Jürgen Klopp’s recent announcement that he will be leaving Liverpool at the end of the season has made me think again about the extraordinary and energy-consuming work that managers and head coaches do.
A few months ago, Emma heard Hayes say that she will leave Chelsea, including at the end of the season, not to take a break, but to take over the US women’s national team. That job will also bring incredible pressure, but in a different way for club football.
Related: Women’s Super League: Talking points from the weekend’s action
They are similar in many ways, Klopp and Hayes, especially when it comes to their personalities. An important part of coaching and leadership is using your own personality to get the best out of others. With Klopp, even from the outside, you can see how he uses that energy when he is with his players, when you see his body language, and when you listen to the language he uses when he refers to the club, the city and his players . The same goes for Emma.
They both show you the energy you have to put in day in and day out to help not only yourself but also others. As a coach you look for that domino effect within the entire ecosystem. But when they give all that energy during the workday, I always wonder, “How much energy do you have left when you get home?”
There are only so many hours in the day that you can be on this upward trajectory of energy, positivity and vibrancy and then you have to go home. For both of them, they have a family that also makes demands and will want and expect that kind of liveliness and presence when they are home.
Hayes has been at Chelsea since 2012 and I think that says a lot about her and what kind of person she is, that she has the character and ability to keep that kind of momentum season after season. It’s hard to be a coach, even when you’re winning games and being at the top, because you have to keep reinventing your team and your club while the teams around you want to improve.
Then there is the daily experience of dealing with disappointment. Not necessarily your own disappointment about lost matches, but as a coach you have to bear the disappointments of others: players who do not get a new contract or cannot play. These are everyday disappointments that people don’t always talk about.
By that I mean that most people recognize that it happens, but in most workplaces you don’t have to disappoint other people on such a regular basis. Dealing with the emotional feedback from this is an unpleasant part of a manager’s role.
It’s interesting that we’ve been talking a lot about players’ mental health lately, but not so much about coaches and managers and how they deal with the pressures of the job. There is the League Managers’ Association and there will be support from within the club. But that’s for elite coaches and as you go down the pyramid I can only imagine how far and few between those resources are.
However, the pressure is greatest at the top and I feel we are entering a new era when it comes to the relationship between fans, managers and clubs, in women’s football and the WSL in particular. Banners reading ‘Skinner Out’ were hung at Manchester United matches, addressed to coach Marc Skinner, with the team failing to stay as close to the top as last year.
I think there will be some people who, when they see things like this happening in women’s football, will say, ‘This is what it’s all about’, ‘This is the football I’m used to’. I think there will be people who love it: the tribalism, the antagonism against managers who are seen as failing. There will also be those who think: ‘This has never been what women’s football has been about and it is not something we want to see growing within the sport’.
Maybe that’s because they want the women’s game to be a more modest environment in terms of atmosphere. Interactions between opposition fans in the WSL are often those of friendly rivalry, where you can still go back and forth in the stands and on the pitch without it becoming unpleasant or intimidating. I think the ‘Skinner Out’ banners are unfair because Manchester United have overachieved, clawed their way into the WSL and reached a cup final. They pushed Chelsea to the limit in the title race and qualified for this season’s Champions League.
What more could those fans want? All teams regress at some point and it is a very competitive league. As a fan you won’t always like the manager, that’s impossible, but there are other ways to express your dissatisfaction.
And when we talk about mental health – whose mental health are we talking about? Everyone says it’s important, but when you deliberately go to a game and put up a banner saying someone should be fired, those people clearly don’t reflect on how that could affect the person they’re targeting. Marc Skinner is also someone, with his own family, who comes to competitions and has to deal with that. There has to be a better way.
Phillips leaves Seagulls: The WSL suffered its first managerial casualty of the season when Brighton announced that Melissa Phillips had been sacked. Phillips was there for less than a year and managed to keep the Seagulls afloat last year, but the mixed form of this campaign has left them in 10th place. “This is not a decision that has been taken lightly,” said technical director David Weir. “But we feel this is essential to the progress we want to see… We have invested heavily… and the results and performance have not been at the level we expected.” Sophie Downey
Sheffield United fire Morgan: Jonathan Morgan has left Sheffield United “due to new information that has come to light” regarding his “conduct prior to arrival at Bramall Lane”. It is understood this is linked to a relationship between him and a player when he was manager at Leicester City. Morgan had only recently returned to the sidelines after being cleared by an independent investigation into a formal complaint against him surrounding the death of Maddy Cusack. Luke Turner will take charge of the team in the near future. SD
Quote of the day
I don’t think there would ever be a right time to leave Arsenal because it would never be an easy decision. I’ve had so many conflicting emotions. When I think of Arsenal I think of home, and of family, and that’s because of all of you… I want to thank you for all the love and support you have given me over the years. I have cherished every day I have worn the Arsenal badge, and thanks to all of you I have been able to step onto the pitch with a feeling of love, which is something very special” – Jen Beattie in an open letter to Arsenal fans at the club’s website following the news that it is joining NWSL expansion club Bay FC. SD
The pod crew will be here with the latest edition of Women’s Football Weekly.
Canadian teenager Olivia Smith scored this long-distance goal for Sporting CP this weekend. While this spectacular equalizer from Bristol City’s young star Carrie Jones is one to play on repeat. SD
Do you want more?
Our writers pick talking points from last weekend’s WSL action.
Australia’s record transfer fee for Kaitlyn Torpey reflects a spending boom in women’s football, writes Jack Snape.
The Hearts and New Zealand forward Katie Rood says if women’s football is concerned about the climate crisis it should cut ties with Barclays.
Suzanne Wrack says Melissa Phillips’ dismissal is a sign of the WSL sides’ impatience with managers.
And here’s a profile of Mayra Ramírez, Chelsea’s new record signing, who put in an excellent performance on Sunday.