Women’s World Cup: Casey Stoney – Man Utd boss on managing in men’s game
As a woman in football, it feels like you have to be twice as good at your job, and you have to work twice as hard, which is impossible for me because I give enough as it is as Manchester United manager.
Whenever I go on a coaching course, I have to spend the week earning respect, whereas a man gets it automatically.
So I can only imagine the pressure a woman would be under if she was a manager in the men’s game, a subject that was brought up when Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes was talked of as a potential successor to the Chelsea men’s team boss Maurizio Sarri.
Even if you went into League Two, take what happened to Macclesfield Town boss Sol Campbell as an example. The pressure on him was ramped up because of who he was, and if you’re a female doing the same, you’d be on the back foot even if you lose one game.
Those who have tried it tend not to last that long. Corinne Diacre was an exception, having managed French men’s team Clermont Foot for three seasons, but now she’s the manager of the France women’s team and doing well at the World Cup.
It would be a very brave decision taking that step, because you have to realise the timespan of a manager in the men’s game averages just over a year. When you have a family and have to keep a roof over your head, leaving a potentially more stable job in women’s football is a massive risk.
Right now, I can’t envisage ever going into men’s football and I wouldn’t necessarily see a job in the men’s game as a step up – but you can never say never about anything.
I love the women’s game and I owe it a lot because of what it did for me. I’m at a fantastic football club and I don’t think I’d ever get the opportunity to be a head coach at Manchester United otherwise. I’m well supported, I love the players I work with and I’m still learning about the game and the way I want to coach.
Sure, there are slight nuances in women’s football – you have to be a bit more emotionally intelligent – but players are players, and I think a woman can make the step because the skills are transferable to the men’s game.
Players need to know when they’ve done well, they need to be critiqued when they haven’t done well and you need to develop and help them.
It’s still a huge barrier that we have to overcome, but I think England head coach Phil Neville coming over from the men’s game has shown that the status of women’s football is improving.
Moving the other way
Raymond Verheijen, the former Wales assistant manager, posted on social media last week to say women’s football should be played “behind closed curtains”. It made me angry.
But I also think his comment about male coaches only working in the women’s game because they have failed elsewhere was unfair too.
In my view, that does not apply to Phil, who has been a coach at Manchester United and Valencia, and you have to credit him for taking a risk.
His decision to switch also reflects well on the women’s game. I don’t know for sure because I’ve not asked him, but it might not have been something he’d have even considered had the game been where it was 10 years ago.
It didn’t have the right funding, exposure or gravitas, and for many years coaching in the women’s game has not been great. But standards are definitely improving.
Together, those statements from Verheijen suggest he knows very little about women’s football.
I admire the path Phil has chosen because, from a financial aspect, he would better off at a Championship club, plus there is the danger of being pigeon-holed.
I know some male managers who have struggled getting back into the men’s game after being in women’s football, but I’m not sure Phil will have that problem.
He’s been a top coach and now he is proving his status as a number one. If he can be successful at a major tournament where the eyes of the world are on you, then I don’t think he will have a problem choosing the path he wants.
Criticism of Kerr unjustified
The women’s game is full of fantastic coaches because they love the sport and wouldn’t want to move the other way.
But one who has already tried that is Scotland boss Shelley Kerr, who worked at Stirling University and coached me when I was at Arsenal.
Some of the criticism towards her in this World Cup has been unjustified.
Scotland are ranked 20th in the world and have qualified for their first World Cup, where they have a very tough group.
They have played England, who are ranked third in the world, and Japan, a team to have made the past two finals. In both cases they’ve narrowly lost 2-1, arguably to two dubious penalty decisions.
Not all the Scotland team are full-time professionals, so based on Shelley’s resources should we be criticising her? The players will be frustrated and want to do better, but they haven’t been thrashed by either opponent and still have Argentina to come.
Sometimes we need to look at the bigger picture and maybe offer solutions rather than just criticising, although I’m not sure what Verheijen meant when he said women’s football shouldn’t be seen.
First, if you’re saying women’s football should be hidden what message does it send to the players who have worked hard all their lives to reach this stage at the World Cup? And what message does it send to little girls? That they don’t deserve to watch the game they aspire to play?
To be honest, that type of comment disgusts me and he has no place commenting on something he knows nothing about.
Casey Stoney was talking to BBC Sport’s Alistair Magowan.
BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer, bringing more live free-to-air women’s sport across the BBC this summer than ever before. Complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.