The Offside Rule’s Rich Laverty caught up with the Lionesses legend to talk about developing her coaching skills, the national team’s current managerial situation and the FA WSL reformat.
Former Arsenal and England footballer Rachel Yankey believes the next England Women’s head coach should simply be the “best coach”, whether that be male or female.
Speaking at BETFAIR’s Fairer Game campaign in London — where the forward is fronting the company’s attempts to address gender imbalance in football coaching by funding courses for 50 aspiring female coaches to complete their UEFA B licence — Yankey spoke passionately about her aspirations for the future and the England team.
After Mark Sampson was sacked last month, with current Under-19s manager Mo Marley taking the reins until the end of the year, attentions now turn to who will be the next permanent head coach.
“I think the FA need to make sure they have their criteria of what they want from an England team and an England manager,” said Yankey. “It doesn’t even have to be a British coach, I’m of the opinion it should be the best coach, male or female, British or foreign.
“I’d like to see England play more attractive football, to become more exciting to watch because we have some fantastic, talented footballers.”
Whilst some exceptional female managers such as Seattle Reign’s Laura Harvey and Chelsea’s Emma Hayes have been linked, along with Marley herself, Yankey is hoping her work with BETFAIR can ensure the pool of female coaches going for the top jobs can grow larger in the future.
“Hopefully, with this campaign we can start to give confidence to these female coaches trying to get their UEFA B licence and that in the future we have more females to pick from and more names we can throw about for these jobs.”
Among the 50 being funded to achieve their UEFA B license were Aston Villa captain Chloe Jones, Sunderland’s Rachel Pitman and Reading’s Kerry Walklett, while Yankey herself is now pursuing her UEFA A licence after achieving her UEFA B.
“We’ve been doing a little coaching session, so I showed them what I did for my UEFA B final assessment,” she said. “We played it out, spoke about what we’d do and got them to think that they were on their UEFA B assessment.
“When you’re a player you think as a player and not necessarily as a coach, so it’s just about trying to show them what it will look like and to have to think about what you can do and the bigger picture.”
After a 20-year playing career largely spent with the dominant Arsenal Ladies, Yankey hasn’t completely ruled out playing again, but admits coaching has been part of her life for a long time now.
“I’ve always coached, ever since I was 16. I’ve not made a big deal of it or shouted about it but I’ve always worked in primary schools and coached young kids, I even coached when I played at Fulham.
“I enjoy it. I enjoy working with players and seeing people get better and improve. We can all get something out of playing and that’s why I’ve always enjoyed working with people, whether it’s kids who can’t kick or a ball or those who are very talented.”
The 37-year- old, who has just given birth to her first child, says management isn’t yet immediately on the horizon, admitting she simply wants to learn and become the “best coach I can be”.
“I’ve no plans to be going out there and managing a team just yet,” Yankey explains. “It’s about me trying to learn. Before I gave birth, I was coaching with Haringey Borough Under 18 boys, seeing how they played football and trying to make those players better.”
Despite current interim coach Marley and former assistant to Sampson, Marieanne Spacey, being two of the strong favourites for the England job, there’s a distinct lack of former players involved within the England coaching setup, whilst Kelly Smith has spent time coaching with Arsenal.
With players such as Smith, Yankey, Casey Stoney, Laura Bassett and Natasha Dowie all having studied their UEFA A licence, Yankey has no set plan to work with Arsenal or England, but hopes the FA support former players who want to remain in the game.
“All of us want to coach and we’d all give you totally different answers about why we’re involved,” she said. “For me, I want to learn and get better and become the best and most well-rounded coach I can be. There’s not an ultimate aim of going to work with a certain club at a certain time, it’s just about trying to become better.”
She added, “If the FA want former players in the game and coaching they need to support them. The Fairer Game campaign is about that fair pathway, we’re offering a chance to these 50 coaches to get funded and get their UEFA B.”
With a six-week- old baby in the house and the new mother pursuing her own coaching career, Yankey admits she hasn’t been able to keep fully up-to- date with recent news regarding the restructuring of the FA Women’s Super League for next season.
The FA announced last month the FA WSL 1 is to become a fully professional league at the start of the next campaign, a move that has brought controversy due to the fact some clubs will lose places to those ranked below them based on finances and other off-field factors.
Yankey understands the drawbacks and financial factors, but hopes a fully professional league can make the FA WSL more competitive.
“I would love to see every team go fully professional,” she expresses. “But, money does come into it and I hope it doesn’t go the way it looks at the moment where the three big spenders run away with it.
“I had years of people telling me at Fulham or Arsenal that we were only good because we had the money. It shouldn’t be about that, it should be about the talent you’re producing. I’m not sure how you make it fair and balanced, you look at a club like Birmingham City as a good example.
“They play good football, have good players and a good young manager in Marc Skinner. He wants to play the right way, but would he have the same budget and is that going to stop his team from competing, or will the new league help them? We don’t know yet.”
To follow the women on their Betfair Fairer Game journey, visit fairergame.com