Photography by Philip Haynes

Hope Powell

England Women, 1998-2013

Why me?

I asked myself that question over and over again.

I didn’t get it. Why ask me to be the England manager? Did someone else say no and I’m second, or even third, choice? I needed to understand it.

They said they’d done their research. Said I was a strong candidate. A good character in the game.

I felt it was a bit of a token gesture. Black. Female. Ticked a box.

I wasn’t sure if I could do it, either. I was still a player, albeit one with plenty of wear and tear.

Maybe they saw something in me that I didn’t.

Philip Haynes

Two things – two people, to be exact – made up my mind to say yes.

Kelly Simmons, who was head of women’s football at the FA, told me: “You’ll be sitting in the changing room with someone else taking the team thinking: ‘I could have done that.’ ”

That was really powerful.

Then my good friend Brenda Sempare, who used to play for England as well, said to me: “If you don’t take the job, I am going to kick the living shit out of you.”

Where do I sign?

“It was tough. I was female. Black. The decision-makers? White. Male. Middle-class”

The job itself was a blank canvas. I had to create it. On my first day, I arrived at Lancaster Gate and was shown to my desk.

“There you go, Hope. There’s some pens and some paper. Away you go.”

Okay, this is interesting. What am I doing?

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The first thing I wanted to do was to fire the England physio. I didn’t like her. I didn’t think she was very good. But before I got the chance to, she sent in her letter of resignation. She knew it was coming.

Gradually, I started to build it. I’d manoeuvre things, add things, beg for money, do more and more. And it just got bigger and bigger.

It meant I was always battling. Every day I went into the FA, it felt like I was in a fight.

And I was fighting. I was fighting for women’s football. It was tough. I was female and black. The decision-makers? White. Male. And middle-class.

That’s what it was like. That’s what it’s still like, I think.

“I was burnt out. The FA didn’t appreciate how much I did. It was every year, constantly”

Some people would avoid me when they saw me coming, I know they did: “Here’s Hope again, what does she want now?”

You get used to it in the end. It becomes funny.

Many people never realised the amount of fighting I had to do. They will never know. It was constant.

When I got there, we had a team and a half. By the time I left, we had the Under-15s, Under-17s, Under-19s, Under-21s and the senior team. I had to do something to get that.

Philip Haynes

I was burnt out. The FA didn’t appreciate how much I did.

The 2007 World Cup. The 2008 Under-19s Euros. The 2009 Euros. The 2010 Under-19s Euros. The 2011 World Cup. London 2012.

Admittedly, the Under-19s squad was headed up by Mo Marley, but I was supporting. I wanted to be a sounding board, and it was good for me to see the next generation of talent.

It was every year, constantly. No other manager has ever done that.

“I knew the Euros were going to be a disaster. I wanted to tell them, I can’t do this”

I felt it first in 2011.

When we arrived in Germany for the World Cup that summer, I had to challenge myself. Do I really want to do this? You’d better make a decision, Hope. I was going to go home. I needed space to clear my head.

But I decided I couldn’t give in. Not after all the battles I’d fought.

Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images

Two years later, I felt it again. I knew the 2013 European Championships were going to be a disaster. I just knew. I even said to my doctor at the time: “This is not going to be good.”

I felt like I needed six months off to recharge. I wanted to tell them, I can’t do this.

Then we did badly.

The players didn’t perform. I didn’t perform.

“Of course I was a dictator. I had to dictate everything”

Maybe they felt my exhaustion. Or perhaps they were just fed up and needed something new. Either way, it was just a bad tournament. Then someone gets the chop and unfortunately, that someone was me.

I had to be quiet for quite some time afterwards but others spoke for me.

“Hope was a dictator,” was one thing I read.

Well, of course I was. I had to dictate everything, didn’t I?

Tony Marshall/Getty Images

When it all came out, I got calls from UEFA and FIFA. Offers to work in the game in different parts of the world. I spent time with Thailand before the 2015 World Cup. Namibia, too. It was perfect, because I could dip my toes in and then get out.

But then they want you to come and be the manager. I said no to a few. After 15 years, I needed time out.

Instead, I got involved in coach education with the PFA, which I liked. But I like the grass more. I’ve had to find that out about myself.

I feel fortunate that I never stopped working after getting the sack. But the nature of my work had changed. It wasn’t as manic. And I started to miss that.

I missed working with the players.

“It’s getting worse for female coaches. It’s assumed that men have more knowledge. As a woman, you have to prove yours”

Taking the management job at Brighton felt like a good opportunity. It also felt like the right one. The club’s overall philosophy aligned itself to my beliefs, my values and my philosophies.

They would rather build something than buy something. It’s about making steady progress, not an accelerated rise based on huge amounts of investment. Sustainability.

Some people might be surprised that I would take a job outside of WSL1, but working in WSL2 gives me the opportunity to develop players – particularly home-grown talent. And it allows me to strive for WSL1 through a stepped approach.

It feels right.

Philip Haynes

My passion is for the women’s game. And getting more female coaches into it.

At the moment, that side of the game is getting worse for women.

If you are female and want to coach or manage at the top of the women’s game, you need to have a profile. You need the Pro Licence, and to have been an international player.

If you look at the men who are now in the women’s game, it’s scandalous. They’ve just about played, might have managed a third-division team and then they get a top job.

That tells me how much female coaches are valued.

“Some people thought it was about my ego, but it was always about the game”

It’s a global fact. Just because you’re a man, it’s assumed you have more knowledge. As a woman, you always have to prove yours.

It has to change.

It’s another fight.

I only ever fought for things that were important. Things that were necessary. Maybe some people thought it was about my ego. Thought I was trying to build an empire. But it was all for the good of the game.

It was always about the game.

It was never about being the first. Whether that’s the first woman to manage England, the first to get the Pro Licence or the first female at the PFA.

Of course, it’s nice when people tell me I’m the first, but it doesn’t make me any better or worse.

It was just timing.

Hope Powell

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