Forest Green Rovers made English Football League history following their appointment of Hannah Dingley as caretaker manager, and a portion of pig-headed fans greeted her arrival with contempt
Hannah Dingley’s debut as Forest Green Rovers boss was somewhat soured thanks to a vocal minority of football ‘fans’ online.
The caretaker head coach is due to make history when she becomes the first woman to manage in the Football League once the 2023/24 season gets underway, having recently replaced Everton legend Duncan Ferguson at The New Lawn. Ex-Premier League hitman Ferguson was fired by Rovers just a month out from the League Two campaign’s start date, with academy coach Dingley promoted to the senior role in his place.
Dingley debuted in the job on Wednesday, albeit not getting the result she wanted as Rovers drew 1-1 away to non-league Melksham Town. The 39-year-old spoke of “inspiring young girls” in her post-match interviews, but what should have been a pure moment of progress in football was tainted by a slew of sexist remarks.
Needless to say a pre-season friendly – even against a team from the Southern League Division One South – won’t decide The Greens’ season. But it was enough for some sad footy ‘supporters’ to condemn the new coach already.
The chauvinistic taunts ranged from “women out now” to “Publicity Stunt FC.” Other tasteless jibes included “she needs to iron this out” and “lady manager out!”
“She’s saved for another week,” came another misogynistic musing, while the partisan pile-on wouldn’t have been complete without the unimaginative: “Tell that woman to get back in the kitchen where she belongs.”
Another short-sighted spectator wrote: “Great start for the new gaffer. . .Melksham is a tough one for a full time, professional outfit.”
Despite that negative reaction from some sections of social media, Dingley was roundly praised in more positive corners of the internet. And that’s without mentioning the applause she received upon turning out at Oakfield Stadium on Wednesday.
The academy chief – who has led Rovers’ youth for four years – was mobbed by interview requests and fans asking for autographs at Melksham, but Dingley was eager to turn the spotlight on the next generation.
“Do you know what’s nice with that? How many young girls are down there,” she told reporters after her debut. “Hopefully we’re inspiring young girls, whether it’s in football or any industry, that there aren’t these glass ceilings. And if there are then you just have to break through them.”
Only a few days into her role as caretaker coach, Dingley has little time to prepare for her Football League debut as she makes English football history. Already two decades deep in her career managing men, the veteran is up for the challenge, to say the least.
“I love working at the club,” she added. “I love my job working with the kids as academy manager, but I’m really grateful for this opportunity.”
As a UEFA Pro License-holder, Dingley boasts the same qualifications as many of those she’s set to go up against in the fourth tier next term. But as much of the online reaction to her debut shows, her gender means she’s fighting from a disadvantaged position.