Author Topic: Could Hope Powell be the best hope to succeed Fabio Capello?  (Read 900 times)

Offline Gooner

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Could Hope Powell be the best hope to succeed Fabio Capello?
« on: September 10, 2009, 01:56:40 PM »
The England women's head coach is showing so-called football geniuses the benefit of hard work and preparation

Would Hope Powell make a better manager of Argentina than Diego Maradona? On the evidence of their respective matches last weekend, it's a fair proposition. Under Maradona, a great player who is completely out of his depth as a head coach, Argentina were beaten 3-1 at home by Brazil. When it comes to selection and tactics, the former golden boy is worse than useless: the players would probably produce better performances if left to themselves, spared the distraction of his charisma. Powell, on the other hand, just gets on with a job at which she has become very, very good.

Powell guided England to an extra‑time victory over Holland in the semi-final of the Women's European Championship in Finland on Sunday, having pulled the sort of tactical stroke that few of her male counterparts would dare to attempt, for fear of failure and consequent ridicule. As this newspaper's man on the spot explained yesterday, she left her most dangerous attacker, Karen Carney, on the bench, instead picking Jess Clarke, a 20-year-old making her debut in a competitive international.

The plan, Powell explained, was to run some of the strength out of Holland's powerful full-backs. At half-time she sent on Carney, whose forays changed the balance of play in England's favour and whose corner in the 116th minute led to the winning goal.

None of this should come as a surprise. She was, after all, the first female coach in Europe to be awarded Uefa's Pro Licence, in the same year as Stuart Pearce and Sammy Lee. Only she knows what kind of persistence and resilience it took for a woman to reach that point. And if anyone is the female equivalent of the archetypal "football man", it is Powell. The game runs through her as profoundly and indelibly as it did through Joe Mercer and Sir Bobby Robson.

It would be too fanciful to suggest that being born in the fateful year of 1966 gave her a good start. Having grown up playing the game in the street with her brothers, she represented Croydon, Fulham and Millwall, won three FA Women's Cup-winning medals, including a league-and-Cup double with Croydon, and made 66 appearances for England women, with whom she held the vice-captaincy, scoring 35 goals from midfield – figures that compare very favourably with those of Martin Peters (67 caps, 20 goals) and David Platt (62, 27). In 1984 she played in the final of the European championship, on the losing side against Sweden.

Perhaps, however, it was not being a really pre-eminent figure as a player – not a Bobby Moore – that has helped her to become such an outstanding manager. She does not share the belief lurking in the minds of geniuses like Maradona that the game is principally a matter of the instinctive application of instinctive skills. To her, it is about hard graft and preparation – and hard decisions – as well as talent and fantasy.

She took the job 11 years ago and it is worth noting that, unlike Fabio Capello or his predecessors, she also takes responsibility for all England's age-group teams, from Under-15 to Under-21, runs a coach mentoring scheme and was responsible for setting up a national player development centre at Loughborough University. It cannot be entirely coincidental that the number of women registered as players in England has gone from 10,400 in 1993 to more than 150,000 today.

Last week Capello denied reports that he will end his term as manager of the England football team after next year's World Cup. Nevertheless it is inevitable that he will go home one day, back to his collection of Kandinskys. When that moment comes the Football Association will need to show vision and imagination in identifying his replacement. If Powell continues to show the sort of progress she has made over the past 11 years, they will not have to look far.