You may have heard that the Vancouver Whitecaps fired Carl Robinson, as well as his entire backroom staff, on Tuesday. The Whitecaps are not the only team that will be on the hunt for the new gaffer this winter. With this being the situation Alicia Rodriguez sent out this tweet:
Just thinking with this apparent bumper crop of #MLS coaching vacancies, wonder when a woman or non-binary coach will be a candidate. If you expand the search pool to all humans regardless of gender, your pool doubles in size.— Alicia Rodriguez (@soccermusings) September 25, 2018
Now this is an excellent point. There is no reason whatsoever to limit the “comprehensive search” to just men. I’ll take a female coach who will get the Whitecaps to play some progressive football, over a male one who[B1] will have them hoofing low percentage long balls forward, ten times out of ten. Now I don’t really expect the Whitecaps to hire a woman as that would require thinking marginally outside of the box and that’s not really something they do. But just for the fun of it here are some female coaches who I’d say are at least worth giving an interview.
In 2013 French second division side Clermont Foot made history by naming the first woman head coach of a men’s professional team in France. That woman was not Corinne Diacre, it was Helena Costa. But Costa quit the job after only a month, citing irreconcilable differences with the board, after they signed players without consulting her. So, Clermont Foot replaced Costa with Diacre, a young manager who had previously had a distinguished career as a player, making 121 appearances for the women’s national team. It was Diacre’s first job as manager, having previously been an assistant with the women’s national team and with women’s club Soyaux. Despite an obviously chaotic situation, Diacre and Clermont Foot managed to avoid the drop, finishing 14th. The club steadily climbed the standings in the two successive years, finishing 12th in 2014/15, and 7th in 2015/16. In the 2016/17 season Clermont Foot fell to 13th, in part due to an unexpectedly deep cup run which spread their resources thin. In 2017 Diacre left, despite a promising start to the league campaign, to manage the French women’s national team. Since then she’s gotten to the quarter finals of the women’s Euros and has a record of nine wins, six draws, and three losses. Diacre has shown she can build on her successes, has a lot of experience managing in big games, and clearly has a history of succeeding under upper management that is, shall we say, difficult. In other words, she has a lot of qualities that would make her very appealing to the Whitecaps.
Chan Yuen Ting:
As a young girl growing up in Hong Kong Chan Yuen Ting loved David Beckham. She cites this as the reason that, after graduating from Hong Kong Chinese University with a master’s degree in sports science and health management, she got a job with local professional side Hong Pegasus FC as a data analyst, against the wishes of her parents. Her role at the club quickly grew as she eventually took over as the U-18s manager, leading the Pegasus youth side to three trophies. At the same time, she had coaching roles with the Hong Kong women’s national team and futsal team. Her success wasn’t going unnoticed and Eastern FC, something of a sleeping giant of Hong Kong football, hired Chan as their manager at the tender age of 26. Just eight years previously Eastern had been relegated to the third division due to financial issues. In the 2015/16 season, however, Eastern roared into first place, losing only once, as Chan became the first, and thus far only, woman to manage a men’s team that won a top flight domestic championship. This triumph qualified Eastern for the Asian Champions League and earned them a date with Asian football titan Guangzhou Evergrande. Chan would be testing her wits against legendary Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. Alas the fairy tale ended there as Eastern were soundly beaten 7-0 by the Chinese giants. Pluck and daring can only get you so far against a team that spent roughly 200 million USD in just that calendar year. Chan took a brief sabbatical to earn a higher level of coaching badge and returned to Eastern for the start of the 2018 season where they have a record of one win and one draw. Chan has basically had nothing but success thus far, so it would be interesting to see what she’d do at a higher level. Obviously MLS would be an enormous step up from the Hong Kong Premier League, but when you almost pull off an invincible season you clearly have some idea of what you’re doing. For me, Chan’s experience as a data analyst makes her very appealing. Since the Whitecaps are notoriously thrifty I’d be all for them employing data analytics more often (as opposed to whatever the hell made them think signing Efrain Juarez was a good idea). It would be a big challenge in a new country, with a new language, for a manager who is still only 29, but I generally believe that if one does well at the lower levels then one ought to be given the chance to show what they can do at a higher level.
Harvey is the only one of these three who doesn’t have experience coaching in the men’s game, but what she’s accomplished in the women’s game is nothing short of spectacular. She began her career with Birmingham City’s women’s team. With limited resources, the side struggled. Harvey posted a record of 15 wins, 8 draws, and 21 losses over two seasons. At the time Harvey was also working for the English women’s youth national teams. In 2008 Harvey was given the chance to manage Arsenal’s women’s team. She seized this opportunity with both hands as Arsenal lost only eight times over the next four years. Now it could be argued that this dominance was partly down to having superior resources. Women’s leagues in Europe are, after all, notoriously unbalanced. But in 2013 Harvey brought her talents to America in the more balanced NWSL. From 2013-2017 as head coach of the Seattle Reign, Harvey posted a very credible record of 58 wins, 29 draws, and 27 losses (a win percentage that’s 13 points higher than Carl Robinson’s was). During this time, she was twice shortlisted for FIFA world coach of the year for women’s football. If the Whitecaps had the opportunity to snag a manager who’d twice been nominated as the best manager in the entire world on the men’s side I think most would rightly jump at the opportunity. But why should this not also be true of the women’s game? You can say that the women’s game is different as there are some inescapable physiological differences between men and women but there is no physiological aspect to being a coach. The skills required are to be a good tactician, a good leader, and a good motivator. These skills should be perfectly analogous between the men’s and women’s game.
Now should the Whitecaps hire one of these women over someone like Marc Dos Santos? Perhaps. Perhaps not (they definitely should be hired over Caleb Porter or Sigi Schmid though). But I think the ‘Caps would be doing themselves a real disservice to artificially discount them, or any qualified female applicant, simply because they are women. The best person available should get the job, full stop.