The chairman of Forest Green Rovers, Dale Vince, is no stranger to treading new ground.
He is an advocate of green and renewable energies, and he has already turned Forest Green into the world’s first vegan football club – complete with a stadium built from eco-friendly materials and a playing kit made from recycled plastic and coffee beans.
Vince has received more than 100 applicants for the vacant manager’s role at the club – previous incumbent Mark Cooper was sacked in April, and it seems a distinct possibility that a female will be appointed.
That individual, whoever it may be, would be the first woman to manage in the English Football League. “I think we’ll take a new direction in our recruitment. Maybe we’ll break some new ground,” Vince has said. “We’ll recruit the kind of person perhaps that hasn’t been recruited before to be a head coach.”
When pressed on whether he was insinuating a female was set to be appointed, Vince said: “I don’t want to hint, but it could be. It is missing in men’s football, but so are BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] head coaches. Everything is possible with us, because we don’t come at this in any preconceived way or in a way it has always been done.”
Hannah Dingley Paves the Way
The plot thickens given that Hannah Dingley was appointed as Forest Green’s academy director back in 2019. She has experience coaching at various men’s clubs, and owns all of the necessary UEFA coaching badges. Could Dingley be the first woman to coach a men’s professional football team?
Emma Hayes, head coach of the all-conquering Chelsea WSL team, was in the running to be announced as the new AFC Wimbledon manager back in February, however that move never quite panned out.
Over in the USA, the MLS outfit DC United have appointed Lucy Rushton as their new General Manager. While not directly responsible for the playing side of the club, she will have full power to hire/fire a new manager, decide on transfer and wage budgets and even decide upon the philosophy that she wishes to see implemented at the Washington side.
However, here we are with 2,000 years of supposed evolution and still a female is yet to manage a men’s football team. Who will break the mould and stick their head above the parapet?
Away from England, there are some examples of women excelling in a man’s world….
The Scot has an exemplary record in football management and coaching, so respect to Stirling University for taking a chance on Shelley Kerr.
She enjoyed plenty of success as head coach of Hibernian Ladies, winning silverware aplenty, before taking over the reigns of the Scotland Under-19 side.
Kerr was then appointed as Arsenal Ladies boss, where she won the domestic cup double.
Then the history came – armed with her UEFA Pro licence, Kerr was named manager of Lowland League side Stirling University, the first woman to hold a managerial position at a men’s team in British football.
Having guided them to the British Universities Championship final, Kerr left Stirling to take up the position of head coach of Scotland Ladies.
Having spent more than a decade playing for France’s national team, Corinne Diacre has plenty of big tournament experience – all told, she amassed more than 100 caps for her country.
And she would need all of her nous when appointed head coach of Clermont Foot in the French Ligue 2 – becoming the first woman to coach a men’s professional game in any of Europe’s top-tier countries.
She replaced Helena Costa as the club’s manager, who herself was set to hold that accolade. However, the Portuguese quit prior to the 2013/14 season, citing ‘total amateurism’ after Clermont’s sporting director took control of transfers and refused to acknowledge Costa’s messages.
Diacre held the position of head coach at Clermont Foot for three seasons, leaving the role to become the manager of the France Ladies national team.
The 27-year-old became the first female – and one of the youngest of either gender – to manage a men’s professional team in Norway.
Blindheim took the reigns of Division 2 outfit Sotra having retired from playing at just 17, and they went on to finish seventh in her first season in charge.
Now a well respected pundit covering the Serie A in Italy, Carolina Morace became a global name when she became the first female to coach a men’s team in Italy.
A qualified lawyer who top scored in the women’s Serie A for eleven consecutive seasons, Morace had the credentials that Viterbese were looking for in their hunt for a new head coach in 1999.
They employed Morace to much fanfare, however she would last just two games in the hotseat – citing constant interference into the team’s affairs from the club’s president as the root cause.
Germans are renowned for being progressive in their footballing infrastructure, and so it’s no surprise that they were among the first to tread new ground.
Imke Wubbenhorst was appointed head coach of fifth tier men’s side BV Cloppenburg in 2019, and she impressed so much there that she was subsequently named the manager of fourth-tier side Sportfreunde Lotte.
Perhaps unsurprisingly even in these supposedly enlightened times, Wubbenhorst was asked a number of dire questions in her press conferences, including whether or not she had to ask her players to cover up in the dressing room. “Of course not,” she replied. “I’m a professional; I pick the team on penis length.”