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Gone but never forgotten

PIVOTAL: Powell

AFTER A 15 year reign it is difficult to imagine English women’s football without its matriarch sitting at the pinnacle.

Hope Powell left her post as manager of the England women’s team recently but her role in the development of the women’s game on these shores has been pivotal.

The former England international was the envy of her black, male counterparts having first been offered and then proceeding to prosper in an elite coaching position.

Powell was appointed in 1998 as England’s first full-time coach, a role that included wider ranging duties than those of Roy Hodgson et al, and became the first woman to earn a UEFA Pro Licence in 2003.

England’s poor showing at this summer’s European Championships in Sweden ultimately did for Powell amid widespread criticism of her team selections.

Her dismissal was a culmination of the growing feeling that the 46 year-old’s stewardship had stagnated and that she had lost the confidence of her charges.

The near universal silence from England players in the intervening period hints at the sense of relief many privately feel. Powell had come to be seen as an excellent coach who ran the England set-up as a dictatorship.

Yet before her arrival England had struggled to reach major tournaments and she took them to the 2009 European Championships final and two World Cup quarter-finals.

She also fought with the white, patriarchal powers in boardrooms across the nation as she sought to create a thriving infrastructure for English women’s football.

“You cannot underestimate how much work Hope has done behind the scenes,” Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes told BBC Sport.

“She has fought in boardrooms to secure a future for women's football in this country but I think she has almost become a victim of her own success.

EXPECTATIONS

“She has driven for more and more for the players and the set-up and the result of that is expectations are greater.

“Making a European Championship final was a high point for her but the players want a new direction and the timing is right considering it is the start of a new World Cup qualifying campaign in September.”

That last point will strike a chord with those players and former players who felt isolated by Powell during her tenure. She publicly admits that she is “not easy” to deal with and England captain, Casey Stoney, readily agrees.


RECONCILED: Record cap holder Yankey

“Hope was not afraid to make decisions that upset people,” Stoney told BBC Sport. “She did what she thought was right. It can't have been that wrong because she reached a European final and two World Cup quarter-finals. She was ruthless.”

Amongst those who felt alienated is the US-based Boston Breakers forward Lianne Sanderson, who retired from the England team in 2010 at just 22-years-old as a consequence of her difficult working relationship with Powell.

“It was more about personal reasons and I just felt as long as Hope was in charge I was never going to get the opportunity that I deserved and I didn't really feel like I was appreciated in that environment. I feel like there's a lot of players who feel that way,” said Sanderson.

“I think it was that kind of environment where you're not allowed to have much of an opinion.”

Yet there were also those, such as midfielder Rachel Yankey, who reconciled with Powell following her omission from England’s Euro 2009 squad and his now England’s record cap holder.

Or England’s record goal scorer Kelly Smith, who credited Powell in her autobiography with helping her overcome her alcoholism.

“I’m sure there will be players who will be thinking they have a chance to get back in the fold but you can’t forget what Hope has done for women’s football in the last 15 years,” added Stoney.

“It’s a long time and I’m sure she will look back and reflect and be massively proud of what she achieved.

“She has changed the structure of the game from grassroots upwards, the player pathways, she and [FA national game director] Kelly Simmons have worked very hard together to change the women’s game.”

“Hope would have been instrumental in putting the Women's Super League in place and that is one of the strongest leagues in the world now.”

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