In the wake of leading the Netherlands to success at Women’s Euro 2017, Sarina Wiegman was asked about the predominance of male coaches in the female game. She replied:
“We, women, should take chances and not be humble.”
Offered the opportunity to replace England coach Phil Neville, the 50-year-old Dutchwoman has taken her own advice. Yet, the Lionesses’ first non-British coach will not take the role until next September.
First, Wiegman needs to fulfil her contract with the Dutch FA, and lead the Netherlands into next summer’s Tokyo Olympics. The KNVB have recently announced they are commissioning a statue of her to join the likes of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Rinus Michels in their coaching centre sculpture garden.
However, the delay raises the question as to who will coach Team GB in Japan. Neville, whose own contract expires in July 2021 would seem the obvious choice, and has expressed a desire to do so, but the FA are notably non-committal.
“We will renew our dialogue with the home nations. A decision… will be announced in due course,” said a statement.
As the England team won the slot with their fourth-placed finish at last year’s Women’s World Cup the role is the FA’s to dispense.
Meanwhile, the Dutch are in Tokyo as they went one better than England to reach the World Cup final, Wiegman impressively backing up Euro 2017 when their smart, vibrant football had the advantage of rabid home support. Playing a traditional Dutch 4-3-3 they overwhelmed England in the semi-finals 3-0, one of six straight victories as they ended a German hegemony that stretched back to 1995.
The Netherlands were less fluent in France last year, but still won six of six matches, conceding three goals, to reach the final. But they lost 2-0 to the almighty United States, led by former Jill Ellis, who was also scouted as a possible replacement for England’s main job.
Defensive organisation and consistency of selection would be welcome developments for an England team which has lost its way, and seven of the last 11 matches. The 13-month wait, however, for Wiegman to arrive is unhelpful, leaving England marking time under a lame-duck manager with attention increasingly on Team GB.
Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s director women’s football, said:
“Sarina is the perfect cultural fit for us, which is crucially important in building a winning team. Her technical expertise, leadership skills and winning mentality is hugely impressive.”
Wiegman won more than a century of caps, combining playing with teaching PE. Moving into coaching her success in domestic football led to her working with the national team and an internship with Sparta Rotterdam men. That highlighted to her the need to professionalise the approach in the women’s game. That should not be an issue with England, the best-funded team in Europe, but meeting the greater expectations may be.
“England is the cradle of football and I’m very much looking forward to contributing my experience and expertise to this ambitious team,” Wiegman during her announcement, “[But] For now, I am 100 per cent focused on Oranje.”
One consequence of the appointment is of the 11 permanent coaches of the England women’s team only has been an English woman, Hope Powell. However, as female coaches have won 12 of the last 13 major honours in the women’s international game, England do now appear on the right side of the trend-line.