In this week’s podcast, I welcomed the manager of Southampton Women FC, Simon Parker.
Thom: You began under at Southampton Women with Fran Alonso. When you took over from him they pretty big shoes to fill.
Simon: They were massive shoes to fill. Fran is a fanatic coach and has done very well the wherever he’s been. Fran received a great offer to work with Ronald Koeman when he went from Southampton to Everton. He wasn’t looking too leave and had previously turned down other offers. But he felt that the Everton role was a great opportunity. So I got the opportunity to step up from assistant manager to first team manager.
Did you find it tough taking over from him or were the foundations already there?
I joined a few weeks after Fran as his assistant. We worked together for the rest of that season and then the following season he brought in a lot of new girls and achieved promotion. Fran was working at a Premier League club and that attracts players. I believe a lot of players came to the club to take part in the project that he started.
With him going potentially those players would also leave. We’d also taken on a U16 team and Fran was a big reason why they came. I am really thankful that the girls and the parents stuck with me and the club.
I’ve noticed that a lot of players move around clubs locally but what stands out for me at Southampton Women is a club that generally keeps players. What do you think it is that keeps them at the club?
I’d like to think that I have a small part in that but the massive thing is the girls themselves. They play for each other as they really like each other. At the moment we are winning games and we have been winning as we have progressed through the leagues. This has led to a positive environment at training and I believe that the sessions that we put on for the girls are enjoyable. Because they have been at the club for so long they know each other and they are playing with their friends.
Last season was the first season in what is now the FA Women’s National League South West Divison One. You went the whole season with one defeat in the league, that’s incredible! Now in your second season, you are still undefeated!
Yeah so far in the league we are seven from seven. It’s going well. This is my third season with them and if we go back over the past four years we have only a handful of games.
That is less than ten defeats, that’s an incredible achievement.
Yeah, and apart from last year, each year involved a promotion. The girls were stepping up their performance and it’s a credit to them because they work so hard. It’s not like we bring in new players from a higher level each year, these girls have worked hard and shown that they should be playing at that level.
A few weeks ago I went to the Southampton FC vs Winchester Flyers game. Southampton are affiliated with the men’s side and I noticed that they had a lot of young players there. How would you go about keeping those players happy? Do you think players develop by staying at a club despite not getting the game time that they could elsewhere?
Its a tough one as players want to be playing. They do have a lot of young players and I know that the coaching is going to be top, top quality. I believe a club like that will be training there times a week? The badge will be a big draw for their players so I’m sure that it wouldn’t hamper players development. Being a Regional Talent Club (RTC) you are on the pathway to the England sides which will be a massive pull. In an ideal world, they would have a second team to give the girls more minutes but I am sure that they are doing everything that is right for their development.
Do you think that if you were to go up it would help you retain your players, and if you didn’t go up would you be frightened to lose any?
If we go up then I think obviously we will have a much better chance of keeping the players because those players have shown that they should be playing at that higher level. They really should be! I really believe that we are at a level of the teams in the FA Women’s National League South above and the girls know that. They were disappointed not to have gone up last year but they all committed to come back this year. If we don’t go up this year then I would begrudge any of them leaving because they should be playing at a higher level. Hopefully, they will be there with us. They enjoy the club so I like to think that many would remain.
With the team that you have now do you think that you will be able to compete at a higher level?
I do. I 100% do. I don’t go into any league not looking to win it. If we went into the league above then my target would be to challenge for the league. I believe that we could.
Earlier this season we played against Plymouth and lost 3-1 but that game we were hampered by injuries and new players getting used to the team. The game was 1-1 for about 85 minutes and we’d already hit the crossbar. Of, course there were moments where Plymouth had the better of the play. Pre-season we played against Oxford and drew 1-1 and that’s another game I believe that we competed in.
If you’re playing in the higher league week in and week out then the intensity is the difference. We would be playing at that intensity week in and week out so we would be sharper ourselves. I believe that with the squad we have, we would be challenging.
I believe that if you did go up then you would challenge and really make a go of it.
If you want to hear more from Simon and Thom as they discuss this seasons Hampshire Cup, their controversial exit last year and the disparity in women’s prize money then you can listen and subscribe to the Since 71 podcast at since71.podomatic.com/rss2.xml. If you like what you hear then please share it with our friends.