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Rehanne Skinner exclusive interview: Tottenham Women's head coach explains their transformation

Rehanne Skinner tells Sky Sports about Tottenham Women's transformation from relegation battlers to Champions League hopefuls; watch Tottenham Women vs West Ham Women live on Sky Sports Football from 6pm on Sunday; kick-off 6.30pm


"Sometimes it's good to have a bit of reflection time," Rehanne Skinner tells Sky Sports.

It has been almost a month since Tottenham Women last played a game. The postponement of their scheduled meeting with Chelsea last weekend turned their winter break into an extended one. But their fastidious head coach has been as busy as ever.

There is a lot to reflect on, after all.

Spurs were winless and only two points off the bottom of the Women's Super League table when Skinner took over from co-head coaches Karen Hills and Juan Amoros in November 2020. The transformation has been remarkable.

Skinner steered Spurs away from danger last year and a side many tipped for another battle against the drop this season instead sit third, only a point behind second-placed Chelsea and firmly in the frame for a Champions League finish ahead of Sunday's clash with West Ham.

"The break gave us time to look back over things, re-prioritise the next areas we need to look at," says Skinner. "We were able to take a step back and have an overview, and that should help us to keep moving forward. We are in a really good place on the back of it.

"The players needed a bit of time off. A lot of them had three international camps in the first half of the season and that takes quite a lot out of you mentally, especially when you're having to up your game every single weekend, because those are the standards I expect and the standards I drive."

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Skinner's mentality, her appetite for improvement, is now evident across the side.

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Tottenham beat Everton 1-0 in their last game before the winter break

Tottenham's squad was bolstered by a raft of new signings in the summer, players including Maeva Clemaron, Chioma Ubogagu and Kyah Simon providing a considerable injection of quality, but their success so far this season has been built on togetherness.

"We wouldn't be here without it," says Skinner. "We've got very good footballers but if you don't have that togetherness, that fighting spirit and that ability to be resilient, you won't get anywhere."

Spurs have only lost two of their first 10 WSL games this season, conceding only seven times, while five of their six wins have been achieved by a one-goal margin. There have been crucial, late strikes, too, against Manchester United, Reading and Manchester City.

"I'm a big believer in making sure that you keep yourself in games," says Skinner. "There were certainly too many goals being conceded when I first joined the club, so we wanted to make sure we improved that to provide a platform to build on.

"You never have a game all your own way so it's about working together to change momentum and handle pressure. I couldn't be prouder of the way the players have applied themselves to that and stuck together in key moments.

Image: Tottenham sit third in the Women's Super League table

"In our games against Arsenal and Man City, in particular, we were under pressure for big chunks of time but we were able to still get points out of them. That shows teamwork and team ethic is much more important than an individual moment of talent here or there."

Skinner nonetheless describes the club's summer recruitment drive as "key" in their rise up the table. "It was like a reset button, really, and we were then able to hit the ground running in pre-season.

"Essentially, you can now put the squad into two groups. There are the ones who stayed from last year, fantastic people who understood the route we were trying to go down. Then there is the group that came in during the summer.

"They have added experience, diversity and different perspectives on things that we've been able to tap into and almost merge together with the players we had.

"When you've got players with experience who have been through different scenarios, be that with clubs or with their countries, it can strengthen what you have as a squad and what you're capable of achieving together.

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"Then it's about being able to tap into those people at the right moments. We've got a lot of leaders within the group who shine at different times and I think that's added to our quality and the way we've been able to go about things in our games."

There have been other factors in the turnaround too, notably the addition of former Liverpool head coach Vicky Jepson to the coaching staff. Skinner, Phil Neville's assistant with England Women before joining Spurs, knows the importance of the role as well as anyone.

"I've switched back and forth between head coach and assistant a few times over the years and it's enabled me to get a really good perspective on what's needed in each of those roles," she says.

"Vicky and I have got an appreciation of each other. She knows what's needed from an assistant and I know what it's like to do that role. It's allowed me to focus on the things that are important from a manager's perspective and it's helped us be more effective as a team."

Skinner is speaking over Zoom from the club's Hotspur Way headquarters, where, since the middle of last season, the women's team have been permanent residents, sharing the facilities used by the men on a full-time basis rather than training separately at The Hive in Edgware.

Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema and Tottenham Hotspur's Ashleigh Neville (right) battle for the ball
Image: Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema and Tottenham's Ashleigh Neville battle for the ball

"It's been a massive opportunity to drive things forward," says Skinner. "The club have invested a lot of money in developing our own training area here within Hotspur Way and the access to all of the resources has just made everything much easier.

"For the players, it's things like reducing the injuries you get when you're training on a pitch which is not great and all that sort of stuff. We've been able to focus on the things we should be able to focus on, rather than there being distractions and I think that's made a massive difference as well."

Spurs only made the step up to the WSL following their promotion from the second tier in 2019 but the club's ambition was a major part of the attraction to Skinner when she was offered the job.

"Behind the scenes, there are key people driving the women's team and we've each got our own roles to make sure that happens," she says.

"As a collective, our ambitions are the same and I think it's really important for any manager at any club, to be able to understand the intended trajectory.

"That's why I came here. What was outlined to me was essentially the way I look at the game and the way I felt we would be able to move the club forward, and all of that has remained the same."

Typically, Skinner still sees plenty of room for improvement, most notably in the side's ability to convert scoring chances, but the way in which they have started the season underlines the potential.

"I'm in a fantastic position here where I know everybody around me is on the same page and everyone is working tirelessly to help us take the next steps, which are to be a really competitive club in the WSL, and, further down the line, in Europe."

Continue this season in the way they started it and they might just reach those goals quicker than expected.

Watch Tottenham Women vs West Ham Women live on Sky Sports Football from 6pm on Sunday; kick-off 6.30pm

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