The Football Association’s hunt for a successor to Mark Sampson in 2017 quickly became a circus. Names flew out of the ring as fast as they stepped in. Increased scrutiny on the person in charge, with the game professionalising, led some of those on the shortlist to withdraw. Others were poached from under the FA’s nose. Hence Phil Neville moving to the front of the pack having not even been on the start line. The FA will be desperate to avoid a repeat. Ideally, it would like a woman to take the reins but it would be remiss to rule out some of the finest managers in the women’s game on account of their gender. Who will be brave enough to take a job that looks a bit of a poisoned chalice?
It is believed the Manchester United manager has been the FA’s ideal long-term candidate but with only one and a half seasons of management experience this could be too soon. A brief stint as Neville’s No 2 and a lengthy international career mean the 37-year-old knows what is needed but the former centre-back has built a fine team from scratch in Manchester and it will likely be hard to prise her from the project. Last November she signed a new contract to 2022.
A two-times World Cup winner with the US, the 53-year-old is a free agent. Reuniting her with former US high performance coach Dawn Scott, who rejoined the England setup after 10 years in the States, will surely be a tempting prospect for the FA. However Ellis comes with baggage. She won the 2015 and 2019 titles but survived a rumoured player revolt in 2017 and an attempt by the squad to get her fired before last year’s World Cup in France. She was not popular with fans and all this may leave the FA wary. On leaving her position with the US Ellis said a move to English football would be tempting.
There are rumours that Hayes is not interested in the England job, unfinished business (a burning desire to win the Champions League) at Chelsea and a fractious relationship with the FA tempering any interest. However that does little to stop a clamouring for Hayes to be in the running. The 43-year-old is arguably the finest club manager in the Women’s Super League and her drive to push women’s football forward and leave a lasting legacy may yet persuade her to put aside her misgivings and step in.
The former Arsenal and Utah Royals manager is highly regarded in the US and England and was recently appointed by US Soccer as its Under-20 USWNT head coach. That could be enough to rule out the 39-year-old. Harvey, though, would be a popular choice among fans and players and would be a good appointment. Believed to be on the shortlist before Neville was handed the job, she instead swapped Seattle Reign for Utah.
Cushing has also only recently begun a job having left Manchester City Women to be assistant coach at New York City FC. He is likely not ready to return to women’s football but the FA would be forgiven for having another go – it is believed that he was offered the job after Sampson’s departure. Cushing has a reputation for bringing through young talent and several England youngsters – Lauren Hemp, Georgia Stanway, Ellie Roebuck and Keira Walsh – made their WSL breakthrough during his time at City.
Best of the rest
There are plenty of other candidates worthy of consideration. The Portland Thorns manager Mark Parsons and North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley have been hugely successful in the NWSL in the US. The English duo have picked up NWSL manager of the season awards, with Parsons having won one NWSL Shield title (for finishing top of the table) and Riley three Shield titles and two NWSL Championship trophies (winning the post-season play-offs).
The Sweden manager Peter Gerhardsson, who took over from Pia Sundhage after the 2017 Euros and led the team to a surprise third place in France, beating England in the third-place play-off, would be an alternative. The two-times Champions League winning French manager Reynald Pedros is a free agent after last summer’s exit from Lyon.
An outsider from the NWSL could be the struggling Orlando Pride manager Marc Skinner. Although the victim of harsh criticism in the US, Skinner is highly thought of for his style of play and a team built on a shoestring at Birmingham.
Arsenal reportedly fought hard to stop Joe Montemurro interviewing for the USWNT team job when Ellis departed. Should the FA wish to make a similar approach they would likely be similarly rebuffed, although the Australian’s pedigree may entice them to try.