- Sarina Wiegman spoke to the English media
- Incoming Lionesses coach lauded as “a people person” and “steely”
- Wiegman: “It’s a real challenge to make this move”
Sarina Wiegman yesterday faced the English media for the first time since being confirmed as Phil Neville’s successor as Lionesses coach.
The Netherlands boss will take charge in 2021, after leading the Dutch into next year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, and has been hailed as “the perfect coach” for England by the FA’s director of women’s football, Baroness Sue Campbell
“There were two attributes that stood out in making her the choice for us,” Campbell added in the press conference, held remotely via Zoom. “Number one: Sarina is a people person. She’s been a PE teacher and a coach, is easy to talk to, very caring, and in her interview she made it clear that she places great importance on building the right relationships with her players, support team and people involved in the game.
“The second attribute is that Sarina is steely – she’s a winner. She pays enormous attention to detail and that came through very strongly in her interview. She’ll be happy to take tough decisions when they need to be made.”
Wiegman also spoke at length about why she took on the role, how she will manage the transition period and a great deal more besides.
Taking charge of a foreign national team
“When I started coaching I wouldn’t have thought this would be possible, so I’m really happy to have the opportunity to coach abroad. Will it be strange? That’s not the right word, I think. It will be different, it will be challenging, but although this is another country, I am a professional coach. We’ve had a very nice journey with the Dutch and hopefully I can be successful with the England team from 2021.
"Do I feel more pressure as a foreign coach? I feel pressure anyway. The England team has done very well, they’ve had some major performances at the last few tournaments, so there’s pressure to do well. It’s just how you deal with that pressure.”
Leading the hosts at a second successive UEFA Women’s EURO
“I went through that process with the national team of the Netherlands and I have that experience and can use that experience. We have the time from September 2021 and we will need that time to get a quick start, with the staff, the organisation and players. I have that experience of what it does in a country, the challenges you have but also the opportunities it gives. So I’m looking forward to it.
"That is the part of the job that makes it so exciting: playing tournaments. Most people don’t see what you do to get there. It’s a lot of effort, a lot of hard work and a lot of choices you have to make. For the players of course they work hard every day but it’s the same for the staff and when the tournaments start it’s making the action and hopefully getting good results.”
What attracted her to the role
“Well, England is the cradle of football. The England team has done very well, they’ve had major performances the last three tournaments and there’s great potential. They have developed the game very much in England and there’s a big organisation behind it. You have a professional league, there are so many players who are so talented, the facilities are great, so it’s a real challenge to make the move.
"I can also finish my job with the Dutch, and that was very important to me. I love the game and I have the nicest job you can think of. Working with talented players and people who are ambitious, that’s what I like very much. And when I spoke to Sue, we got on the same level very quickly. She was a PE teacher too and we spoke about people, about the game, and were on the same page.
"I am very happy that I have been the coach of the Dutch national team and that we can still play the Olympics. But I think that when I can work after that with the England team, it is a world-class team and it is a world-class situation that I am in."
England’s progress since losing heavily to the Dutch at EURO 2017
“The women’s game worldwide is improving very much, so has England and so have other countries. I think the transition is that at the EURO they played more of the long ball and now they’re trying to play more of a possession game. That’s the biggest change I have seen from 2017 to now. England have been playing very well. They have a very strong team already and what I’d like to do is to add something, something the players believe in too.
"I follow every team but when I come in I have to first feel what the players think about some of the things that I’d like to add. I have a framework of how I’d like to play, I can add some things but I think England already has part of that framework. And then you take into account the opponent. Some are really strong and some are less strong, so we will see some different things.”
The dynamic with Phil Neville while he remains in charge
”Phil has the responsibility for the upcoming 12 months and I absolutely respect that. I’ll get some information in the background but the last thing I want to do is to interfere with his work. Of course I will have a close look because I jump in in 2021, but now my responsibility and my main focus is the Dutch national team.
"Maybe in the future there will be a transition and then there will be some discussion with Phil. But I don’t want to interrupt him or be a pain for him. He just needs to do his job well, he is responsible. I’m not responsible yet – I’m responsible for the Dutch national team for the upcoming 12 months.”
Winning a tournament with England
“England has a very good team, and in terms of potential they have such a good team that we could win tournaments. Everything that’s within our control we will influence in a good way. At least we will try to. But you also have to deal with other countries who are developing very much too.
"You can’t say ahead that you’re going to win this or that. You have a dream, you have ambition and you do everything in your power to get there. But it could be a final that you hopefully win, but could lose also. Then you look at it and ask: ‘Did we play the best game we can play?’ That’s the question for me.”
England's players and exciting youngsters
“The depth in the women’s game in England is great. There are so many good players and so many youngsters. I saw some at the U-20 World Cup in 2018 and of course there are even younger players coming in. I will get more information about the youngsters in the future. But I already know that the structure, the competition and the player pathway is very good. There is great potential.”
The possibility of facing Great Britain at the Olympics
“I will be in charge of the Netherlands and I would do everything to win that game with my team. That’s sport, that’s part of it. I would say it was special, but still it’s a game and we want to win every game we play. There would be no conflict of interest, not at all.”
Being ‘steely’ and speaking honestly to players
“I didn’t know the word 'steely' but I understand it. That’s my job. Sometimes you have a good message and sometimes you have a message the person really doesn’t like to hear, but it’s part of your job. The main thing is that you need to communicate and you need to explain things. You decide at what time you explain things, so they can get the context and work on it.
"They are competing for certain positions, so you have to be honest. You have to give information and have to decide as part of your job and then you have to take care of the players and communicate with them.”