Hope Powell: Women’s football is very different now than it was at Euro 2005 in England

Hope Powell has spoken about the importance of the Women’s Euros England held 17 years ago in the move towards a ‘completely different’ current picture ahead of this summer’s home tournament.

Brighton manager Powell led the Lionesses when they hosted Euro 2005 and opened with a 3-2 win over Finland in front of nearly 30,000 fans at the Etihad Stadium, sealed by a late goal from then 17-year-old Karen Carney.

After that campaign ended in the group stage, Powell’s England tenure – which ran from 1998 to 2013 – was subsequently responsible for, among other things, a second-place finish at the 2009 European Championships in Finland, and she also managed the British team at the London 2012 Olympics.

Powell told the PA news agency: “I think 17 years is a long time – does it feel like that? Yes.

“I think it’s completely different now, the preparation for the tournament, the global interest, the marketing and media interest, and I think the expectation of England now – they’re expected to do well.

“The players are (now) household names. We didn’t have that in 2005 until a few of them became household names when the tournament started – Karen Carney, who scored the goal at the Etihad.

“I think the pressure is different, the expectations, the convoy, the entourage – and I think that just shows how far the game has come.

“The crowd at the Etihad was amazing and it was our first experience of a large following. And Karen Carney scoring that goal was a standout moment, the press went crazy.

“I think it (the tournament) was really important. It gave us an opportunity to showcase the best talent we had at the time, to involve fans and young girls to see that maybe this was possible, they could play the game in stadiums, on decent pitches, with the shine of the media on it.

“It’s a lot more now, but I think it was a pivotal moment in promoting women’s football in this country.

“The sad thing for me after this tournament was that it went away very quickly. Then we got to a final in 2009… and then that lessened. And then 2012 was probably a bit of a turning point when I played in front of 70,000 people at Wembley (Britain’s last group game), the attention around it.

“I think at that tournament (where GB were quarter-finalists) it really exploded from there.”

Powell was also responsible for the British team at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Ana Gowthorpe/PA).

(PA Archive)

England, semi-finalists in their last three major tournaments, will start their EURO 2022 season with a game against Austria on July 6 at Old Trafford. Every one of his group games is sold out, as is the Wembley final.

Powell – who says comparing England teams from 2009 and now is “a bit unfair” to “the players now… fully professional, with everything they have at their disposal” – believes hosting will inspire them.

She sees England boss Sarina Wiegman, manager of the Dutch triumph at Euro 2017, as a “tough nut”.

And Powell – holder of 66 caps for England and part of the team that finished runners-up in 1984 – added: “I think they’ll be disappointed if they don’t go to the final and win it. I think they have more depth (in the roster) than ever.”

The Football Association last month announced plans, backed by the Premier League, aimed at creating a broader and more diverse talent pool for women’s football.

Adding to this, the level of ethnic minority representation in the Women’s Super League and the England women’s team has been a big talking point in recent years, and issues around the structure of talent paths and accessibility for inner-city youth appearing as a factor in which position to be cited.

There is said to be a wider national network of so-called emerging talent centers for girls aged eight to 16, and FA director of women’s football Baroness Sue Campbell has expressed confidence that the plan and other initiatives are helping to bring about a “significant change” in diversity at the top of English women’s football.

Sarina Wiegman’s England begin their home EURO campaign by taking on Austria at Old Trafford on July 6 (Tim Goode/PA).

(PA wire)

Powell said: “I think it’s really important and I’m really pleased that the FA listened to the concerns of the wider football community, that they then decided to do something about it and make it more accessible.

“The new plans need to be tried and tested. If it makes the game more accessible, hopefully we’ll see a more diverse pool of talent in the future.

“They had to make changes, I’m glad they did, and it’s about implementing the plans, letting them go, monitoring them and seeing if they work.”

Powell also hopes that greater diversity in players in terms of coaching and managerial will lead to the same thing, adding, “It’s all about opportunity — opportunity to play, opportunity to coach.”

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