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Is Sarina Wiegman Going to be the First Woman Premier League Manager?

When it comes to men’s football, there is little doubt that there is a toxic culture that accompanies it. Whether it be the racism that is regularly endured by players on the continent, to say nothing of in the United Kingdom when you look on social media, through to the way that morons like Joey Barton treat women, it is difficult to sell the story of football as being an open and accepted sport. Interestingly, the same cannot be said of the women’s game, which has been accepting of LGBTQ+ people from the outset. If there was to be one thing that would cause the sport to become more open and accepting then it would be success.

It is easy to forget now that players like John Barnes suffered from terrible racist abuse when they were players. Barnes, famously, back-heeled a banana that had been thrown at him off the pitch once. How he performed for Liverpool, helping the club to win First Division titles, FA Cups and a League Cup, resulted in him being accepted. Nowadays, racist abuse is frowned upon by all but the most pathetic knuckle-draggers, so might we see similar acceptance for women if they can bring success to men’s clubs? If so, will Sarina Wiegman be the one to do it? If not her, what other candidates are there to become the first female manager in the Premier League?

Who is Sarina Wiegman?

Sarina Petronella Wiegman was born in the 26th of October 1969 in The Hague, Netherlands. She began playing football on the streets at an early age, joining ESDO from Wassenaar at the age of six and being put in the team to play alongside the boys. At the same time, Wiegman played for a local side called HSV Celeritas, which had a women’s team. She soon earned a reputation as a talented player, meaning that clubs were keen to sign her up. In 1987 she joined KFC ’71, winning the KNVB Women’s Cup later that year. She had first been selected for the Netherlands the year before when she was just 16-years-old.

The fact that she was part of the Netherlands’ Women’s team meant that she travelled to China for the FIFA Women’s Invitation Tournament in 1988, meeting the Head Coach of the United States National Women’s Team Anson Dorrance, as a result. Dorrance invited her to study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a scholarship, playing for the North Carolina Tar Heels women’s soccer team at the same time, which was an offer that she took up a year later. The club became National Collegiate Athletic Association champions that year. She returned to the Netherlands a year later, shocked at the difference in quality of the facilities.

Wiegman joined Ter Leede in 1994, a club with which she would go on to win the Dutch championship in 2001 and 2003 as well as the KNVB Women’s Cup in 2001, retiring after falling pregnant with her second child in 2003 but having gained a huge amount of experience as a player. That included on the international stage, with Wiegman gaining her 100th cap for the Netherlands on the ninth of April 2001, making her the first female Dutch footballer to reach the milestone. Sadly, it later emerged that five of the caps that she won were against non-FIFA affiliated opponents, meaning that her official total stands at 99 caps.

Wiegman the Manager

sarina wiegman takes training
Emma Coolen, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 2006, it was confirmed that Wiegman was to become the manager of Ter Leede. Under her management the club went on to win a double of the Dutch championship and the KNVB Women’s Cup in 2007. That was enough to see ADO Den Haag want to make her the manager of their team for the newly created Women’s Eredivisie. She worked hard to build the team up in the years that followed, leading the club to an Eredivisie and KNVB Women’s Cup double in 2012. They also won the cup the following season, seeing Wiegman cement her place as one of the most talented managers in the women’s game, with the national team coming calling.

On the first of August 2014, Wiegman left her role at ADO in order to become the assistant coach of the Netherlands Women’s national team. As part of her new role. Wiegman attended the KNVB course to become just the third woman to obtain a coaching licence. She was appointed interim head coach in 2015 and then in 2016 obtained her UEFA Pro coaching licence. She became the head coach in her own right in December 2016, with the Netherlands winning every match, including the final, at the European Championship of 2017. She won the Best FIFA Women’s Coach, with her style of play being praised.

In 2020, the English Football Association confirmed that Wiegman would be the new England Women’s manager, taking over from Phil Neville. The Lionesses won the Arnold Clark Cup, having also qualified for the World Cup by winning 80-0 against all ten opponents. In the July of 2022, Wiegman took England to the final of the Women’s Euros, defeating Germany 2-1 to win the trophy before the men’s team did. A year later and the Lionesses were in the World Cup final, this time losing 1-0 to Germany. Wiegman had notched up a win percentage of 72.22% with the Netherlands and 75.51% with England by 2024.

Will She Manage in the Premier League?

There are plenty of clubs in the Premier League that get through managers like their supporters get through underwear. With that in mind, it is no surprise that Wiegman is one of the women thought of as being a possible future manager in the English top-flight. There is little to stop a woman taking on such a role at some point, other than good old-fashioned sexism. It was confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Football Association, Mark Bullingham, that her name would be added to the list of potential candidates to take over from Gareth Southgate as the manager of the England men’s team once his contract expired.

Whilst it is unlikely that Wiegman would be welcomed as the manager of a club like Liverpool or Manchester City before she had proven herself at one of the lesser clubs in the division. That being said, there are plenty of teams that might look to give her a chance, keen for an opportunity for good publicity. In July 2023, for example, Forest Green Rovers briefly made Hannah Dingley their caretaker boss, making history in the process. Wiegman herself said that it was ‘only a matter of time‘ until a female manager took over at one of the big clubs in England. The big question still to be answered is whether she will be one of them.

If Not Wiegman Then Who?

emma hayes chelsea manager
Lee Fraser, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Whilst Wiegman is probably the name at the top of the list of female football coaches who could end up getting a job at the top of the men’s game, she isn’t the only one. Emma Hayes won five Women’s Super League titles over a period of ten years as the manager of the Chelsea Women’s side, meaning that many people regularly mention her name during any discussions of a female manager in the Premier League. There is no question that success is one of the key factors for top-flight or Championship clubs to even begin to consider a female in the management role, with other women’s names rarely mentioned when the topic comes up.

Hope Powell, for example, once managed the England Women’s team as well as the women’s side at Brighton & Hove Albion, but isn’t discussed as a potential top-level manager in the men’s game. Similarly, Rehang Skinner took Tottenham Hotspur to the club’s highest finish in the Women’s Super League but also doesn’t get talked about in the same way that Hayes and Wiegman do. If there is to be a woman managing in the Premier League or Championship at some point in the not too distant future, the likelihood is that they will need to have an all-but unimpeachable degree of success in the women’s game so as to allay the knuckle-draggers who will be willing them to fail.