‘What she says goes’: meet the woman in charge of a men’s team

first_imgWomen’s football Clàudia Pina celebrates after scoring one of her two goals that won Spain the Under-17 World Cup final. Photograph: Buda Mendes/Fifa via Getty Images Sportblog Facebook Natasha Orchard-Smith says: ‘There’s no reasons why anyone couldn’t do it. You’ve just got to be given the opportunity.’ Photograph: Lydia Goldsmith/Arlesey Town “We sat down and thought it would be brilliant. Men’s football goes one way completely. Men’s football: male coaches. Nah, let’s forget this. Natasha is intelligent, she’s detailed, she’s technical. I played semi-pro for 20-plus years and she’s got to be one of the best coaches I’ve come across. We said: ‘Let’s do this. Let’s bring a female in.’”They knew it was unusual. They just did not realise how unusual. The FA has confirmed that Orchard-Smith is the only female head coach from the National League down.“There’s no reasons why anyone couldn’t do it,” says Orchard-Smith. “You’ve just got to be given the opportunity.”Now they know how rare their decision was, they are hoping it will help others take the same step. “We’re hoping that other managers in non-league and maybe pro look at it and go: ‘They hired a female coach, what’s wrong with that? Why can’t we do it?’” says Endersby. “Some of these women coaches coming through are so good and they just need to be given a chance.”Has it changed the club? “The dynamic has changed, the crowd is different, the management in the other dugout don’t know what to do. There’s more respect. The players here have absolutely warmed to her, they’ve got respect for her. What she says goes. No one ever questions it and, to be honest, if they did, they aren’t the right player for my and James’ team.” Topics But success on the pitch is not the be all and end all for Endersby and Hatch. “We can see the long-term goal. What this can do for female footballers and women in football. There are probably 10 other Natasha’s sitting round the country going, ‘You know what, if she can do it, I can do it.’“It takes one person to break the mould. I think it’s great for women’s football and I think it’s great for men’s football. We’ve landed on gold. She’s Uefa B. We want to go higher in the game, me and James, and we’ve always said we’d like to bring her with us. We now joke that it’ll be us trying to go up with her.”Talking points• Uefa have announced that the Football Association has been successful in its bid to host the 2021 European Championship – very much a formality as England were the only bidders. The final will be held at Wembley, with eight other venues listed as part of the bid, including Brighton & Hove Albion’s Amex Arena and Southampton’s St Mary’s. Pinterest Twitter Twitter Facebook Pinterest Share on LinkedIn The 100 best female footballers in the world 2018center_img features • Clàudia Pina’s first-half double secured the Under-17 World Cup for Spain in a 2-1 win against Mexico. Denise Castro reduced the deficit in Uruguay but Mexico failed to find the leveller. Pina finished joint top scorer with Ghana’s Mukarama Abdulai on seven goals.• The draw for next summer’s World Cup in France takes place on Saturday and will be aired live on BBC2. England are in Pot 1 with France, USA, Germany, Australia and Canada. Scotland are in Pot 3.• Manchester United’s assistant manager Willie Kirk has left the club after four months to take the helm at Everton. The former Bristol City and Hibernian manager led the club to their first win of the season against Liverpool in his first match.• The next round of the Continental League Cup kicks off on Wednesday evening. Highlights include a second Merseyside derby in four days, Manchester United hosting Durham – the only side to have taken points off of Casey Stoney’s side – and Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace. You see men going into women’s football; the door should be open for women to come into men’s. It sounds sort of obvious. So why is it so rare?Two former semi-pro players, Matt Endersby and James Hatch, took charge of the Bedfordshire club Arlesey Town, in the ninth tier of English football, at the start of June. Following relegation there were no players, they had no coaching staff and they had very little time to settle in. The first thing they needed to do was find a head coach and they phoned Natasha Orchard-Smith.For them it was obvious. They knew Orchard-Smith. “When I was coaching at Barton she was stood behind the dugout one day,” says Endersby. “I was listening to everything she was saying and I was like: ‘Who is this woman? This information she’s coming out with is spot on.’ Orchard-Smith is a remarkably experienced coach. As a player “not playing at a very high level” she was encouraged to do her FA Level 1 badge by a friend.“I did it and then didn’t really do anything with it,” she says. “But when my lad got to about seven and started to show an interest in football I took him to a local club and then kind of became part of the club. They needed a manager, under-eights, and because I had done my Level 1 they were like: ‘Yep, bang, thank you, we’ll have you.’ I did that for 10 years, under-eights to under-18s.”She completed her Level 2 and Uefa B licences, her goalkeeping Level 2, has worked as an FA skills coach in Bedfordshire, has her own coaching business, a degree in coaching for performance from Anglia Ruskin and is currently undertaking her goalkeeping Uefa B.But when her son reached 18 and shifted his focus from football, she thought she would have a step back and reclaim her evenings and weekends. Then Arsenal approached her and she started working with their under-10 girls in their Regional Talent Centre. She had been there for 14 months and was lined up to be there this season – but then Endersby called to offer a bit of an alien project.“I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t worked in the men’s game before, I’d mainly worked 5-11s and youth/grassroots. Which is completely different to semi-pro,” says Orchard-Smith. “I went in and I’ve never really looked back. It’s very different but I’ve loved every minute of it. I think I’ve been very lucky, the lads have taken to me from the moment I came in. Ones that moved from other clubs, they knew I was already there. They’ve been very receptive.”It was a big learning curve. Having always been in development, switching to success-reliant football took time to adjust, but to say she has flourished is an understatement. The team are fourth in the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division with 12 wins from 17 and sit six points off the top.“I’m ecstatic because sometimes it takes two to three years for a team to build. We are doing really, really well,” says Endersby. The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email. Share on Pinterest Share on Twitter Read more Share on WhatsApp Share on Facebook Share via Email Share on Messenger Reuse this contentlast_img read more