My own coaching career started at West Ham United after many years of playing for the club so you could suggest that I fell into coaching when I helped deliver some training sessions after our manager’s departure.
It was at this point that my passion for coaching and performance began. I found a feeling inside me that I'd never felt before, a drive to continuously improve performance and preparation.
I transferred across the Thames to become Millwall Lionesses head coach and technical director and it was here that I learnt some of my biggest lessons and enjoyed working with some exceptional people. There were difficult and challenging circumstances, but I saw first-hand the power of football and how it could change the lives of my players and the community.
- Build a sustainable and successful high-performance system
- Build a world-class talent pipeline
- Ready to win 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup
- Within top three countries across all age groups
Whether it was a win at the weekend, delivering football initiatives in the estates of Lewisham and Southwark, two of the most deprived London boroughs, or supporting football initiatives in Grenada, football could drive positive change.
I've now been with the FA for over 15 years, spending more than a decade coaching various England development teams and then moving into the role of head of women’s player development and talent in 2017, subsequently becoming head of women’s technical development in 2018 leading our national teams and all technical aspects across the women’s game.
I've been involved with the Gameplan for Growth strategy from the earliest stages, with my focus specifically on three significant creations: a clear and defined pathway through national development teams to the seniors, an inclusive women’s Talent ID Strategy and the England Women’s Blueprint for Success. All have now been established with the ultimate objective to produce England players who can compete and achieve success on the world stage for our senior team.
Before the implementation phase of these three projects began, I was keen to dig deeper into the history of women’s football. I wanted to learn more about the journey that the game has come on and the key pioneers who have taken the game to where it is now and had provided me with the opportunities I have today. This exercise was crucial to provide more depth and meaning to the delivery of the strategy.
As custodians of the women’s game in England, we felt that we needed a strong sense of identity and a deeper understanding of what we are protecting and nurturing. We needed to identify our story. This was one of the most humbling experiences in my career and has helped shape and inform the work that we now deliver across England Women’s national teams, building our identity and team culture.
Respect and gratitude for the pioneers of the game underpins everything we’re trying to achieve.
After two years of strategic planning, our efforts began to come to fruition as we launched the new edition of the Lioness Player Pathway and the England Women’s Blueprint for Success, both working simultaneously alongside the emerging women’s Talent ID Strategy.
In the summer of 2018, we watched our WU20s squad perform magnificently in France at the FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup to secure a bronze medal. We know that we're working from strong foundations with talented players, and it was now time for us to take this to another level.
The Lioness Player Pathway – established with Sport England – is a supplementary programme supporting players in our development teams, with the aim of transforming potential into performance.
It supports players through their journey with England from U14s to seniors and ensures appropriate opportunities are in place to help players fulfill their potential and succeed. The needs of the player are at the very heart of the delivery, and there's a holistic approach to player development ensuring that parents, carers and coaches are integrated into the support.
The emerging women’s Talent ID Strategy works alongside the Lioness Player Pathway, driving the selection and identification process for all national teams. Our teams and are broken into two distinct phases of Youth Development (WU15–WU17), and Professional Development (WU18–WU21), with the Lionesses at the top of the pyramid.
Integral to the inclusiveness of the pathway has been the collaboration and partnership with the EFL Trust. The programme was initiated to provide every talented girl in England the opportunity to access and enter the Lioness Talent Pathway. Through the existing community activities of selected Club Community Organisations (CCOs) girls are identified and referred to the pathway.
In August 2019, we launched our first-ever England Women’s Blueprint for Success, delivered throughout all Women’s National Teams. This is an invaluable piece of the jigsaw. Identifying a defined playing, coaching and operating philosophy at women’s national team level is vital if players are to progress seamlessly through the pathway.
Having a bespoke curriculum of learning alongside our England DNA is imperative to produce female players who can compete and win on the world stage. This document also outlines our culture and values when developing our players and has a strong connection with our identity.
This single document defines the processes, structures and support required for each age and stage of the pathway across five pillars of delivery:
• Who We Are – The identity, mentality, purpose and culture of England teams
• How We Play – The philosophy for national teams determining the England style of play and playing principles
• How We Coach & Support – The framework for a multi-disciplinary workforce to plan, implement and review our work with players and teams
• How We Operate – The way in which we work to support England Teams
• Talent Management – The talent management approach for our players and teams
The blueprint provides clarity in each of these areas and provides a clear framework to enable us to best support our players and keep us united in our mission. The togetherness and team spirit shown through the construction of the blueprint has been exceptional. The staff feel proud and energised by what they are achieving and the legacy in which they will be a part of.
The Lioness Player Pathway and Blueprint for Success provide a clear mission statement for our workforce about what we want to achieve, and I’m delighted that it's been met with resounding commitment and passion. In the 20 years I've spent in women’s football, this is the first time that we have built and created a system that is unique to the women’s game and belongs to us.
It is important for our work to be complimented by a strong high-performance system within the domestic game and you'll hear more on that when we focus on the development of the women’s professional game and the Barclays FA WSL.
We’re still just a year into the implementation of this work and we need to be realistic. This is a four-year project and there's still much more work to be done to drive it forward and improve, with our long-term goal of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023. With a team so hungry for success, I'm confident that we will be reaping the rewards when the tournament arrives.