With big shoes to fill following the departure of John Buckley from one of the most famous clubs in women’s football, the head coach role at Doncaster Rovers Belles will be no walk in the park.
Buckley spent 10 years at the helm building a squad to compete in the highest tier of the female footballing game in England - the Women’s Super League.
But, with Belles’ relegation into next season’s WSL2 following an FA application process, and new investment from London-based private law school BPP University, changes led to Buckley’s departure in September.
Former Belles player-manager Julie Chipchase is the club’s new director of football - and the FA coach is arguably the one you need to impress if you’re going for the head coach role.
With a new manager expected to be unveiled in early November and interviews already underway, here is my own shortlist of candidates who I feel could fit the bill and drive the Belles forward:
1) Hope Powell. The former England manager of 15 years is currently looking for her next venture and meets all the criteria of a WSL team boss. However, the ex-Millwall Lionesses player and vastly experienced coach might be out of Belles’ price range and questions could arise as to how she could operate under the guidance of a director of football.
2) Leanne Hall. One of very few women in the game to boast the FA A licence requirement. The former long-serving Belles and England ‘keeper has years in the women’s game. She has strong connections with Doncaster too and is currently running her own sports academy in Sheffield. Her expertise could prove vital in helping to develop the Belles’ junior section.
3) Gordon Staniforth. The ex-Hull City and England schoolboy international is an FA senior coach, FA Women’s mentor and heads up the FA Centre of Excellence in York. He’s no stranger to the women’s game and his daughter, Lucy currently plies her trade in WSL1 for Bristol Academy Women.
4) Glen Harris. Also boasting the FA A licence, the former two-time Lincoln Ladies chief has trophies on his CV including the Lincolnshire County Cup won during his first spell at the club in the early 2000s. Harris was later relieved of his managerial duties in 2012 but continued his technical director role at the club’s centre of excellence.
5) Rick Passmore. As Belles were facing relegation, Lincoln Ladies were re-branding. The Lady Imps are now Notts County and will be playing in WSL1 next year. Passmore is currently at the helm of County, but could be tempted by a fresh challenge. Passmore has also worked with Belles’ Sue Smith, Leandra Little and Nic Hobbs during their Lincoln spells.
6) Paul Cudby. The former Coventry City Ladies manager has made no secret of the fact he is hungry for a new challenge. Resigning from the Sky Blues last year after a four-year reign where he was the club’s most successful manager, Cudby became director of football at Atherstone Town, however, left after a month to pursue more coaching roles. ‘Cud’ it be?
7) Gill Coultard. One of the most celebrated Belles players in the club’s history. The second most capped England women’s footballer could be about to make a stunning return to the Belles. She does not possess the FA A licence but could still be involved in some way at the club.