Following the news that Phil Neville is set to step down as the head coach of the England Women’s national team, many names have been put forward to replace the ex-Manchester United and Everton man, including Casey Stoney, Emma Hayes and Jill Ellis.
Influenced by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the women’s football calendar, Phil Neville has chosen to leave his position as manager when his contract runs out in 2021, before any major tournament takes place.
The Tokyo Olympics has been postponed to the summer of 2021, while the European Championships, which is to be played on home soil, is now set to take place in 2022. The FA have stated their desire to have the same person to lead England out in these tournaments, along with the 2023 World Cup.
During Neville’s time in charge, women’s football has developed enormously regarding popularity and publicity, demonstrated by the peak audience of 11.9million watching the semi-final clash against USA in 2019, but the lack of silverware was disappointing. This makes the decision of who to appoint even more significant.
So, who will be the next boss hoping to take the reins? It feels like a big decision is to be made, as the England side are currently on the cusp of great success but have not quite reached the potential which they show for their respective clubs.
An issue which is very prevalent in debates, is whether it should be a woman in charge or simply the best candidate for the job. The FA would ideally appoint a woman, as this has not been the case since the removal of Hope Powell in 2013; however, they do not want to rule out top-class coaches in the women’s game purely based on gender.
This is a very contentious topic, and an interesting interpretation is that having a female boss in charge would show that it is the pinnacle job for female managers. Therefore, knowing that the FA are not going to poach someone from the men’s game could prove to be a motivation for up-and-coming female managers to strive for that position.
In addition, the debate of whether a foreign manager should be considered remains a quarrelsome issue which is seen across international sport. I believe a national team manager should be homegrown, as the point of a national team is to produce the best ‘team’ from that single nation. However, I understand that the motivation for victory could lead to choosing the best manager regardless of heritage.
Due to the current postponement of football in England, the FA have time to choose the perfect candidate, and so far, the three front runners are Casey Stoney, Emma Hayes and Jill Ellis.
Casey Stoney is the current Manchester United Women’s manager and is widely regarded as having all the qualities to become one of the best in England. At 38 years old, she is young, and has uncapped potential given her knowledge of the women’s game.
After 130 caps for the lionesses and becoming the first female member of the professional footballer’s association management committee in 2013, Stoney became assistant to Phil Neville when she retired in 2018, as part of the FA player-to-coach scheme. She was then appointed as the manager of Manchester United later that year, to propel her career into management at the highest level.
Stoney appears a very suitable candidate to replace Neville, however the only question is her lack of managerial experience at this stage in her career. Would it be too soon to give her this prestigious position?
Emma Hayes, the current Chelsea Women’s manager, is also an apt candidate for this role. She is currently regarded as one of England’s most talented coaches, regardless of gender, therefore there is no surprise that she is in contention for this job.
After enjoying eight years in charge of Chelsea, with notable league and cup doubles in 2015 and 2018, she has developed a tremendous knowledge of managing the women’s game, with a presence referred to as similar to the legendary Brian Clough.
The respect that she has acquired within English football is truly admirable, with many players believing she will be the first female manager to break into the men’s game. Whether chosen for the England job or not, there is no doubt that she is destined to become a ‘great’. This, however, may rule her out of the England job this time around, because her determination to win the Champions League with Chelsea could prove too tempting to pack her bags.
Jill Ellis has more experience than most at the international level, and she is regarded as England’s best chance to win silverware in the upcoming major tournaments. The 53-year-old, born in Portsmouth, is better known for her managerial exploits in the USA, however the England job could tempt her to move across the Atlantic.
During her five-year spell as USA head coach, Ellis became the first ever manager to win two women’s world cups (2015 and 2019). This achievement encapsulates her tremendous managerial success, in which she recorded an incredible win ratio of 87.5%.
If the FA want to take England Women to the next level and achieve success in the Olympics, Euros and World Cup, then no one has more pedigree or experience than Jill Ellis. However, as the recent equal pay movement in American ‘soccer’ has been so significant in the women’s game, Ellis may lay out certain contractual demands which the FA will have to consider.
Success in the coming years could transform the women’s game in England for the greater good. Luckily, there is time to weigh up the candidates due to the uncertainty as to when football will return in England. If the FA want to develop coaches at the top level, then Casey Stoney or Emma Hayes is the best option in my opinion. However, if they want success at any cost then Jill Ellis would undoubtedly be the best manager to take England forward.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk