by Dom Smith at Wembley
Sarina Wiegman said she deliberated over whether she could leave the Netherlands to become England manager but made a concerted effort to learn about English culture once she became the Lionesses’ first permanent non-British manager.
Wiegman, 53, stepped away from her Euro 2017-winning role as Dutch head coach to become England manager in September 2021. The Lionesses are yet to lose during her 26-game tenure, and were crowned European champions when they won the Euros on home soil in July.
She replaced interim manager Hege Riise as England coach in September 2021, with The FA having already secured her services a year before she actually stepped down as Netherlands manager.
The quotes come in the midst of a wider football debate about whether national team managers should have the nationality of the country they represent, sparked by the news that England men’s team manager Gareth Southgate is taking the next few weeks to decide whether he wishes to see out his contract as head coach which runs until after Euro 2024.Embed from Getty Images
Speaking to the media at Wembley, Wiegman said about her status as a foreign England manager: “I thought about it when I first got in contact with England when they reached out to me. I was head coach of the Netherlands, but my first thought was: can I leave the Netherlands?
“I grew up there, it’s my country. We were talking about extending my contract, then I just waited, that’s how it works in my head. I needed some time to think and to feel. It stuck with me. Most of the time when some people reach out to me about if I am interested in a job, after a couple of days it would just fade ‘no I’m going to stay with the Netherlands’. But this one stuck with me.
“This is very exciting, it’s a big country. England is a big football country — the WSL, the potential of the team — so I started to have conversations. Then it came to a stage where I thought if England want to appoint me, they need to know who I am. They watched me on TV, I had some FIFA things and conversations with Kay Cossington [FA Head of Women’s Technical], so we knew each other a little bit, but I really wanted to share who I really am, what my vision is, how I work with people, how I think of training and things like that.”
She added: “If The FA would’ve said ‘I don’t think you’re a fit with England’, then it would be fine. The other way around, I asked The FA too about what they thought the future was. So they gave me information so I could figure out if I was a good fit for them. If you agree on a contract it’s really nice, the best thing for everyone — when you know what you can expect from each other so you have to get to know that.Embed from Getty Images
“Those conversations went really well so I got really enthusiastic and I noticed The FA got really enthusiastic and then we finally got to an appointment. When I got there I tried to know more about your culture – although the countries are really close together there are some differences in culture so I really tried to learn.
“I took some English classes in football. I said I will learn about your culture and try and adapt to your culture but the directness you have to know what is good, I will not go around it or change that. The other things I will try and adapt to the English culture. I think it went really well and we really enjoyed ourself, I think we can still grow a lot. I think the FA and the players and staff enjoy it too and think we have a very good collaboration.”
The Lionesses do not play again until mid-February, when they host South Korea, Italy and Belgium in the Arnold Clark Cup. They won the inaugural edition of the competition earlier this year, following up draws with Canada and Spain with a victory over Germany.