Sarina Wiegman held her first press conference as the soon-to-be manager of England Women and she clearly believes the foundations are already in place to take the team to the next level.
Wiegman will take charge of the Lionesses in September 2021 after she leads the Dutch national team in their Olympic 2021 campaign next summer, however she has clearly been assessing the set-up she will inherit.
“When I started coaching, I never thought that this would be an opportunity,” Wiegman stated. “There’s great potential in England.”
It might be what you expect a newly appointed coach to say but Wiegman knows better than anyone what it means to nurture talent.
Wiegman said: “England have a very strong team already and what I would like to do is come in and add something.
“There’s already very good quality. We have a framework that I would like to play in, but also from this framework, add some things and take into account your opponent.”
It’s a problem that Phil Neville’s England team has encountered in the past: unwilling to impose themselves on weaker sides, they have allowed themselves to overthink possession and lose out.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine two more different appointments than the two that the Football Association have made for the England Women’s team. From a manager who had only taken charge of one game at Salford City to one who won Euro 2017 and took her team to the final of the Women’s World Cup just last year.
At her first press conference as England manager-elect, there’s a sense of Sarina Wiegman’s methodical calm. When asked about the pressure of being the first foreign manager of the team, she said: “When I started coaching, I never thought that this would be an opportunity.
“I’m really happy that I’ve got the opportunity to coach abroad. It’s difficult, it’s challenging, and yes it’s another country but I’m now a professional coach.
“I think there’s pressure anyway. The England team has done very well. They’ve had major performances the last three tournaments. It’s just the way you act about pressure. And you just have to prepare and do anything that’s in your power to perform well as a team.”
An inability to deal with pressure is something that has hung over both English national teams. The looming event of a home Euros in 2022 will do nothing to dispel it but it’s something that Wiegman is very familiar with. Her Netherlands team were a bit of a surprise package at Euro 2017, winning their home tournament. It is undoubtedly part of what attracted the FA to her.
“We said we have a chance in our own country to show everyone how well we can play the game,” she said. “We were open, we showed that we were working hard. We were close to the fans.
“I think that can make a difference. Just work hard, respect each other, and play the best game you can play. It sounds easy – but it’s hard work.”
Wiegman is no stranger to hard work. After a career as a player which saw her amass more than 100 caps for the Netherlands, she managed several clubs including the unique experience of an ‘internship’ at men’s team Sparta Rotterdam.
She continued: “We had to get used to each other because they were not used to having a woman in the group, and I was with all these men. It was good to be in such an environment, to see what they do – do they do things different than with women?
“Of course, a woman is different from a man, but in the game, the tactics and the techniques are the same.
“I knew when I got the opportunity to train or do a drill, I just needed to deliver.
“That’s what I’ve been working on all the time. Work hard. Deliver when it’s needed, and you get respect.”
That hard work led to Wiegman landing a role as assistant manager of the Netherlands, before being promoted to the main job. Six months after her appointment, they had won the Euros.
“We needed to go through this ceiling of believing that we can win, that we can beat top countries,” she said. “Everyone started to believe that we could do well. It starts to grow. So it’s all about preparations – but belief. And of course, you always need a little bit of luck too.”
It’s clear that she feels ready for a new challenge with England – once she’s finished coaching the Netherlands team at the Olympics next summer.
Wiegman added: “It’s a world class team and a world class situation I am in. We are very happy that I can be part of that, and that I can bring my experience and knowledge to the team.
“In England, the game is quicker. There’s so much power. They’ve developed the game so much.
“There’s a big organisation behind it, they have a professional league. The facilities are great. There’s so many players which are so talented.”
It finally feels like the team have a manager to match it all.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph