live and the family feel attached to the club. With responsibility for those players from aged 16-18, it is ultimately a rewarding role, as you are witnessing advancing teenagers aspiring to progress to the professional game.
“I love working with players from this age bracket as they are always willing to learn, they know how close they are to becoming a professional footballer and what that may entail for their futures on a personal level. They know if they apply themselves with the right mentality they can have a future in the game,” Anthony asserted.
One such talent is fellow Athlone native and former Marist College student, Dylan Gavin, who has featured for the club’s U18 team on numerous occasions this season.
“It truly has been a life changing experience for Dylan since he joined Charlton Athletic. Being from the same town, I would regularly speak with Dylan regarding his development. He continues to make strides and it is my job and that of my fellow academy coaches to polish his talent so he succeeds in the game,” Anthony reiterated.
In what is an all consuming profession, Anthony’s daily weekday routine sees him depart his home at 5.30am for a 7am start at the training ground.
“I aim to be at the training ground and ready to greet the players when they start to arrive from 8am. I then sit down with my fellow academy coaches and we discuss the session to come and how the players are progressing within their respective academy groupings.
“The training session starts at 10am with lunch at 1.30pm. Each Monday and Tuesday, the academy squads would train in the afternoon also. Although Wednesday is pencilled in as a day off, it is normally taken up with administration work.
“League games occur every Saturday and you can spend most of Sunday thinking about the previous day’s ninety minutes, but you do have to zone out and afford some quality time to family life also. This can prove difficult if the team has suffered a loss and you are running through various scenarios in your head,” Anthony stated.
Returns to the homestead are limited and visits are brief when they do happen, such is the nature of Anthony’s profession.
Placed on furlough by the club as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a wholly detrimental impact in London, Anthony is preparing for the start of his UEFA Pro Licence coaching course which takes place at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown in November.
There were ninety applications for what is recognised as the highest coaching certification in Europe with Anthony having a detailed and prolonged interview to obtain a prized place.
“The interview involved a detailed match analysis and a fifteen minute discussion relating to my coaching philosophy. I have just completed an online induction course this week and I look forward to flying into Dublin to formally start the course in November,” Anthony enthused.
Also taking part on the UEFA Pro Licence course will be former Irish internationals, John O’Shea and Andy Keogh, with former Chelsea goalkeeper, Carlo Cudicini another notable inclusion.
At the tender age of 33, Anthony has gained a wealth of coaching nous to date and should the opportunity present in the future, a relevant role working in the senior ranks of the profession holds much appeal.
“I am ambitious by nature and would love to apply my coaching methods to the senior game in England. I have been fortunate to work with so many talented coaches during my ten seasons in London and in my present position, to have the daily opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas about the game with first team manager, Lee Bowyer, and U23 manager, Jason Euell, both of whom have vast Premier League football playing experience, can only enhance my coaching career into the future,” Anthony stated.