The England coach Hope Powell last night flew home from her side's World Cup exit in Germany, beaten by France in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out, with a change of job in mind and with an accusation of cowardice against players who shied away from taking spot-kicks at the end of Saturday's draw in Leverkusen.
France won the shoot-out 4-3 after the 22-year-old Chelsea left-back Claire Rafferty, making her World Cup debut as an 81st-minute substitute, and the captain Faye White missed their penalties following successful kicks by the badly injured striker Kelly Smith, the right winger Karen Carney and the central defender Casey Stoney. Powell, as angry as she was disappointed, said: "Three times I had to ask [for volunteers] before anyone stepped forward. 'Where are you?' I was thinking, and then a young kid is the first to put her hand up. And Kelly Smith was dying on her feet but she stepped up and took one. You've got to want to take a penalty, but other players should have come forward and they didn't. That's weak, it's cowardice."
White and Smith, 33 and 32 respectively, have both said that this World Cup is the last they would appear in, but they may want to play in England's 2013 European Championship qualifying campaign, which starts in September against Serbia, and in the Great Britain team – which will almost certainly be exclusively English due to the unwillingness of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Football Associations to have their players involved – at next year's Olympic games.
Whether Powell manages England's Euro qualifiers or the Olympic team is, however, a moot point. She is discussing with the Football Association the possibility of taking on what would be a newly created role of performance director, a position that would give her overall control of the women's game from grass-roots to the highest level, and one that she is keen to see the FA bring to fruition.
"It's needed in the women's game and hopefully the FA will be looking that way," she said. "I'd like to be involved, helping to raise standards especially lower down, where there's an important part to be played in the development of players and the future of the game."
If she does quit as the national coach, a job she has handled for the last 13 years, she would prefer her successor to be someone who is already involved in the England set-up, probably Mo Marley who has had significant success as the Under-19 manager.
"I'm not going to leave England in the lurch," said Powell, "but I'm not going to do this job forever and I would hope we would look at continuity. We have got better at all levels of the national team. It would be a shame if somebody who's not part of the current structure came in and things changed."
If the 44-year-old coach does become the performance director and so leave her managerial role, she would nevertheless still be seen in most quarters as the most obvious choice to take charge of the Olympic team.
But she will not be drawn on whether or not she would like to take on the task. "I don't know," she said, "I need to catch my breath after the World Cup and I could do with a day off. It [the Olympics job] will be open to other managers and right now I'm not focused on that – we've got the European Championship qualifiers starting soon and that's my first priority."Reuse content