Former England winger Rachel Yankey says new Lionesses interim manager Mo Marley can be just what the troubled squad need as they continue their World Cup qualification campaign.
Speaking at the Betfair Fairer Game launch, a programme to fund 50 women through their UEFA B coaching qualification, the 37-year-old praised her former team-mate and opponent as she steps into the hot-seat vacated by Mark Sampson last month following allegations of inappropriate behaviour when he was coach of Bristol Academy.
“I’ve played in the same team as Mo when I was a lot younger and obviously played against her when she was manager of Everton, and I’ve seen first-hand how she was on the pitch as a player,” said the ex-Arsenal star.
“She’s a good person – she will want to get to know players and get the best out of her players, so her character will shine across there, and obviously she knows her football stuff. I think she’ll be great for the England team, whether that’s short-term or long-term.”
Yankey herself is currently working towards her UEFA A licence, and is a strong advocate of encouraging more women into coaching.
“If the best person to coach the team, whether that’s a male or female team, is a man, then fair enough, but I want the opportunity to be there,” she says. “It shouldn’t be that we’re only employing male coaches because there’s only males to pick from, I don’t believe in that. I think if there’s female coaches and they’re good enough, let them have the job, see where we go.”
It is perhaps unsurprising that the presenter of CBeebies’s Footy Pups says that she really enjoys coaching younger age groups and seeing children progress.
“I’ve coached a few kids that I’ve got real pleasure out of seeing them go from not being able to do something to then two weeks later seeing the joy in their faces when they’ve been able to do it and master that skill, so that for me is something quite rewarding,” she explains.
She talks eloquently about how a number of coaches have affected her career, singling out two former Arsenal managers as particularly impactful in different ways.
“Tony Gervaise, he was fantastic for me,” she recalls. “He trusted me, that’s what I felt – that made me feel like I wanted to play for him. Vic Akers was a great character in the way that he’d speak to the players, and he’d have a laugh and a joke but there was that line you’d never cross. I think there’s little bits of everybody [who have been particularly influential]. That’s why I believe that in coaching, it doesn’t need to be a man. You can have the diversity of different people – and it works differently for different people.”
A new mum, Yankey is looking forward to working with the women on the Fairer Game scheme – although she is hesitant to describe herself as a mentor, pointing out that she is likely to benefit from spending time with so many brilliant coaches.
“I think I’ll learn from it as well,” she says. “I think I’ll become a better coach. Everyone’s got different ideas – and everyone looks at football differently.”
To follow the women on their Betfair Fairer Game journey visit fairergame.com