Legacy is an intriguing commodity to try to quantify. In the case of [recent] England managers, there is little say those leaving the role can have in the matter.
Despite the fall-out from her departure, Hope Powell will forever be remembered for all she did for the England squad during her time at the helm to bring the team into the modern era. For driving standards in the squad and relentlessly campaigning for more and better resources for her team from the FA.
A coach that had her fair share of highs and lows but will be remembered for getting England to their first major tournament final (in the modern era) at Euro 2009. Something that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been from her dogged work at home.
Mark Sampson looked set to be remembered for getting England to their first World Cup semi-final, for the bronze medal won in Canada 2015 and for finally besting Germany. Back-to-back semi-finals would have written themselves into the Welshman’s legacy, along with England’s rise through the FIFA rankings.
However, the football fast took the backseat to all that happened off the pitch, the investigation into the alleged racist remarks he made to Eni Aluko and fall-out in the squad. The way everything was brought into the public eye, illuminating the under-loved sport with the glare from the mainstream looking for a juicy story. As well as the way he was eventually dismissed by The FA, with suggestion and implication of wrongdoing in his former job with Bristol Academy.
When it comes to Phil Neville, the football hasn’t been much to write home about but the novice manager has had a clear impact on women’s football off the pitch. The 2019 World Cup certainly didn’t end how the 43-year-old planned (as he made abundantly clear in Nice) but the coverage the sport he helped garner needs to be highlighted. There was, of course, increased interest around England following Sampson’s sacking so bringing in a well-known face from the men’s game with friends in the mainstream media would never be a bad thing for the FA.
Women’s football had been on the rise in England, but with Neville at the helm the gentle upward curve in interest arrowed skywards. The manager was fast campaigning for better conditions for the squad – such as flying business class to the She Believes Cup – and bigger venues for England games.
It’s unclear, with the trajectory of women’s football in England, if 77,768 fans would have piled into Wembley at the end of the last year to watch the Lionesses lose to Germany had Neville not been at the helm. It’s unquestionable that the attendance would have been significantly higher than before but the profile the former Manchester United man brought with him, elevated the game to new heights.
This will be his legacy, not the loss to the USA in the semi-finals in France nor the losing streak broken by a lucky win in Setúbal. The divorce won’t acrimonious as Sampson’s was but due to the details of his initial contract and freeze on football around the world, it will be a prolonged one. But by the end of it, there will be a sense that he is leaving the team in a better position than he found it, even if that doesn’t include major silverware.
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