Dingley is the incumbent caretaker manager of League Two side Forest Green Rovers.
Football manager Hannah Dingley made history yesterday (5 July). She took charge of Forest Green Rovers for their friendly match against Melksham Town.
Men regularly manage women’s teams: Phil Neville’s tenure as manager of England’s women’s team is perhaps the most high-profile example. Furthermore, half of the managerial posts in the Women’s Super League – England’s top tier for women’s football – are held by men.
Dingley’s appointment at Forest Green Rovers, however, marks the first time that a female manager has taken charge of a professional men’s team.
Hannah Dingley – history maker
Dingley replaced Forest Green’s previous manager – Scotland and Everton legend Duncan Ferguson – whose brief tenure ended in relegation at the end of the 2022-23 season. Ferguson left the club on 4 July, and Dingley stepped up to the role.
Dingley took to the role with comfort, noting that she had “coached men for 20-odd years. This isn’t different to me, and I’ve never had a problem with players”.
Indeed, her first professional coaching role was in 2011 with Notts County’s under-nine boys team before leaving to coach Lincoln Ladies. She then had other coaching roles with Gresley Rovers and Burton Albion. She joined Forest Green as academy manager in 2019.
On Wednesday night (5 July), she oversaw the Rovers first team’s 1-1 draw with Melksham Town. As she exited the tunnel, Dingley was met with placards of support and, at full time, was busy signing autographs and taking photos.
“Do you know what’s nice with that? How many young girls are down there,” she commented. “Hopefully we are inspiring young girls in football and in any industry that there aren’t these glass ceilings, and if there are, then you just have to break through them”.
What the future holds – will Dingley take the job full-time?
While Dingley’s appointment is a groundbreaking moment in the sport, it remains, at the moment, an interim position. Forest Green chairman Dale Vince welcomed a potential application from Dingley.
“If she does [apply], she’ll be in the process with everybody else. We’ll have hundreds of applicants, we’ll do a thorough job, and we’ll appoint on merit,” Vince said. “It doesn’t matter what your gender is, your sexuality, your race, we’re not interested”.
Forest Green fan Viv Kennedy hopes Dingley keeps the job on a full-time basis. I’ve seen her about with the girls’ teams and the academy and she works wonders with them,” she told The Guardian. “I reckon she can do the same for the first team”.
Regardless of what the future holds for Dingley, her appointment will hopefully inspire girls everywhere to break boundaries in male-dominated industries.
Forest Green Rovers – one of England’s most progressive football clubs
In 2016, they became the world’s first vegan club. The players eat vegan pre-match meals, they work with vegan food brands like Oatly and Quorn, and they implement a wash and re-use system with their cups and chip trays at their stadium.
Speaking of their stadium, their organic pitch at the New Lawn captures rainwater and recycles it for irrigation. They also clean and recycle water from the stadium’s toilets to treat the pitch and plant wildflowers around the borders to encourage pollination.
Rovers also have a community department that engages local young people under five key themes: environment and sustainability, sport and recreation, health and wellbeing, inclusion and cohesion, and education and employability.
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