The case for appointing Hope Powell
27 June ~ The search for a new manager is one of the most exhilarating and frustrating times to be a fan. For those of us who follow teams outside of the top flight it can be a time of wild speculation, from the sublime to the ridiculous, the hilarious to the horrendous. As I followed the inevitable rumour mill surrounding my club's vacant managerial position I always knew the names would contain humour and surprise in equal measure. I thought I had a good idea of what to expect. That was until I saw the name of one rumoured candidate.
My initial shock and dismay at the possibility of this person managing my club produced in me a mixture of emotions I hadn't anticipated. It opened a debate in my own mind, led me an unexpected conclusion and left me disappointed and embarrassed.
The candidate's CV reads as follows:
66 international caps, 35 goals, 1 World Cup, national team vice-captain
10 years top flight League football
3 FA Cup wins, league & Cup double.
UEFA Pro Licence
International head coach for 14 years
European Cup: 2001 group stages, 2005 quarter-final, 2009 runner-up
World Cup: 2007 quarter-final, 2011 quarter-final
2012 Olympic head coach
Bearing in mind that my team languishes in the lowest tier of the country's professional pyramid, this CV appears to be firmly in the realm of fantasy. Until you consider the one detail I have not mentioned. The CV belongs to Hope Powell, the current Great Britain Women's Olympic coach and former England coach.
Having followed the performances of the England women's team at the World Cup in 2011 and the 2009 Euros, I was more than aware of Powell, but this rumour led me to research her background and credentials further. Her CV is quite extraordinary. Were her career not within women's football, her experience would warrant a Premier League appointment without hesitation.
There is a huge gulf in the quality of the men's and women's game, of that there can be no doubt. But how big is that gap? How far a leap of faith could it be from the very top of the women's game to the very bottom of the men's professional pyramid?
Let's not forget that this woman holds a UEFA Pro Coaching Licence. That is the same licence as the best male coaches in the world. In becoming the first woman to obtain this qualification, Powell proved, to the UEFA examiners at least, that she has as much ability as all those who men who had gone before her.
What isn't quantifiable by any exam, test or analysis is the matter of whether a female coach could get the same impressive results with a squad of men. Would her gender prohibit the required levels or respect, attention and belief in her players? Surely that would mean the problem lies not in her gender but in the attitudes of the players?
In 2009 Powell was linked with the vacant managerial position at Grimsby Town. The link was denied by all parties but that did not stop most national newspapers from carrying the story. The appointment of a woman to a professional men's team would be a first for the game and would represent a seismic development in the sport.
When tough times come along, fans can be brutal towards their own, often saving the most virulent abuse for the manager. How much time would a fan give a struggling female manager before reaching the conclusion that her gender must be the cause? Are professional players now able to disregard the stereotypes? Could a female withstand the pressures of the media spotlight? How can we still be asking these ultimately sexist questions in 2012. There are more questions than answers and it will remain that way until a female breaks the mould and is given the opportunity to prove herself. One thing is for certain, there can be few better qualified to do it than Hope Powell.
And what, you may ask, was the unexpected conclusion that embarrassed me? Well, it wasn't the conclusion I found most embarrassing but my own initial reaction. Ultimately, I am not a fan of a Premier League club. My team has never been in the country's top flight, yet here was an internationally experienced, UEFA Pro Licenced coach being linked with my humble club. It was pure sexism that had formed my immediate reaction and this revelation was the greatest of surprises to me.
Who is to say whether Powell is the right person for the job but surely she should be given the same consideration as her peers on the UEFA course. If clubs decide she is not right for the role on footballing grounds that is fair enough. But a word of caution: make sure you have addressed your own beliefs first and make that decision for the right reasons.
This article appeared first on the I Bloody Love Football blog