Forest Green Rovers vs Coventry City takes place on Tuesday, July 18, at 7pm (UK time).
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On the face of it, this may just look like another pre-season friendly between two teams looking to battle their way up the football league in 2023/24. However, all eyes will be on Forest Green and, more specifically, their caretaker boss Hannah Dingley. The 39-year-old has made history by becoming the first woman to take charge of an English Football League club, with Forest Green drawing 1-1 against non-league Melksham Town in her first match recently.
Dingley secured the role — replacing the outgoing Duncan Ferguson — having already been in charge of the club’s academy team since 2019, also becoming the first woman to fill such a role at an EFL club. For now, the former university lecturer is in the dugout purely on an interim basis but Dingley is hoping she can keep the job long-term and inspire others to follow in her footsteps. A win against the 2022/23 Championship playoff runners-up Coventry would certainly boost her chances.
“The important thing is role-modelling for other female coaches and young girls and growing up knowing that anything is possible if you work hard enough,” Dingley told reporters at a press conference.
“It’s the first and it’s great, but I don’t want to be the only. It’s slightly disappointing that, as the first female academy manager, I’m still the only one.
“If we want change to happen we need more females in these positions throughout clubs. We need more opportunities.
“This is about those players in the changing room. It’s about them getting the preparation they need for the campaign ahead, nothing should distract from that. The team are the priority. This isn’t a gimmick.”
Despite the interest in Dingley’s appointment, Forest Green chairman Dale Vance has insisted it was made purely on the basis of ‘merit’.
“It’s a football decision that just happens to shock the world of football,” said Vance, adding: “When we made the decision we made it on merit. Hannah is the most qualified person at the club for the job. Nothing else came into the frame. We did know it would be a first – that didn’t matter.
“All of this attention tells me what a really big thing we have done. It’s not accidental, because we were conscious of it, it’s incidental. This has happened because of a football decision we made.
“Out there in the world, off the back of the coverage, girls and women will be thinking ‘are there actually any limits?’
“As Hannah says, this could break through the glass ceiling. I think it’s a great thing.”
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