Melissa Phillips has left her position as Brighton Women head coach with immediate effect.
The American has spent 10 months in the role, taking over from Jens Scheuer in April 2023. She led the Seagulls to Women’s Super League safety last season, and competed in the FA Cup semi-finals, where Brighton narrowly lost out to Manchester United.
She leaves with Brighton 10th in the WSL after 12 games, six points clear of Bristol City at the bottom of the table. They have won three games this season, but were beaten by champions Chelsea at the weekend.
Mikey Harris will take interim charge, supported by Owen Fisher – both of whom move from the boys academy – and the current staff in the women’s team.
Technical director David Weir said: “This is not a decision which has been taken lightly, but we feel it is vital for the progress we want to see in the Women’s Super League.
“We have invested heavily in the women’s squad and infrastructure going into this season, and results and performances have not been at the level we had expected, given that investment.
“We would like to thank Melissa for her efforts and, on behalf of everyone at the club, we wish her well for the future.”
Women’s managing director Zoe Johnson added: “I would like to echo David’s words of thanks and wish Melissa well moving forward.
“The immediate priority is upcoming WSL, Conti Cup and FA Cup matches against Manchester United this Sunday, and Aston Villa and Wolves the following week; while also beginning the search for a permanent head coach.”
Analysis: Phillips departure feels like a shock
Sky Sports’ Charlotte Marsh:
“This feels like a shock departure. Much of the discussion with Phillips herself and the Brighton players – including Maria Thorisdottir only on Friday – spoke about the project at the club, building towards a team that can challenge those top three or four teams.
“She had a number of new players in her squad this summer as the aforementioned ‘project’ started to take shape. But they were players of real talent and a signal from the club that they were backing their women’s team.
“Now, it feels like that has all come to a screeching halt. It’s now ‘damage limitation’ to avoid the drop – although they remain well within range of mid-table, far closer than they are to 12th place.
“The signs of improvement have been clear under Phillips after a turbulent 2022/23 and there did not appear to be any conflict between managers, players or club. Although you never know what goes on behind closed doors, there were few rumblings of discontent.
“But the WSL can be an unforgiving league, especially when facing big hitters like Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City on a regular basis. Although one of her best moments will surely be a 1-0 win against Gareth Taylor’s side earlier this season.
“However, to sack a clearly talented manager who was working well with a new-look squad is a strange choice, especially at this stage of the season.
“The potential threat of relegation was clearly enough to make the Brighton hierarchy nervous. Whether it proves to have been the right choice remains to be seen.”