When will English professional men’s football hire its first female manager? ‘Only a matter of time’, says highest-ranking existing boss

The highest-ranked female manager in men’s football says she is convinced there will be more women working in influential positions at big clubs in the next few years.

Rosi Webb is in charge of Stanway Pegasus in the Eastern Counties Football League. That is level-10 in the football pyramid, five below the National League.

“I think it’s only a matter of time,” Webb explains.

“I think coaches like Emma Hayes (Chelsea Women manager) who are at the top in the women’s game will probably be the first to get a chance in the men’s game because I think it will be a case of wanting a female with a high profile .”

FA figures, seen by Sky Sports News, show there are more than 5,000 female coaches working in England – and almost 4,000 of those are training men’s and boy’s teams.

But none have risen above the semi-professional level where Webb is working.

In women’s football, big names such as Chelsea’s Hayes and England’s Sarina Wiegman are often linked with jobs in the men’s game, but so far no female manager has surpassed Webb.

“No other female has really stepped foot in this kind of environment and I wanted to be the first,” Webb explains.

“I’m the kind of person that likes a challenge. I felt like this would challenge me, and it has certainly done that.

“I think at first I probably doubted myself – what I good enough to step into that environment. Most of the teams I go to, and those teams that come here, are very welcoming to me. You do get a few small-minded people, you get it everywhere in society, it’s not just football.

“I did get some abuse last season, on one occasion someone told me to get back in the kitchen, but to be fair to the club involved, they dealt with it straight away and that player didn’t play again.”

Stanway Pegasus owner and assistant manager Ian Booth says the club is very forward thinking. He thinks the club’s young board of directors, who are in their 20s and 30s, has helped push Webb to the fore.

Not that it has been pain-free for Webb.

Webb's side almost made it two promotions in a row this year, but were beaten on penalties in their play-off final
Webb’s side almost made it two promotions in a row this year, but were beaten on penalties in their play-off final

“She did get upset at one of the games we went to last season,” says Booth.

“But she knows that it’s going to be a long, tough road, and she has this club backing her all the way.

“She’s a fantastic coach, and well deserves her luck in the men’s game. She’s well respected by all the players and has fantastic knowledge. To be honest, she’s no different from any male in the game.

“Her personality and her charisma are just fantastic, it brings people together. And the players just bonded instantly with her coaching methods.”

Webb has come through the FA Skills Programme, and now works within the High Performance Center at Essex University.

“In football, like elsewhere, respect is earned and you have to show it as well as receive it,” she says.

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“You prove your worth, show you know what you’re talking about and show it on the field. So I’m sure I have them [the players’] respect now, even if I didn’t have it at the beginning.”

Max Booth, Stanway Pegasus’ captain, told Sky Sports: “For me it’s all about how a coach engages with players in sessions, and she does that better than anyone I’ve seen.

“That’s the key for me. As a semi-pro player you can turn up to training and not necessarily be up for it. But she’s created an atmosphere that is demanding.

“You have to play, otherwise you won’t be in the side.”

Last year, in her first season in charge, Webb won the league and cup double, going unbeaten throughout the whole campaign. This year, Stanway Pegasus made it to the Eastern Counties play-off final, but lost to Sporting Bengal on penalties.

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“I want to grow and achieve as much as I can,” Webb says. “I’m at a good place now, this club has been great to me, so supportive.

“I need to keep developing on and off the field as a coach. I hope I’m an inspiration to other females who might want to follow this path.

“The FA are doing some great work in trying to get more females into the game, so in the next couple of years I’m confident you’ll see more females in both the women’s and the men’s game.”