Four months into the season and three managers are no longer in their jobs in the FA WSL and FA WC, so are they more at risk than before with teams now full-time?
Of course, in general, stability prevails in the women’s game. It is nowhere near the craziness of the Premier League where the average manager’s tenure last season was 1.16 seasons according to the LMA. Yet.
The recent parting of the ways between John Donoghue and Lewes Women was surprising, not least for the wording from the club.
“However, despite some good early results, recent form has indicated that a fresh impetus is now needed for the team to achieve its potential in this League. The playing budget is good, training facilities excellent and our attendances are the envy of many teams even in the Super League. Our ambition matches the significant resources we have put behind this team.”
We know that Lewes FC pay their women and men players equally and they are very much a team with strong values. That’s why the mention of playing budget as the reason for the dismissal strikes me as odd.
I mean, unless they have poured a lot of money into the women’s team like United (and their alleged £5-million budget that is higher than City, Chelsea or Arsenal), Lewes are not expected to have a huge budget at all. The Championship is a semi-pro League and you really don’t expect those team to have more than £200k.
Lewes were mid-table at the time of the sacking and in a negative streak. They won their first three league games and then lost the next four. If the club think the manager cannot recover from this and the team needs a new direction, that is a fair point. John Donoghue had been the Lewes manager since 2014. Lewes were promoted to the Championship thanks to their excellent bid.
In the FA WSL, Andy Spence was a long serving manager at Everton Ladies. He managed Everton for 96 games over two spells between 2012-18. He was also number two to Mo Marley and Centre of Excellence director. He brought many young players to the first team who are now established England players.
Spence also got booted recently following Everton’s defeat to Yeovil that put them in the relegation zone for the first time this season. You can trace the roots of their problem to the summer transfer window. There is no doubt that Everton have one of the smallest FA WSL budgets.
Their wages are not the highest around and it certainly does not help to attract the best players. Still, the players he brought in, and the lack of cover in certain positions, made it an unbalanced squad which did not help.
Being at the bottom of the table following an inadequate summer transfer window were clearly not good enough for the club and he was let go as soon as the club hit the relegation zone.
In both the Spence and Donoghue cases, you wonder if they lost the dressing room, making it difficult to carry on with them. I saw a tweet on my timeline (now deleted) from one of the Everton players’ family indicating that some hyped-up players were being picked regardless of form and it would only lead to the manager’s sacking.
The other manager who is no longer in his job is Liverpool’s Neil Redfern. This is another curious case.
He was appointed on 12th June and recruited a whole new squad as many players left the club during the summer window. He then resigned on 14th September after playing two competitive matches, including one league game. He was clearly unhappy at how things were working at the club.
Three out of 22 is only 13% of the managers in the top two tiers losing their job. We cannot call it a new trend and infer that bad results and bad league positions will lead to dismissal at a quicker rate than previously.
But the arrival of a full-time professional league might mean managers are now in danger more than ever in the ever-changing women’s football environment.
The same can be said of the Championship were all teams but one are semi-pro and the pressure seems to more present than ever towards the bottom of the table, even if there is no relegation at the end of this season.