ALTHOUGH still working from the same office, the entrance to which still bears the words ‘Head Coach’, Marieanne Spacey-Cale is embarking on the latest stage of her career. 

Having overseen Southampton FC Women’s rise through the divisions from the dugout, the former England international recently stepped into a new role: director of women’s football.

Spacey-Cale’s fingerprints are evident everywhere you look in her office and while watching Saints Women in action.

When she took over in 2018, fresh off the club's re-formation, the side playing in the lower reaches of women’s football. This past season they achieved their greatest-ever finish and now boast a squad containing international players of the present and future. 

One of the first tasks for Spacey-Cale in this new job is to find her successor.

She does not want someone who will rip up the pre-existing playbook nor does she want someone who will bend to her whims. 

“The last thing I want is to be the puppet master and tell them this is how they have to do things,” she told the Daily Echo. "We know how we want to play - the principles are there.

"We want someone who has a strong reputation for working with players and is passionate about developing people.

"We need someone who will bring a fresh eye, a fresh voice and will do things their way. You want them to take elements of what has been before but take things to the next level again.”

Experience working in the women's game is one of the requirements that sits high on Spacey-Cale's list of demands for the incoming head coach.

“There has to be an understanding of what the dynamics are in women’s football," she continued. "They need to know how to get the most out of everyone in the environment.

"Professional football for women is still relatively new, we are still learning the landscape of what that means. (We need) someone who has that experience to really push us forward."

Handing over the reins to someone else can be a daunting task, especially when success is all Saints have known under Spacey-Cale.

Daily Echo: Southampton FC Women were promoted to the Women's Championship in 2022Southampton FC Women were promoted to the Women's Championship in 2022

The 58 year old has guided her side to several promotions. Most recently, Saints achieved their highest-ever finish, ending the season fourth in the Women's Championship with a club record points tally (39).

Despite the potentially daunting prospect of conceding a significant portion of control to someone else, Spacey-Cale is looking forward to having a different perspective.

“I’m quite good at compartmentalizing," she explains. "I am looking forward to not having that heavy, emotional connection of being in the dugout and making decisions in the heat of the moment.

“I can have a helicopter view and watch things with fresh eyes to work out how I can help the coach in that moment. I am just there to support them by being a critical friend who helps them achieve what we all want. 

“Sometimes, to move forward, change is good. When you move forward it is with the viewpoint of ensuring everything is where it needs to be. That future vision is what made me think this is the challenge I want right now.

"As coaches, you need to be totally invested in the day-to-day. When you are also spinning other plates, you have to compromise on other aspects."

Once the task of shutting down the season just gone has been completed and a new head coach is in post, Spacey-Cale's role will see her oversee the academy and mentor the coaching staff.

She will also work alongside CEO Phil Parsons and the ownership structure to ensure the business side of the club is looked after.

Daily Echo: CEO Phil Parsons (left) and Marieanne Spacey-Cale (right)CEO Phil Parsons (left) and Marieanne Spacey-Cale (right)

"It's going to be a real mixed bag," she detailed. "In terms of personal development for me, it's really exciting.  Time is a valuable resource that none of us seem to have enough of.

"Now I can dedicate the time I have to delving into the details of what we need moving forward.

“If we want to continue to develop and build the next group of players, we need to ask ourselves who is driving that. We need someone who goes to sleep every night thinking about how we can push the women’s team forward."

Although she joked that days spent coaching in the wind and rain were the inspiration behind stepping off the grass, it was not an easy decision. As she explained, Spacey-Cale has been spinning multiple plates for multiple seasons.

Transitioning away from coaching has been on her mind for some time. She hopes the change in structure will give the club more clarity and allow the incoming head coach to focus solely on achieving their on-pitch targets.

"It was a very tough decision," Spacey-Cale continued. "I love working with the players every day but I also know that giving them a fresh voice might give them an extra step.

“I could be looking at how to win three points on a Sunday or how we can win three points in 10 years time that helps us finish top six in the WSL."