The search is on

‘We need the right person to take the Matildas to the next level’: Highwood

‘We need the right person to take the Matildas to the next level’: Highwood

From grassroots and the elite pathway to coaching education and W-League sustainability, there are many concerns in women’s football awaiting the attention of the newly appointed Head of Women’s Football Emma Highwood.

Arguably the most high profile, and immediately pressing, of these is the appointment of the next Matildas coach.

The position has been vacant since 26 May 2014 when interim head coach Alen Stajcic guided the Matildas to silver at the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

Just over two months on there has been minimal information, save for an advertisement on the FFA website, regarding the search leading to pointed criticism levelled at the governing body on the time taken.

The delay is brought into sharp focus when contrasted with the decidedly more swift appointment of Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou following the dismissal of Holger Osieck in late 2013.

“For us it has taken longer because with Ange it was different,” said Highwood when question about the timeframe.

“We [the FFA] approached Ange whereas this process has been much more of an open process.”

“We wanted to ensure we had a really competitive application process and that therefore meant we had to take more time to find the right candidate.”

The new coach will indeed have to survive a lengthy and competitive procedure that includes submitting an expression of interest, shortlisting and interviews by three different panels that comprising of inquisitors from within, and independent, of the FFA.

Two notable members of the panels are former Matildas captain Julie Murray and current Brisbane Roar A-League championship and premiership winning coach Mike Mulvey.

Murray amassed over 60 caps for the Matildas in a 13 year career that included two World Cups and the 2000 Sydney Olympic games. Meanwhile Mulvey has spent 11 years (cumulatively) in women’s football including a stint with the Melbourne Victory that earned him the 2012/13 W-League Coach of the Year.

Several sources suggest that the expanded recruitment process is a reaction to the very public parting of ways with former coach Hesterine de Reus.

What is clear is that less than 12 months out from the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and just over 12 months from the Rio 2016 Olympic Qualifiers, there is little margin for error.

“I am of the view that in the next 10 years we could win the World Cup and we are very ambitious for the Matildas,” continued Highwood.

“What is critical for us is that we have a young squad and we really need the right person that is going to come in and take it to the next level.”

Over 50 applications were received with a handful shortlisted for the interview process. On what attributes the “right person” needs to possess and who or how many have moved through to the interview phase, Highwood was loath to elaborate.

However The Women’s Game have been able to ascertain that there have been a number of high profile submissions from Australia and abroad, including the UK, France, Italy and the USA.

As per the advertisement criteria, they all possess UEFA, AFC (or equivalent) Pro Licences and have international experience either with youth representative or senior national women’s teams.

One name absent in the murmurs is former Matildas coach Tom Sermanni. All indications are that Sermanni will not partake in the process to earn a third tenure.

The next couple of weeks will see a the shortlisted applicants commence the interview process.  As to the date of an announcement?

“We are hopeful by the W-League commencement that we will have a Matildas coach in place and we want them to be on the ground around the W-League season.”

So for now the wait continues.