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Leicester City Women turn attention to new manager search

Leicester City Women turn attention to new manager search
Leicester City Women turn attention to new manager search

After Leicester City Women’s exciting FA Cup run came to an end at the semi-final stage some things need a think. It’s nearly time for the Leicester hierarchy to announce the new LCFC Women manager.

Recent extensions for WSL managers Gareth Taylor, Marc Skinner and Brian Sorenson. Emma Hayes is leaving Chelsea to coach the USA team but Bompastor has been confirmed as her replacement. Leicester City Women are looking for a new manager.

How did Leicester City Women get here?

Leicester sacked their manager Willie Kirk back in April. This happened after a club investigation found he had ‘…breached the club’s code of conduct”. It was a familiar tale for Leicester City Women fans. They have had a torrid time of managerial appointments over the last few years. Kirk was the club’s Director of Football before taking over as first-team manager in 2022. It’s not deniable that Kirk had recruited well for the Midlands-based side. But six months into his new two-year plan the news came as a shock for a club unfortunately well-versed in controversial managerial figures. The club had invested in Kirk’s vision but after a brief investigation, they decided to sack him.

Who could take Leicester to the next step?

WSL experience should be a minimum if LCFC Women are going to continue the progress and ensure they stay in one of the top Women’s football leagues in the world. The options may seem few and far between, but there are some. It depends vastly on the budget the board are willing to invest, the vision, and most importantly, who has the experience in healing what is surely a damaged and frustrated team.

Matilda’s coach Tony Gustavsson has reportedly met with the Swedish FA to take over as manager of the men’s national team. Tanya Oxtoby signed a contract with Northern Ireland national team until 2027. Casey Stoney is also signed up until 2027, at San Diego Wave in the NWSL. Likely taking them out of the equation. Carla Ward’s announcement she would leave Aston Villa in the Summer has meant there’s another top-flight women’s team in the mix and could impact Leicester’s search. Ward herself would not be an option for the Foxes after confirming she wants a break from management to spend time with family.

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A round-up of potential candidates

One of the most high-profile appointments and a statement of intent would be departing Ajax Women’s manager, Suzanne Bakker. Appointed in 2022, Bakker oversaw an Eredivisie win albeit by one point in her first season, and Ajax finished second this season having been knocked out in the Champions League Quarter Finals by Chelsea. However, tinkering with formations and tactics was seen as ‘not the Ajax way’ and her contract has not been renewed. She would come with some unique ways of working and previous players under her management have described her as ‘…lacking empathy’, but her work with homegrown talent and experience at winning trophies could appeal to a Leicester board hoping to progress.

Melissa Phillips was shockingly sacked by Brighton in February 2024 and hasn’t publicly ben appointed in a new role yet. Her sacking was a surprise. She’d taken the Seagulls from bottom place in the WSL to only two points off of seventh place. The financial support from the board at Brighton was the undoing of Phillips before she’d even really got started, integrating 10 new first-team squad members. However, Phillips might be keen to return to her native US. That’s where she has experience managing in the NWSL, so it isn’t guaranteed she will be applying for the role.

Leicester City Women looking for experience

As Bristol City face a rebuild post relegation from the WSL. <anager Lauren Smith would be a positive option with WSL experience. She is very progressive with youth players, and a very likeable personality. Smith has been part of a huge culture change within Bristol but could the lure of staying in the top flight be tempting?

A player-coach role for one of LCFC Women’s many squad members achieving their UEFA licenses. Fans favourite Sophie Howard has shown her dedication and commitment to the club. She has been performing at the highest level this season. Howard has recently achieved her UEFA B license. Although she’d possibly only be an assistant whilst she keeps playing, it would be an opportunity missed if she isn’t fast-tracked into management with a club she’s shown such dedication to over the years.

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Ex internationals the way to go?

Ex-internationals also catch the eye. They are lacking in WSL experience but masses of knowledge from managing youth players, working to high expectations, and links with big name players. Firstly, Sonia Bermudez led Spain to the UEFA Women’s Under-19 EURO glory this year, and recently started her UEFA Pro diploma course. Secondly, Peggy Provost was in charge as France became Women’s Under-17 EURO champions. She has recently completed her UEFA Pro diploma course.

Corinnes Diacre was sacked from her role as manager of France’s Women team. She hasn’t worked since, and comes with a history of controversy, something that surely Leicester would want to avoid.

Jennifer Foster who became Kirk’s assistant manager at LCFC Women in September 2023. Since Kirk was sacked, Foster has taken the reigns alongside coach Stephen Kirby. But only one point in six matches isn’t the best demonstration of what Foster can do. Foster is a UEFA A badge qualified football coach. She has previous experience as assistant manager to Lauren Smith with Bristol City in their promotion-winning 2022/23 season.

Darren Carter, recently parted ways with Championship side Birmingham City. Unproven at the WSL level, but it would be a cheap option for a club recently reporting another £4 million loss during the 2022/23 season. Definitely not a fan favourite or the most progressive choice to attract top-flight players.

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