Lionesses manager Sarina Wiegman says it’s only a matter of time before women are coaching men’s teams in the professional game – and “more will follow”.
Wiegman has been tipped as an outsider to succeed Gareth Southgate as the boss of England men’s national team, with his contract due to expire after next summer’s European Championships.
That would make her the first woman in a permanent head coach role in the men’s game in the English game, though Forest Green Rovers did make history earlier this year when Hannah Dingley was named caretaker boss in July.
Asked about the prospect of more women becoming involved in the top levels of the men’s game, in the same week Rebecca Welch became the first female fourth official in the Premier League during Man Utd’s win at Fulham, Wiegman said it was an inevitable development – and a welcome one.
“In football, it’s still the question of can a female coach a male team?” Wiegman, who guided England to Euro 2022 success and led them to the World Cup final this year, said. “I think in every sector females are in higher positions, so that’s a little bit strange [it isn’t in football].
“I think a female can coach a men’s team. My thoughts are not there. I am just really happy in the role I work in now and I am really enjoying it.
“And, as you say, sometimes I think when I see it, it is so personal, also with men in the men’s game. I think, how much fun is that?
“We know Corinne Diacre coached a men’s team in France and more females also in Italy coached men. I think it is a matter of time and I think when first one happens it will be really big – but I think then more will follow.
“When I was a little kid I was not allowed to play football as a girl, but now everyone says, ‘Oh why not?’ Hopefully in 20 years we say, ‘Why did we think females couldn’t coach males?’ Hopefully that will change quickly.”
Wiegman: I’m not a pain, I’m direct!
Following her exploits with the women’s national team, Wiegman has released a book called ‘What It Takes’, detailing her life as a coach and her philosophy in getting the best out of players.
In the book, the 54-year-old, who is under contract until 2025, writes about being open to returning to club football, but insists she has no immediate wish to leave her job with the Lionesses.
Wiegman has won praise for her people skills, even though her direct nature has potential to cause problems.
Her book features contributions from people that she has worked with over her career and one contribution from a coach at the Dutch FA described her as a “pain in the ass”.
“That was funny,” Wiegman said. “I sent him a text the other day, ‘pain in the ass?’. We can act like everything is always right, the sun’s always shining, but that’s not the case, it’s not always nice.
“We’ve seen lots of nice things like the end product but it’s very hard work and it’s overcoming setbacks, and getting critics but also learning from it.
“It’s good to share because no one in life has only good experiences, everyone makes mistakes too and try to learn from the mistakes and do things better every day.
“That’s part of life, I think that makes people more powerful to share some vulnerability. That’s what they say, that we [the Dutch] are direct, what’s important for me is that I’m clear in my messages.
“Clarity of how we want to play, how we want to treat each other, clarity on performances, that’s key to improve. There’s no grey area. Direct doesn’t mean rude.
“We should not confuse those two because you don’t have to be rude to be clear; you can also be nice and kind but saying what you see and think. We all want to perform at our highest level, then you need to give honest feedback.”