Carla Ward resigns as Birmingham City Women head coach after 'unsustainable' season

"What we've done isn't sustainable mentally or physically," says Carla Ward, who secured WSL survival despite having just eight senior players available when she took over, a points deduction ahead of the final weekend, and a battle with the board over players' working conditions

Birmingham City WFC manager Carla Ward 1:07
After resigning as Birmingham City Women head coach, Carla Ward questions whether clubs understand the size and importance of women's football

Carla Ward has questioned whether football clubs "understand the size of women's football" after she resigned as Birmingham City Women manager following an unlikely escape from WSL relegation.

The 37-year-old took over a squad with just eight senior players available in August with the challenge of keeping Birmingham up despite having the smallest budget in the division.

Ward was often only able to name just two or three substitutes during a difficult campaign which saw the Blues go into their final match of the season with relegation still a possibility and just one player on the bench, goalkeeper Sophie Whitehouse.

The club had already been hit with a one-point deduction in the days leading up to the game for fielding an ineligible player, but avoided relegation by finishing 11th, two points above the drop.

"What we've done this year isn't sustainable mentally and physically," said an emotional Ward, speaking in a press conference on Friday.

Ward's campaign was made more difficult by off-field issues, with Birmingham players having complained to the club's board over a lack of support for them compared to that given to the men's team, prompting an FA investigation.

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The complaints were reported to include players earning less than the minimum wage, delays over treatment for injured players, a lack of access to the training-ground gym and changing rooms, and travel arrangements for away fixtures.

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Birmingham said: "We are keen to emphasise that the club remains committed to providing support for our women's team."

Ward revealed she broke down in tears when she told the players she would be leaving.

"I don't cry in front of anyone, but after the first two words I had a complete meltdown," she said.

"It sums up how I feel about the group, it was devastating to share that with them because we've stuck together this year. It's been tough.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't emotional from everyone in the room. But ultimately I felt it was the right time to step away."

Ward will see out the season as manager and will be in the dugout for her side's FA Cup fifth-round clash with Southampton on Sunday.

She hopes the Birmingham players will be rewarded for WSL survival with new contracts.

"I would hope and expect the club to offer them new deals and I would expect some of them to have offers from elsewhere," she said.

"Ultimately no matter what happens I will help them all individually, whether that's helping them secure a contract here or if I have to pick up the phone to anywhere else."

Do clubs understand the size of women's football?

After a year of off-field issues, Ward questioned whether football clubs are set up to keep up with the growth of women's football.

Everybody wants a women's team but I think it's really working out where women's football fits in their organisation. Do all football clubs understand the size of women's football, the importance of women's football?
Carla Ward

"It's been a really tough year for every football club, they've lost tens of millions of pounds and I understand that," she said. "It's a business and it's tough.

"Women's football is moving at a rapid pace. Everybody wants a women's team but I think it's really working out where women's football fits in their organisation.

"Do all football clubs understand the size of women's football, the importance of women's football?

"I think they're questions that every single football club should be looking at each year when they think about how their women's team is set out."

Four WSL clubs now searching for managers

Manchester United manager Casey Stoney during the English Women's Super League soccer match between Aston Villa and Manchester United at the Bank's Stadium in Walsall, England, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira).. 0:44
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Birmingham are the fourth WSL club that will be looking for a new boss after Manchester United's Casey Stoney and Arsenal's Joe Montemurro stepped down, while Aston Villa parted company with manager Marcus Bignot and head coach Gemma Davies.

Ward confirmed she is hoping to remain in the WSL, but has not yet agreed to join any other club.

Earlier on Friday, Sky Sports News learned Eni Aluko is leaving her role as sporting director of Aston Villa Women.

She is expected to take a job with a high-profile women's club before the start of the new season.

An announcement of Aluko's next club is not expected for a couple of weeks yet.

Watch the Women's Football Show on Friday at 6pm on Sky Sports Football.

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