aul Konchesky had a good expectation to lead West Ham for the first time as a manager. It was in May that the former England defender was announced as Olli Harder’s successor and more than four months will have passed by the time the Hammers return to Women’s Super League (WSL) action with a trip intimidating at Stamford Bridge to face defending champions Chelsea on Sunday lunchtime.
“It’s been a long pre-season,” Konchesky says, on the eve of the new campaign. West Ham sent just two players to this summer’s European Championship and although new signings have since arrived and others have been in international action this month, some members of Konchesky’s squad n haven’t played competitively since last day’s loss to Arsenal on May 8.
“We had a lot of changes here so it was good to be all here at the same time, but the wait was long,” he said. “Even this week has been weird because we’ve had internationals away, so we’re preparing for the season without some players who will be available at the weekend.”
Konchesky started coaching at West Ham’s academy in 2017 while doing his badges, but was asked to bolster Harder’s defense in the New Zealander’s first season in charge and later offered the job as assistant manager for the 2021/22 campaign after the Hammers avoided relegation. .
While the first day of tenure in the top job seems to have taken a while to arrive, it’s at odds with the fact that since moving from the boys’ academy to the senior women’s game, the 41-year-old year-old has, by his own admission, spent much of the last 18 months “going back to school”.
“The two or three months I had before helped me understand what the feminine side was,” Konchesky says. “When I became assistant manager I knew what I was getting into. It’s not much different – they want to play football, they want to learn. It’s more interesting because they want to interact with you all the time , they want to know anything and everything.
Still, coming from a past career in men’s football, there were new players, teams and managers to quickly become familiar with, not only through games over the past season, but also through doing homework. additional.
“You go back to school because you will only improve if you know what the opposition is talking about,” he says. “You get out what you put in. If I don’t know this team, I have no chance this weekend.”
Konchesky’s career remains, for the moment, relatively rare. Of the 12 current WSL managers, only he and Manchester City’s Gareth Taylor come from notable male careers – but it is suspected that will become less so, as the appeal of the women’s game as a real alternative for young managers masculine is growing and the opportunities to switch from one code to another are becoming more common.
There is limited daily overlap between West Ham’s men’s and women’s teams, with the latter training at the club’s Chadwell Heath base alongside the academy, while the men are at Rush Green. It seems a shame, given how Declan Rice was at the forefront of a growing bond between the men and women of England during their timeshare at St. George’s Park this summer, while Konchesky says that he has had no contact with David Moyes, although he insists that “if I feel I have to, then I will have the opportunity to go talk to him”.
Konchesky’s long-term ambition isn’t all that different from Moyes’ as he seeks to break through an established and growing WSL elite, although it seems an equally difficult task for a team that has completed a impressive sixth last season but fears the gap with the five in the country. the bigger clubs (Liverpool have just been promoted from the Championship) could expand.
The contrast will perhaps appear even starker to the casual observer given the heightened profile of England’s Euro 2022 heroes, none of whom play for West Ham, although, in fairness, Tottenham are also without a lioness.
“Every club invests in the WSL,” Konchesky adds. “It will always be more difficult, but it’s not always about having the best players, it’s about the team and what you have in that team.
“Every woman’s dream is to play for their national team. We have players doing that and younger ones playing for England [at age-group level]. There is a big future here, we have a lot of English players who hopefully can push for the seniors and hopefully it’s not too far.