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A New Hope

hope interview

Ex-England women’s manager Hope Powell on the challenges of her new role in the PFA Coaching Department and what it’s like stepping into the men’s game to inspire the next generation of coaches…

You joined the PFA as a Regional Coach in the summer – how’s your role going?

So far, so good. It’s very different to what I’ve been doing previously. Different because it’s in the male environment rather than the female environment. I have been well received. I’m enjoying the experience and I’ve been learning from the coaches in our department. I’m enjoying going to the clubs and talking to different coaches.

How does the men’s game differ?

The structure is very different. The fact the education programme falls in the academy structure and the football club has a responsibility to deliver that is different. It’s quite extreme – you have clubs that have lots and those who don’t have as much. That’s interesting. Working with the boys, the scholars, is quite insightful. They are at the beginning of their journey and they are still children. The characters, the personalities and what drives them varies. And working with the older players at the back end of their career, retiring and wanting to take up a role at their club, is different. It’s just nice to work with different groups and share experiences about football.

Have you had any issues with being a woman in the game?

No. None whatsoever.

Is it a non-issue?

I don’t know whether it’s because I’m known – even to the younger players. If it was someone less known it might be different. But it’s less of an issue than it was even five years ago because of the visibility of women’s football on telly. It has been well-documented over the last ten years and it’s gaining momentum and respect. It hasn’t been an issue for me, it has been very pleasurable to share my experiences and knowledge. I’m hoping it will be less and less about gender and more about football.

What’s your remit?

I work with seven clubs to deliver Level 2 to the scholars, starting them on their coaching pathway. The stats are quite alarming with the number of boys who get released, so it’s a good way to keep them involved in the game. It’s one avenue they can go down but it doesn’t suit everybody. They have no choice – they have to do it, which can be a challenge. I’m also running the UEFA B Licence for those players coming towards the end of their career and supporting in situ those coaches who are going to go on to do their B Licence and A Licence.

What will success look like in your job?

Success is getting the scholars through so they attain a certain level of understanding of coaching and it puts them on that journey. Hopefully they’ll enjoy it enough to in some point go back to it. It’s not easily measured. Most of the boys get through their Level 2 because of the environment they’re in and the support they get. It’s long-term measurements – what happens next down the line – that could be 10, 15 years away.

Has the switch from coaching teams to coaching coaches been difficult?

To be honest, I’ve always done it. I did work for FIFA while I was at the FA in coach education. I understand the concept and differences between preparing a team for a football match and preparing coaches. It’s very clear and distinct for me.

Do you get a buzz from passing on your knowledge?

I really do. I’ve done a lot since I lost my job at the FA in the last couple of years, travelling the world and sharing my experiences and knowledge and trying to help people. That’s what I love to do. The same in the men’s game. They don’t need the help as much as they have a foundation that is long and deep. In women’s football those knowledgeable people are lacking. I’m also in a position where I feel like I am learning again from the knowledge of the men’s game – the people you interact with are different so it’s great.

How do you view the state of coaching in men’s and women’s football?

I think there’s always room to learn and improve. The better coaches who can deliver and get their point across and understand what they are doing are the ones open to learning, trying new things, being challenged and being challenging. There are some really good people that do that, but there aren’t enough.

Sometimes when you get a qualification it can suggest you’ve reached the max. Some people, not everybody, sense ‘I’m there now’. I have as much to learn as people starting on their journey. I want to learn and I’m very open to it.

Is it important for coaches to have a philosophy?

The new structure encourages coaches to have a plan and a vision of what they would like – how you’d like your players to play, the environment you want them to work in. It doesn’t mean to say they have all the answers to have a philosophy.

When I was England manager that job was almost like my club. I had a philosophy around how we were going to play, how we were going to conduct ourselves. It was a philosophy that would evolve. There was definitely a clear philosophy about performance versus development because they are two very different things. I went from 4-4-2 when I first started to doing 4-3-3 and playing through the thirds. A philosophy can be as wide and as big as you want it to be. I had different strands.

Is the PFA having an impact on coaching education?

They have made the courses more accessible, which is important because football is a 12-month schedule now. It’s really good that the PFA do bespoke courses that fit around player availability, which is generally at the end of the season, done in smaller blocks because of the environment they are in.

Do you welcome initiatives to close the gender gap in coaching, such as running courses outside the WSL season?

Yes. When I was at the FA I was in the group who proposed the recent women’s A Licence course. That was all under my remit. It was great that after many years of discussion it finally happened. The PFA was part of that. I know it’s needed, because not every female is confident going into a male environment and sometimes the women get lost – but it would be great if these courses could be 50/50 split rather than all male or female. It’s like the FTSE 100 companies – get a diverse board and production goes up.

In the women’s game there are lots of B licences and then the numbers take a rapid decline on A licences. So having those bespoke courses at the moment works – because it means that the women who sometimes aren’t as confident get an opportunity that they’re comfortable with.

What’s holding women back from getting their coaching qualifications?

The biggest problem is the cost, which I’ve been saying for years. The opportunities are fewer for women to go back into coaching because there are more opportunities for men than women and that’s not necessarily because they’re better. There are a lot of highly qualified women who can’t get roles in women’s football, which is lunacy. That’s something I’m hoping over time will change. Why would you want to be a coach and invest if you aren’t going to get a return on it? An A licence costs thousands, it’s not cheap.

hope interview

CAREER LANDMARKS

  • 1983-1998: 66 England caps
  • 1996: League and FA Cup double with Croydon
  • 1998: Aged 31 becomes the first woman, first black person and the youngest coach ever to take charge of an England national side
  • 2003: Inducted into English Football Hall of Fame
  • 2003: First woman to earn the UEFA Pro Licence coaching qualification
  • 2009: Leads England to final of the Euros
  • 2012: Coaches the Team GB women’s football team at the London Olympics

THE ENGLAND BOSS

Hope Powell on whether the England women’s team should be managed by a woman…

“Yes, absolutely. If you’d have asked me that 15 years ago I’d have said ‘best person for the job’ but now I would say absolutely it should be a female because it gives women something to aspire to.

“‘I see it therefore I can be it’ is one big thing I like to say. Men have so many more opportunities than women. They have opportunities in the men’s game and opportunities in the women’s game. Women generally only have opportunities in the women’s game. I am an exception to that rule. So I think ‘bloody hell – get rid of me, not nice. But employ a woman.’ But then I’m not the decision maker.”