Rehanne on her first month in charge
Tue 12 January 2021, 15:30|Tottenham Hotspur
We caught up with Spurs Women Head Coach Rehanne Skinner to get an insight into how the team has prepared for the return of the WSL, competition in training, the impact of our recent signings and building for the future.
How is everyone coping with the uncertainty of games not being played?
“As a collective the big challenge for us is we had a couple of great results against Brighton and Aston Villa and the mood was really good in camp, we were really looking forward to playing Chelsea which did not go ahead and after the cancellation on Sunday against Birmingham, it has been almost a month since we last played.
“Ultimately, the players are desperate to get back on the pitch and play a game. There is a good confidence level in and around the team. The sooner we can get back on the pitch in a game format, the better for everyone really.
“The players train every day to be able to play competitive matches and work really hard to prepare themselves properly for that situation. When those matches do not evolve, for obviously totally understandable reasons, it is a challenge for them to manage that and keep themselves focused. But that’s part of being a professional footballer in the current circumstances.”
What did the team get up to over the festive break?
“For us it was important that the players had a mental break over Christmas and have a little bit of time off. Despite the circumstances being different to what everyone had planned with the government restrictions, we had some time to ourselves at the start of the break.
“I think because we have all been through this process so many times now where COVID is concerned, the players are functional with the equipment they have at home and the things they have access to. From a strength and conditioning perspective, teeing that up to work around them and their individual programmes has become part of the norm. The players know what to do when we go through those processes now.
“Everyone worked hard over the Christmas period and following a round of COVID testing we were all back in at the end of December after a short break. It was not a huge lay-off, but enough for a break and to be honest, the players were eager to be back in and around the training group to be able to focus on some team-related activities again. I think that is related to them having such positive momentum in their minds and wanting to get back into game mode as quickly as possible.”
With London under strict restrictions and players spending Christmas away from their families, did mental health play a role in the decision to return early?
“Definitely. Players’ mental health and wellbeing was a key factor behind our decision to return from the break. We spoke to the players and decided as a group to come in because of the inability of our players to go home, we were extremely conscious of players being on their own for periods of time.
“The players were keen to be back in and around the group, so we jumped training forward slightly to be able to help and support them with the support of each other. Despite being a professional there’s only so much training you want to do on your own, and I think we have had such long stints of that happening over the past 11 months or so now, that it is about trying to find a balance that benefits people’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as the physical aspects that they need to work on. It is a balancing act to make sure they are all okay as people first and players second.
“For us, being based at Hotspur Way has been invaluable. We as staff have been able to work pretty much as normal in line with the COVID guidelines within the Training Centre which has enabled us to give the players the support they need. Given everything going on outside of football from a COVID-related perspective, we are aware of how fortunate we are to still be doing our jobs on a day-to-day basis. Having access to facilities that enable us to do what we love like getting out on the grass and training together as a team is a huge benefit.”
What have you made of the intensity in training and are you pleased with what you have seen?
“Yes absolutely, like I say, our players were very eager to get back in the training environment, as a result of that we got into a good training flow before Christmas with the intensity and the standards I was expecting from the players, they have adjusted well to that.
“We’re now in a position where everyone knowing the expectations and really wanting to drive each other means that every training session we’re seeing a positive outcome not only from a technical and tactical perspective but also a physical level. We are now seeing loads of decision-making and challenge against each other in training and I like that, I think that competitive environment is the only way to move forward and test yourself. Training should replicate a game and individuals are responsible for driving the session in order to best affect their teammates, so their teammates are best prepared. For me, that is a par for the course which should be happening on a day-to-day basis.
“The players have adjusted to that approach and are increasing the intensity and we’re able to push them more and more every session. It has been really pleasing for me and the coaching staff to see them demand more from each other. We played a competitive in-house game with our First Team squad on Sunday and the intensity we were able to replicate was great and much needed for the players given the absence of games.”
Last week, Alanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky’s loans were both converted to permanent deals until the end of the season. You must be delighted that they are here to stay.
“Honestly, I am over the moon that Alanna and Shelina have signed until the end of the season. They are key people within our squad and their experiences add massive value to the team as a group. We have players in the squad with a whole host of different experiences; some of the younger players have a wealth of experience from youth international football and Alanna and Shelina have played in the NWSL, Australia, and gained international caps.
“When you think about the different environments that they have been exposed to, when you bring that into a team with other players who have a lot of different experiences which you can draw upon, the only way is up really. In terms of their influence and how we end up driving the team forward through all the cultures and experiences we have makes us a better team. It gives us a different perspective on things and means people are challenged in a different way.
“Ultimately, that is how I want to draw on their strengths and make sure we get the most out of them. Players of Alanna and Shelina’s quality and the value they add to the team with their technical ability and understanding of the game is a fantastic asset for us.”
“One of the things that attracted me to the Club is the ambition and potential. The Club is moving forward and recognises completely that we have an opportunity to sign players of their level. This is a progressive Club, we want to be successful and more competitive within the league, and ultimately players like Alanna, Shelina, and Alex [Morgan] when she was here, add value to that.
“For me it is now about growing and building from this point forward to make sure we continue to attract those sorts of players and that we provide the best possible platform for them to excel and perform for their own development. And enable them to go and be competitive for their national teams who are working towards an Olympics which is a goal for both Alanna and Shelina.
“As a Club that is the type of thing that we need to become known for doing, providing a really positive environment to keep developing and moving players forward for those types of major tournaments as well.”
With matches now behind closed doors and fans unable to watch the games in-person, how much does the support online and on social media mean to the players?
“I don’t want to put football on a pedestal, but when you think about what society is going through, if us playing a game makes a difference to two people and gives them something to smile about, then it obviously helps in the current circumstances.
“We’re so grateful for all the support from our fans, we’re desperate to play for them. We hope that next time we do get to play we put on a good performance that shows them how hard we have all been working behind the scenes to go out and get a result on their behalf. They are such a key driver for what we do every day and we honestly can’t thank them enough for all the support.”