Time is the great enemy of the football blog writer. An issue is thrown to the front of the game’s consciousness, just crying out for a story to be penned. You go into research mode, start gathering evidence and begin to put the piece together. Get the structure right, check your references and, finally, start to write. Then, without warning, the story changes. You didn’t see that coming did you? So, you go back, reassess and consider an alternative approach. Find your angle, and then… another twist in the tail occurs. You’re faced with two choices. Throw all of your research in the bin and move on, or realise that every twist of fate, every corner uncovered enriches the story and you shouldn’t let it go.
Such has been the story of Helena Costa’s appointment as coach of French second division side Clermont Foot, and the events that followed. The switchback of a story has all the ingredients of a soap opera, and would be entertaining, were it not ultimately dispiriting in its denouement – at least to date. During the tail-end of the 1980’s Channel Four broadcast series called ‘The Manageress’ with the basic plotline of a struggling Second Division club (this was before the days of the Premier League, and the league was what is labelled as ‘The Championship’ in new money) appointing a woman as team manager. The part of Gabriella Benson was played by Cherie Lunghi, and the story told of the trials and tribulations she went through, trying to be taken seriously as a woman in a man’s world. Sound familiar?
Although the series was relatively successful, with a second run shown in the summer of 1990, critics panned it as being unrealistic. 15 years or so later, I’m not so sure, at least in one sense. The subject matters it dealt, such as misogyny, relations between club and coach, agents, player behaviour and the media, have echoes in the story of Helena Costa and Clermont Foot. Continue reading →