Mark Hughes has given his support for England ahead of their showdown with France at Ewood Park.
FIFA 2007 Women's World Cup qualifier
England v France
Sunday 26 March 2006
Blackburn Rovers FC, 7.05pm.
Who would be a football manager? With the constant craving for success by supporters, the media and any number of stakeholders, you could be forgiven for thinking it is 'the impossible job’.
Two current managers who are both experiencing a season that offers tantalising rewards over the next three months are Blackburn Rovers’ Mark Hughes and the England Women’s Head Coach Hope Powell.
Powell will be temporarily taking over the home dug-out at Ewood Park this Sunday, when The Three Lions take on France in a Women’s World Cup qualifier.
The two have a mutual respect developed when they both attended a UEFA Pro Licence course run by The FA, a qualification which is now mandatory in all the major footballing countries and which all Premiership managers must hold by 2010.
"I first met Mark when we were both doing our Pro Licence at Warwick University - we overlapped as I completed my course the summer he started his - and I was really flattered how he asked about the development of the women's game and wanted to listen to some of the challenges my staff faced”, said Hope.
"Coming to a club who are doing well you can always feel a buzz, and Mark has done a very good job at Blackburn, after gaining some impressive results with Wales.
"Mark's transition from a player to a Coach has been hugely impressive and hopefully the supporters who have got behind his side this season, as they aim to qualify for Europe, will come out in force to cheer us on next Sunday."
Although the England side narrowly lost the two Euro 2005 games played at Ewood Park last June, Hope added that “the experience of playing in front of such passionate supporters is something the players will never forget.
"The club and the local community really embraced the Women's team and even supporters who had only seen one or two games were telling players after the Sweden defeat that they hoped we would come back again soon.”
France were very much the pre-qualifying tournament favourites, but after a shock defeat to Holland at the beginning of their campaign, coupled with England’s maximum points haul so far, the group is delicately poised.
With only the top side from each of the five UEFA qualifying groups guaranteed a place at the 2007 World Cup in China, Sunday’s game will maybe provide a pointer as to who will progress from Group 5.
The England team are training at Blackburn’s Brockhall Academy this week, and Hughes has added his backing for The Three Lions.
"Sunday has all the makings of a great game”, said Mark, “and I hope football fans from across the region come out in their droves and make this international as successful as the European Championship last summer.
"I have been really impressed with the standard of women's football, at club and national level – our Women’s team are currently having a fantastic season too - and with Hope Powell's management of the England team.
"I remember doing part of my coaching qualification at the same time as her, and we shared some philosophies on the game and management. I hope that she gets the result that she's looking for on Sunday."