Manchester United head coach Casey Stoney says she’s embracing the pressure of being the figurehead of the women’s team as they get set for their first home game against Reading on Saturday.
The club reformed its women’s side this summer after 13 years, entering at the second tier in the Women’s Championship, and last weekend they got off the mark with an unexpected 1-0 win away to Liverpool in the Continental Tyres League Cup. On Saturday they entertain another Women’s Super League side in the same competition at the Leigh Sports Village, with the hope that a healthy crowd will get on board with the new venture.
It is a new chapter for Stoney, who is in her first head coaching role, but she tells Goal she is thriving on the responsibility that comes with the honour of being the first boss of the new outfit.
“Absolutely, there’s responsibility, there’s pressure, there’s probably a little bit of expectation – not from the club but from outside and from fans – but I wouldn’t have taken this job if I didn’t want that,” she explains.
“I think I work better under pressure, I like it. If we want to be one of the best teams in the world in women’s football, that pressure’s going to get more and more and more so we need to be able to cope with it. And it excites me, it really does, because we’re only on the start of the journey.
Stoney’s playing career saw her represent clubs including Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool and she played for England 130 times. The 36-year-old also captained Great Britain at the London 2010 Olympics.
Her pedigree in the game made her an obvious candidate for the role at United, but she insists that any fear of her reputation being harmed has not crossed her mind.
“People said taking this job was a risk because of that, because of my reputation in the game, but I’d like to think that’s never going to change,” she adds.
“I’m not going to change who I am and what I do and the way I work because I’m head coach now. I’m really big on looking after the people in my squad, my staff, and making sure that everybody feels valued, everybody’s part of it and we’re going on this journey together. I know the game really well, and that’s helped me in my recruitment process because I’ve got good relationships with players.”
While she only retired from playing in February of this year, Stoney does have previous experience in charge of a club after leading Chelsea to third place in the Premier League National Division as player-manager in 2009. But she says her dream of being a full-time boss came about long before that brief assignment.
“I’m surprised that didn’t put me off to be honest! From the age of 17 when I started doing my coaching badges I always knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to have a good career as a player, and I feel like I did that, like I had a decent career. I was never the best player in any of my teams but I worked harder than most players and I’ll be the same as a head coach: I’ll be very, very motivated, very driven and I’m very hard-working and I don’t want that to ever change.”
“I think for me the potential here is huge and I want to make sure that I deliver to the players so that they have the best platform to be successful.”
Stoney is keen to stress also that her team is simply an extension of their male counterparts, encouraging anybody who has never watched women’s football to get down to Leigh Sports Village on Saturday.
“I’d say come down and watch. I’ve been in the women’s game a long time and there are a lot of critics, and I’ve been in experiences where people would say ‘I’ll never watch that’ and then they’ve been to a game and all of a sudden they’re really surprised and they come back again.
“So if you support Manchester United you support the Manchester United men’s team, the women’s team, the under-23s, whatever. We want to make sure that the fans come and watch, and we entertain so that they keep coming back to watch.”
Women’s Team Season Tickets are on sale at £39 (just £20 for U16s/65+). This price includes home cup games (except semi-finals / finals if applicable).
Match tickets are also on sale to see Manchester United Women’s first home game against Reading FC Women. Tickets are priced at £5 (just £2.50 for U16s/65+). Visit www.manutd.com to purchase tickets.