The unseasonable quiet at the In the back of the net headquarters this morning was disturbed by a tap at the window. A raven, haggard after a 12,000-mile direct flight without a brief layoff in Dubai and therefore no chance of duty-free, peered in. It was a raven from the Tower of London, no less, and it had flown direct from London’s other sinister attraction – the FA’s headquarters. The home of English football. Clenched in the raven’s claws was a flash drive.
Curious as to what might have brought such a bird to the other side of the world, Ella opened the window a little wider and extracted the aforementioned flash drive from the aforementioned raven’s claw. The raven looked momentarily grateful to be relieved of its burden, before shitting on the windowsill and flying off, squawking raucously and upsetting the local kākā population.
Ella plugged the flash drive into her laptop. It contained a single video file, titled ‘Footage from the FA’s final decision meeting on the next England Women’s Manager’. Ella opened the file and began to watch. What follows is an entirely accurate and in no way untrue retelling of a fictional event.
A harassed looking assistant was putting the finishing touches to sparsely filled folders charmingly titled ‘Women’s Problems’. “Bit of banter for the FA lads”, he chuckled to himself. He wasn’t sure if any of the (admittedly few) women would be coming to the meeting. He sighed, hoping the meeting would be brief. It had been a long, drawn out selection process, and the media were being particularly troublesome after all.
The room was illuminated by a peculiar white glint, which increased as each member of the FA’s higher echelons shuffled into the room to take their seats, carefully preparing to say nothing of significance.
The head FA suit smiled at the banterous cover. He opened his folder, and therefore the meeting. Inside the folder he found the shortlist of candidates for the England Women’s National team tucked inside.
It was, regrettably, a short list.
“We have been… disappointed with our applicants. We have scoured the globe for talent, and have been let down on more than one occasion. Manchester City’s Nick Cushing wants to stay where he is, after much consideration, while Laura Harvey is now with the Utah Royals. John Herdman took on the Canadian men’s team. None of them liked the sound of the media.”
The FA suit’s voice quavered a little as he looked back at the shortlist and read the first name.
“Mo Marley. What do we know of her application?”
The harassed assistant glanced down at the bulging application, submitted on time and with plenty of supporting documentation.
“UEFA Pro License holder. She took Everton to the Champions League. She’s the under 19 UEFA European Championships, and then runners up in 2010 and 2013. Apparently she sacked her husband at Everton once she became ‘better qualified’ than him so she could take the job on herself. And has suggested that she’d be willing to reselect Eni Aluko.”
The FA suit shook his head. This woman, who had the temerity to be qualified for and actually want the job, just simply wouldn’t do. Surely there was an alternative.
The harassed assistant’s phone beeped. He glanced at it.
“It’s a text from Mo. Says she’s not interested in the job any more. Something about she’s hearing about a stitch up…? I’m actually not sure what she means here. Maybe she’s got us confused with her knitting circle.”
The FA suit made a small moue. The faceless upper echelons of the FA followed suit, for reasons they did not know.
“Well, that’s a shame, isn’t it. No attention to detail. And we can’t be having that. Never mind. Who else is still on the list? What about our man Phil Neville – the former Manchester United and England defender?
The FA suit tapped his nose knowingly.
“Phil… Remember, ‘so and so’ [the FA suit made bunny ears gestures with his fingers while nodding conspiratorially as the FA’s upper echelons] met us for drinks and mentioned him. He laughed when he said it, but he’s a cheerful guy, so we shouldn’t read anything into that.”
“Well, what involvement has Phil Neville had in first team management?”
“Err…” The assistant glanced down at his documents, brow furrowed. He couldn’t find Phil Neville’s CV, as Phil Neville hadn’t actually applied for the job in the first place.
He did, however, have a slew of direct messages from the @fizzer18 Twitter account, detailing with an excessive number of exclamation marks Phil Neville’s enthusiasm at being asked to take up a job that he’d never even considered before but would fit in nicely with his punditry and other media commitments and could indeed be squeezed in between board meetings if he could just shuffle his longstanding Wednesday 3pm arrangement but that shouldn’t be a problem because he really wants to work with a group of elite female footballers whose names he hadn’t had reason to recall until now. But he’s really very keen indeed and thank you so much for suggesting he consider the role. He’s very keen now.
These DMs didn’t contain any reference at all to women’s football. Nor did they, upon closer inspection, contain any reference to experience in managing a men’s or women’s first team. Apart from one line…
“Phil Neville – also holds a UEFA Pro License, now I think about it – managed his National League North side, Salford City, for one game. 2-1 win over Kendal Town in 2015.”
The FA suit nodded. This sounded promising.
“And what about his experience in the women’s game?”
“He… recently followed a few of the Lionesses on Twitter.”
The FA suit smiled. His mind was made up. The FA had just the man for the job.
Waiheke Islander currently in exile in Wellington. Supporter of Nottingham Forest and England, through thick and thin (there's been plenty of that). As a player is somewhat averse to the offside rule.