England boss Sarina Wiegman has what it takes to be first female manager in men’s football
She is operating on a higher managerial plane. If a job in the Premier League or the Championship comes up in the next few months, the club in question should be ready to cross the Rubicon and ask the FA for permission to speak to Wiegman.
The idea of a woman managing men in most walks of life is so normal it is rarely worth passing comment on. A woman may soon be running the country again. In sport though – and particularly in football – the notion is viewed as outlandish.
Cheri Lunghi might have done it in The Manageress but in real life it has been viewed as a non-starter. Corinne Diacre managed Clermont in the French Second Division for three seasons between 2014 and 2017 but that is pretty much it as far as Europe’s top leagues go.
There have been female assistants – Wiegman herself spent a season as one at Sparta Rotterdam in 2016 – but the top jobs in top-level men’s football have remained a male preserve.
The psyche of the game, the machismo and the testosterone fences them off. Yet why shouldn’t someone as obviously outstanding in her field as Wiegman be considered? After all, Andy Murray had no problem appointing Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014.
Men’s football is different from the women’s game but not so radically different as to imagine for a second that Wiegman could not adapt to it. The question is whether the players could adapt to her.
A dressing room pack mentality is strong. For many, if not all, she would be the first female coach they had worked with in their lives and for all Wiegman’s CV, many would inevitably start out sceptical. But the buy-in she would need might not be as difficult to come by as most clubs would instinctively fear.
Elite sport coaching has changed because players have changed. Generation Z responds less to the hairdryer and more to the arm around the shoulder. The alpha male gorilla chest beat has been replaced by a more empathetic management style. And empathy is traditionally a female strong suit.
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You would hardly call Wiegman a soft touch – she had no qualms about cutting former captain Steph Houghton from her Euros squad and, as one of her former players observed, an ability to spit fire from her eyes. But behind the Dutch directness, she also possesses the people skills and compassion that help to make every one of her Lionesses feel valued.
Strip away the preconceptions and she is exactly the sort of modern manager that clubs should be queuing up for.
With the scrutiny switching to the men’s game would inevitably attract, Wiegman may not want the hassle just as Chelsea women’s manager Emma Hayes was having none of it when Wimbledon were interested in her. But equally, after everything she has achieved in the women’s game, she may just fancy being the one to smash the glass ceiling. She has all the attributes to do so.
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