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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

John Hackworth, a year on the job

Last week, while the Philadelphia Union had dispersed for the international break after being eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup, manager John Hackworth quietly celebrated his one-year anniversary of taking the helm at PPL Park. A lot has changed since Peter Nowak was axed and Hackworth installed June 13, 2012, so much so that I thought it worthy of a column in Thursday's paper hitting the highs of Hackworth's reign.

I had the chance to sit down with Hackworth briefly Wednesday — other news understandably occupied the press conference — to discuss his year on the job.

On his recollections of the day and what it meant to him:
Certainly the day that I found out and the day it was announced, was a huge change for this organization. And looking back on it, there are a lot of mixed feelings because Peter and I were very close, and you don’t ever want to get an opportunity at the expense of someone else’s loss, and that was on a personal level somewhat hard to deal with. You’re conflicted for sure, but it’s certainly something that long-term I thought wanted to do and a major goal of mine. And the way that the club and the players supported me during the transition being an interim, having to earn the job as a head coach, was a very positive experience for me. Now being a year-plus into it, it’s nice because I know how hard this business is and know how volatile it can be and the pressures that go into it. I think if you can be consistent and be into it, the one true measure if you’re good at this level is longevity. Making it a year, while it’s not long, is a very positive step.

On how far he's seen the club come from when he took the reins:
I think for me, and I think that’s probably the reason why I’m more optimistic than some other people feel, is that there’s so many logistics, problems, issues that in our league are challenges to trying to really change a direction and having the resources to do that. So I’m really quite pleased with where we are now and knowing where we were and our situation both with our roster and cap space and long-term cap space and all those kinds of things. I think we’re in a position where we have developed a good team. We’re still really young; we’ve kept a lot of the same young guys that we started with in that D.C. game, the first one I was in charge of, and they’re still the core of our team. And yet we’ve added a couple of pieces that have been very important and we’re still making progress. It’s hard for the normal person or fan to understand, but it’s a slow process to put yourself as a club and an organization to make positive changes.

On his dependence on youthful players in his tenure:
I’ve used the word ‘trust’ a lot, and I’ve put a lot of trust in those guys, put a lot of faith in them. And they deserved it. They’re making me look good when they play as good as they have, but in reality, I think as a coach that’s one of the most important things that you have to do, especially at a professional level. It’s all about being confident in your own ability, confident in your teammates, confident in you coaches. It allows you to go through the hard times and the tough times and the mistakes and deal with it much better. What I really am impressed about is that we have young guys that have gone through some of those very tough growing pains and are coming out on the other end of it and doing well, still growing. And that point, no matter how long this lasts, no matter how long or short it is, I’m going to be proud of that in this first year.

On whether he still has a relationship with Nowak:
I’ll keep that to myself.

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