Women's Soccer United were delighted when Laura Harvey, the manager of Arsenal Ladies one of the most successful women's football club's England have produced, agreed to take part in our interview.
Only just in her thirties, Laura has already managed to achieve a treble winning season with Arsenal Ladies, as well as taking the team to two UEFA Women's Champions League Semi-Finals! Harvey has kicked off the second women's super league season well with two wins from two and are currently in the semi-finals defending their FA Women's Cup title.
Harvey speaks about her amazing career so far and tells us how much she is enjoying the whole experience of her dream managerial role.
WSU: Since joining Arsenal Ladies in 2008 you have worked your way up through the ranks before taking over the running of the first team from Tony Gervaise. How does it feel to be the manager of the most successful women's football team England have produced, is there added pressure to live up to high club expectations?
LAURA HARVEY: Becoming Arsenal Ladies Manager was my dream job. When you go through your coaching badges and have jobs throughout the game you dream of getting a job like I have now. Being able to work in a great environment with some of the most talented players in Europe. The expectations at this club are always high and having a year of experience assisting Vic Akers helped me to understand how the club works and the expectations required at the club it was a easier transition for me. The support from everyone at the club has also helped with that transition.
WSU: What was it like seeing your team win at Arsenal's Emirates stadium in front of a record breaking FAWSL crowd of over 5000 against Chelsea Ladies?
LAURA HARVEY: Playing at the Emirates is always a special occasion I was privileged to have managed the team at the last game at the stadium so to see us get a good win and a good performance infront of a Emirates crowd was very special for me and the team.
WSU: You were the assistant coach for the England Under 19s, (congratulations on reaching the U-19 Championship final tournament stage), is there any U-19s English talent that we should be looking out for in the near future?
LAURA HARVEY: Since January of this year I have had to step away from my International commitments due to the high demand of time that my Arsenal role takes up I didn’t feel I could commit the way I had done to the International set up. I did manage to go and watch one of the games in the phase two qualification round and saw the girls perform excellently against Wales and showed that we do have some talented youngsters coming through in this country and I'm sure in the finals this summer they will again prove that we are a developing country with great young players coming through. Special mention must go to the head coach Mo Marley whose record on a international stage is tremendous and this will be another finals she can take the U-19’s to and show how good she is at developing the elite young players.
WSU: What has been your most memorable moment as a women's football manager so far?
LAURA HARVEY: I've been lucky to have many memorable moments in my short career at Arsenal but I think winning the FA cup for the first time stands out for me. I think it meant so much because we had lost in the final 12 months earlier and from that moment on I said to the players I didn’t want that feeling again and when we got to the final it was in my home town (Coventry) which made it even more special. The final win against Birmingham was a great day because it topped off a fantastic year for us and crowned us treble winners. Not many managers can say they’ve been involved in a treble winning season so that will stay with me.
WSU: How has the re-signing of Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Gemma Davison had an impact on Arsenal Ladies?
LAURA HARVEY: Their impact has been good, they bring experience and quality to our club. They understand what is required to be the best and they have fitted staright back in. So far we haven’t been able to have Kelly involved on the pitch the way we would like but knowing that we have her quality to add to our already strong squad is exciting. For Gemma it has been tough for her because she hasn’t played as much football as she would like but she's working hard in training to get back to the form she was when she was last at the club and when we see that the WSL will not know whats hit them. Alex has had a great start, she has fitted straight back into our back 4 and adds a different dimension to our team.
WSU: Arsenal Ladies had another fantastic UEFA Women's Champions League campaign only to be stopped in the semi-finals by Frankfurt. How do you lift yourself and your team up after the disappointment of not reaching the final? Have you learnt anything from the experience to take with you for the next campaign?
LAURA HARVEY: As a manager that is my 3rd season involved with the Champions League and the positive from our point of view is we are progressing every year. In my first season we went out in the quarter final stage to Duisburg, last season we went one stage further and went out to Lyon and this year our aim was to make the semi finals again so we can become a consistent top 4 team which we did. In the semi against Frankfurt we knew in the first leg we let them off the hook and should have taken at least a draw to Frankfurt but credit to Frankfurt they were the better team out there and deserved their place in the final. We have to take the Frankfurt games with us into next year and learn that you have to take your chances when they arrive and our home form is vital to us.
WSU: If you were the manager of Team GB what would be your starting 11?
LAURA HARVEY: This is a tough one!!! All I will say is that across GB we have some fantastic players that can come together this summer and be a real threat in the Olympics. I know Hope (Powell) and her team will do their homework on all the GB players and select what they feel is the best squad to be successful this summer. Which I'm sure we will be, it’s an exciting opportunity for everyone involved and I'm excited to see women's football in the Olympics being played in our country for the first time.
WSU: How does the women's super league compare to playing in the women's premier league?
LAURA HARVEY: It's actually really different more than what I thought it would be. Both on and off the pitch we as a league have stepped up everything, the way the teams look on the pitch and the whole match experience off the pitch. I think the WSL has been a really big positive for women's football in this country and hopefully we can continue to grow. I've seen a bit of the women's premier games this year and the biggest positive is that there are still some really talented players and coaches working in that league so if and hopefully when we look to expand the WSL we will be bringing in talented teams who can help push the game forward.
WSU: Do you think a woman will ever manage a men's football team in England?
LAURA HARVEY: I think it would be a really hard thing to make happen. From both sides, women's football has different demands to men's football and vice versa. Do I think there are female coaches/managers who have the knowledge to work in the men's game, the answer would be yes. Do I think a men's club and the female coach would have to be very strong characters and willing to take a huge risk, yes. Men's football is so driven by media but I feel that if a female was the right person for the job then they should be given the opportunity but not at the determent of them as a person or for women's football as a whole.
WSU: What are your ambitions for the future, would you ever like to coach a team in another league and/or become a full international coach?
LAURA HARVEY: I don’t really look too far into the future because I've learnt that in football things can happen you never would have expected. I would never have said that at 30 I would be managing Arsenal Ladies FC but that has happened and I'm loving my role here. If someone asked me would I like to coach my country I would say yes and I'm not sure many people would turn that down but at the minute Hope is doing a great job for England and has done over many years so whoever takes the reigns after Hope has decided to move on will have big shoes to fill. If a job opportunity came up in another country I would consider it but I'm a bit of a home girl so at the minute I'm extremely happy here at Arsenal and feel really fortunate to have had these opportunities up until now in my career anything else will be a bonus.
WSU: Thank you Laura for taking part in the Women's Soccer United interview. We wish you continued success in your career.
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