Birmingham City boss Ward will join their exclusive club if she can be swayed by West Ham but it’s hard to predict the future for sacked Spurs duo Hills and Amoros when you look at where other departed managers are now, writes Rich Laverty.
Sackings used to be rare in the Women’s Super League but as the money and pressure grows, so do the firings.
Andy Spence, Pedro Losa, Scott Rogers, and Marta Tejedor have all found that out to their cost in the last few years. Last Thursday, long-serving Tottenham co-head coaches Karen Hills and Juan Carlos Amoros joined the growing list of managerial casualties, and Matt Beard left West Ham by mutual consent after recording just one win this season.
With the introduction of prize money through the new Barclays sponsorship last season and TV rights set to be sold for the first time next term, the demand for quick results has intensified.
The decision by Spurs – who are without a victory in the league so far – certainly wasn’t made on a whim after the Continental Cup shootout defeat by Arsenal, given replacement head coach Rehanne Skinner was ready and in place less than 24 hours later. Yet, the rapid changeover once again hints at the brutal new nature of the WSL.
Skinner is a good coach, someone well ingrained within the England system, having been in charge of various youth teams and recently stepping up to assist manager Phil Neville after Bev Priestman left to become Canada’s head coach.
Where do Hills and Amoros have a future? It’s hard to say. Only two managers have found themselves another top-flight job after departing a WSL club – Beard is one of them and Willie Kirk the other.
Others have found solace elsewhere, such as Losa at Bordeaux and Shelley Kerr with the Scotland national team, but some fall off the map completely. Former Liverpool boss Rogers is now working in the men’s game at Blackburn Rovers, but the last manager to lose their job before this season, Tejedor, is yet to find another coaching role.
Rick Passmoor and Carlton Fairweather are two other names looking to seek employment elsewhere within the men’s game after leaving the WSL, with Passmoor coaching youth teams at Scunthorpe United. The WSL is a small world in a small league with available jobs few and far between.
There are 92 football league clubs, and the financial demands and pressures mean jobs come up fairly regularly but, with just 23 teams under the same category in the women’s game, vacancies don’t come up often. When one does, it might be a while before it comes back around.
Nick Cushing was safe as houses at Manchester City before he moved on of his own accord after six years, while the Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United jobs look as secure as ever, with Kelly Chambers also offering long-term stability at Reading.
Beard’s departure, though, means none of the original eight WSL managers are still in the league – and some have not worked in the women’s game again.
John Buckley left Doncaster Rovers Belles in 2013 and has not coached at a senior level again. Another ex-Reds boss, Robbie Johnson, had a brief spell as the Jordan Under-17s women’s head coach, but that was his only move back into the women’s game, and he’s now a youth team coach for Everton. Rod Wilson of Lincoln City Ladies is no longer involved in football after moving into home design and qualifying as an electrical engineer.
David Parker, a huge success at Birmingham City until his departure in 2016, has also not worked in the women’s game since and now lives abroad. Mark Sampson, of course, went on to coach England. But it is the only two female managers at the time who seem to have fared the best, with Laura Harvey now in the USA and Mo Marley only recently retired.
Beard has been around long enough and achieved enough at various clubs to have a chance of getting another job, but for Hills and Amoros, the question is: where do they go now?
While Tottenham quickly swooped for their new head coach, West Ham may find it more difficult, despite an anticipated offer for Birmingham City’s Carla Ward. I worked with Ward for two years at Sheffield United. She is an exciting young coach but has still only been a number one for less than three years, and West Ham is a big job, with a lot of work needed to pull a team of individuals together into a functioning unit.
At Birmingham, her resources are less, but her current success all the more impressive for it. She has pulled together a squad from very little and got them playing a tune, making her a cult hero in the hearts and minds of the Blues faithful already.
It would be a shrewd move, but one not certain to pay off, with the Hammers no doubt having other options should Ward opt to stay in Birmingham and see the job through until at least the end of the campaign.
If Ward did take the job, she would quickly join an exclusive club that currently only includes the departed Beard and Everton manager Kirk.
Follow Rich on Twitter @RichJLaverty