Tottenham Hotspur Women

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Sean

🇬🇧 COYS 🇮🇱
Stupid decision to have them play at the same time as the men's , how to they expect them to get a decent following while they do that ?
 

CSWY

Supporter
Up The Spurs
How long is Alex Morgan’s contract? She’s clearly a superstar well above the current average talent in our squad. Some talent too.
 

Guido

"Legacy Fan"

When Tottenham Hotspur secured their first win of the Women’s Super League season against Brighton this month, Karen Hills was out for a walk with Bobby, her French Bulldog puppy. For the first time in over a decade, the 45-year-old, who was relieved of managerial duties last month, was not on the touchline.

Hills has had a month to reflect on leaving Tottenham. A month to get past the initial shock of losing the job she had held, and loved, for 11 years. She is keen to move on, but allows herself a small moment of reflection. “I felt a little bit numb,” she says, quietly. “It was a big part of my life that I’ve given everything to for years.”

Bobby and a rare Sunday roast helped to take her mind off that first fixture. “It’s something you don’t get to ever do on a Sunday as a manager,” she says, laughing. “It was just what I needed. Of course, I checked the scores in the evening at home and I was glad [that they won] – they deserved it. But at the same time … Well, it’s difficult, isn’t it?”

Messages of support from the football community flooded in, including from luminaries Emma Hayes and Hope Powell, and Hills says she has begun to realise the impact that she has had on the game. After masterminding three promotions in five years for Tottenham, securing a place in the top division in 2019, this season she and former co-manager Juan Amoros unveiled double World Cup winner Alex Morgan as the club’s most-prized signing in their history. Quite a ride from packing her car with a few cones and a couple of balls in the early days.

“Sometimes, you have to pinch yourself because you’re now working with Alex Morgan and other international players, and a few years ago you were working with four-year-olds,” Hills says, chuckling. “That was the ambition 10 or 15 years ago, to have players of that calibre coming to Spurs.”

When recounting all she has achieved, she mostly skips the trophies, instead naming as one of her highlights how she took 12 players from amateur to full-time professionals, now training at Hotspur Way alongside the men’s squad; or seeing Lucia Leon, their longest-serving player, progress from their college programme to thriving as a first-team player.

Hills tells the extraordinary story of how, over the course of a decade, she created the women’s club as they are now known today, involved in every facet of their rise to the top of women’s football.

As a player, Hills had reached four FA Cup finals with Charlton in five years, lifting the trophy in 2005. Towards the end, she took a level-two coaching course, while working at a leisure centre teaching swimming and football to toddlers. Through the course, she met a contact at Tottenham and, in 2007, she was offered the girls’ and women’s development role. She grabbed it, engineering the entire programme to work with schools to get more girls playing football and creating a pathway to the first team.

Despite her full-time role with the club’s foundation, she volunteered to work with Spurs Women from 2009. While she worked at schools in the day, leading sessions with reception-aged girls, the evenings and weekends were spent taking women’s training and driving the team bus to games.

“The early years were challenging, but you didn’t know any different and it never felt like a job,” says Hills. “I always loved it, not only the top end, but also watching the younger girls playing football – I still feel rewarded by seeing it now.”

She did not know it at the time but her final match at the helm, when Spurs held Woolwich to a draw before losing on penalties in the Continental Cup, proved a fitting moment on which to end her Tottenham career. “OK, the next day obviously wasn’t the best for me, but what I will always look back on that last night is how far I’ve taken that team,” she says.

Hills is referring to a north London derby in 2010, when Tottenham were in the fourth division and Hills had been managing the women’s team for just one season. Woolwich were top-division champions, taking on their rivals in a cup match. Hills says the experience was the making of her.

“We had to delay kick-off because 500 fans turned up,” she says. “You had the likes of England’s Faye White there, lining up against our girls. We got beat heavily, but I’ll never forget that, as it was my first real encounter of this being where we want to be.”

To draw against that same club 10 years later, on the eve of her last day in the job, was like coming full circle. But after going winless in their first seven league outings this season – playing four of the top five sides – both she and Amoros were replaced by Rehanne Skinner on Nov 19. “I think it was tough for me, it was a sad time,” says Hills. “It wasn’t something that I planned or something I had thought about. But at the same time, we’ve left the women’s team in the best shape for someone else to take the baton and take them to the next level.”

As for what is next, Hills is keen to go solo, which she and Amoros agree is the best for them both. A role in the national team pathway remains an ambition, but for the moment the most she will say is that she wants to continue to help develop women’s football.

In her decade of dedication to Spurs, her ethos never wavered from that and just a couple of weeks ago, when Hills was still grieving for her time at Tottenham, she received a text from one of the girls who had benefited from the club’s school programme.

It was a reminder that some successes cannot be counted in WSL table positions or wins and losses. “Out of the blue, this young player texted me to say, ‘You’ve been an absolute inspiration – I don’t think you realise the impact that you had for me’,” says Hills. “You just forget these moments that actually shaped you. It makes you realise some of the stuff that you’ve done is a legacy.”
 
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