Powell and Brighton make perfect pair
With a CV as strong as hers, Hope Powell wasn’t short of options when she decided to end a four-year hiatus from coaching last summer.
And in Brighton & Hove Albion, former England coach Powell is convinced she has found the perfect club to match her ambitions, both on and off the pitch.
Powell was somewhat thrust into her England role initially – she had started a 1-0 defeat to Germany as a midfielder in March 1998 and just four months later, in July 1998, she was managing the Lionesses in a friendly against Sweden following the resignation of Ted Copeland.
At 31 years old, she was the youngest-ever coach of any English national football team but spent a successful 15 years at the helm – leading the team at four UEFA Women’s Euros, including all the way to the final in 2009, and twice to the World Cup quarter-finals.
The lure of the Seagulls
After departing the role in August 2013, Powell took four years away from coaching but the call of the Seagulls in the summer of 2017 was just too loud to ignore.
“I had some time away and I had some time to reflect,” explained Powell, who did some media work and also wrote her autobiography Hope: My Life in Football during the hiatus.
“It was good for me and gave me an opportunity to do other things within the game that I really enjoyed.
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"As a coach, you end up missing being out there with a team though and Brighton just felt right. The club is great.
“I know a lot of people around the club quite well. Their vision and philosophy aligned itself to mine – it was very similar, which was great.
“The community-driven aspect of the club is fantastic and it’s very inclusive, so that was the appeal really.
“We have ambitions to stay in the top flight, not only the men’s side but for the women’s team to remain in the Super League as well. It’s a nice place to be and I’m really enjoying it.”
After taking the reins on the south coast, Powell led Brighton to an impressive second-place finish in WSL 2 last term and they’re now tackling the Women’s Super League as a full-time club.
The manager, now 51, admits the transition to being fully professional will take some getting used to – they narrowly lost their Super League opener 1-0 to Bristol City last weekend – but is adamant the club are set up for sustained success.
“I think it’s been a massive transition for the players and for the club as well,” said Powell. “Going from part-time and making the decision to go full-time is a big step.
“There’s a different adaptation to full-time training but we think we’ve made progress. We’re better than we were last year in terms of fitness and preparation.
“We’re pretty pleased with where we are, we know we’ve still got a lot of improvement to come but that’s what we’re working towards.
“I’ve been involved in the game for many years, it’s really progressing. Going professional is fantastic for every club and you’ve seen the step up in terms of investment.”
The young guns are firing
Brighton pride themselves on bringing through homegrown talent and giving youth a chance – as demonstrated by the fact that 19-year-olds Ellie Brazil, Bethan Roe and Chloe Peplow, as well as 17-year-old goalkeeper Laura Hartley, all started against Bristol City.
The future is undoubtedly bright for the Seagulls and Powell is gratified by the environment being created in Sussex.
“We’re trying to focus on homegrown talent and we’re trying to make it as sustainable as possible over a long period of time,” added Powell.
“We want to build a solid base with the development squad upwards. We want to focus on homegrown talent and bring those players through.
“I’ve been here for about a year and I’m trying to embed a philosophy, which the girls have responded to very well.
“We’re trying to make sure that things are done in the way that I would like, getting players buying into that. We’re working towards something exciting.”