The end of an era has arrived with the news that Anna Signeul is to stand down as the Scotland women’s national coach. The 55-year-old is to take up a similar, but less onerous, position with Finland after Euro 2017.
The announcement was made by the Scottish FA yesterday morning, but Signeul informed her players and backroom staff on Monday night, shortly after they arrived at their hotel in Ayia Napa. They have a double-header of friendlies against Denmark arranged in Cyprus.
“When I told some of the backroom staff first I was crying,” Signeul admitted. “I almost broke with the players as well, but I was fine.”
Although still a shock, the revelation that Signeul might have a new challenge in front of her was not entirely a bolt from the blue. Last week, at the Oriam national performance centre, she divulged she had signed a new contract with the SFA – but it was for seven months, not the usual two years.
The parting of the ways will now come after Scotland have completed their last game in the Netherlands this summer. That will either be after the third group game against Spain in Deventer on 27 July – or, as Signeul and the players hope, the knockout stages in August.
The 55-year-old Swede has had a massive impact on women’s football since replacing her Dutch predecessor, Vera Pauw, in March 2005. The headline is taking Scotland to the finals of a major tournament for the first time, but the reality is she has changed the entire culture of the game.
Players, coaches and clubs now have professional attitudes and approaches, even if the finances of women’s football dictate that they don’t get paid for their efforts. Or at least in Scotland, because another of Signeul’s legacies is that most of her international players now have professional contracts abroad.
The Swede admits it took her more than two months to decide whether or not to accept the Finland job. On the one hand her new duties will be to look after the Finnish national side only, instead of every aspect of elite performance as in Scotland; on the other she is leaving at the very time when she could be reaping the rewards of her 12 years’ work.
“I have worked so hard to achieve things on all levels, not just the Euros,” she confirmed. “I can already see that the wheel is starting to spin a bit faster. By that I mean more sponsors, more interest, more media, more money, more opportunities for players. Qualifying for the Euros has created that, and in a way it’s sad that I can’t be a part of that success.
“I’ve had a lot of offers over the years, but I always felt I couldn’t leave the clubs and the players.
“The Finland job is a good one, but I’ve made it clear to them I cannot spend a single minute thinking about it before the Euros are over. My full focus is on the Scotland players for the next six months.”
Signeul’s assistant, Ann-Helen Grahm, is not moving to Finland but will also stand down after the Euros.
Among those certain to be linked with Signeul’s job is former Scotland captain and under-19 coach Shelley Kerr. She is head coach at Lowland League side Stirling University, having made history as the first female head coach of a British men’s senior club.
Another possible candidate is Tom Sermanni, a former Albion Rovers and Dunfermline player who has been head coach of the Australian and USA women’s national sides.