Given a tough start to life in WSL, playing the top two teams from the previous season, Casey Stoney’s Manchester United found that the third time’s the charm as they picked up their first points of the season against Liverpool. Still just barely into her journey as a coach, Stoney has been learning fast, accepting her mistakes and using all of the good and all of the bad as teachable lessons. We spoke with her after the win.
WF: It’s quite a different world in WSL [compared with the Championship], how much of a learning curve have the last three matches been?
CS: “Massive, I’m learning every day. I never shy away from the fact I make mistakes. I’m new. I’m still new. I’m 14-15 months into being a head coach, so I get things wrong. And I’m going to continue to get things wrong. I always admit to the players when I get things wrong. I’m learning all the time about my players, my philosophy, the way I want to play and what I need.”
WF: Has there been anything specific that’s surprised you as you’ve grown?
CS: “I think as a centre back we play quite expressive football. For me as a centre back we’re not conservative. We are organised defensively because I think that gives you a structure to attack but I think I’m more attack-minded than I thought I would be as a coach. But my defenders get the hardest time, and that’s tough for them because I’m probably more critical of them than anyone else. That surprised me. And then I was surprised by how much you have to manage off the pitch as opposed to how much you manage on the grass, and that’s a challenge for me and I’m learning all the time on that. I have to make sure we’ve got enough support around the players, wellbeing coach, support from the club, support from the staff to make sure no matter what that player’s got somewhere to go if they need it.”
WF: We were told that before you give your half-time talk, you let the players talk amongst themselves…
CS: “I always leave the players for three, four or five minutes – depending on the state of the game. They need to have their voice and be able to solve problems. When they are out on the pitch I can’t solve everything for them. They need to be able to have that time. They always do. They weren’t saying anything different to what I was going to say anyway! You have to be calm sometimes. I wasn’t quite so calm today but we got the result so that’s all that matters.”
WF: And is that something you learned off of one of your coaches or something all of your own?
CS: “It’s because of how I felt when I was a player. You always wanted those few minutes to try and talk to each other. Otherwise you go in as a head coach and they are all talking anyway. You are better off letting them solve the problems then going in and changing things if you need to.”
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