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The English coach behind Canada’s Olympic Gold – Bev Priestman

Canada struck gold in the Women’s Football Olympic final yesterday in what proved to be a thrilling encounter with Sweden. All tied 1-1 for 120 minutes, the game stretched to penalties and saw Canada pull it back to win 3-2 from the spot.

A first gold medal had finally been achieved for the Canucks. After successive bronze in London and Rio, the top prize seemed always just out of reach. However, this year’s postponed and almost alien Olympics saw Canada rise to victory with coach Bev Priestman at the reigns. So, who is this English coach that finally actualised Canada’s high Olympic potential?

First steps in football, new horizons

Priestman got her first taste of the beautiful game at age 12 when she began playing futsal in her hometown of Consett in County Durham. Her coach was John Herdman, a key name who at the time was a university lecturer.

Priestman graduated from Liverpool John Moores University and found work with Everton. In the blue part of Liverpool, she found an influential mentor in Mo Marley. However, she lacked the talent to become a professional footballer. Coaching offered another route in football. John Herdman was involved in her development again and when he moved to New Zealand Priestman followed, looking for new horizons.

The dynamic duo of Herdman and Priestman continued when Herdman left NZ for Canada and took over the Women’s National side. With Priestman his assistant coach, the pair would only split when he took over as the manager of the men’s team.

Priestman and Herdman with the Canada Women’s team – via The Toronto Star

Return to England and the Canada job

Priestman returned to England with a renewed confidence. Working under Herdman and seeing more of the world had enabled her to get a foothold in football. Back in England, she teamed up with the Lionesses and Phil Neville. After helping England to the semi-final of the World Cup in 2019, Priestman took the jump to become number one in the dugout.

Priestman in her time as England assistant to Phil Neville – via

She assumed her role as manager of the Canada Women’s team on the 1st of November 2020. It was time to forge her own path. With the role, Priestman was now realising a real understanding of not only the game, but also Canada’s sporting landscape too. She understood the importance of success for what she deemed a “top-10 nation”. On her appointment, she told the Canadian press her philosophy:

“On the pitch, I would ask the players to be brave … I want to dominate, with and without the ball.”

Olympic glory

This bravery was definitely on show in that Canadian Olympic run. Bodies on the line, there were gruelling performances in the heat and humidity of Japan. Canada had seen off Brazil, whittled away at top dogs USA. Sweden were the final opponent. That penalty victory personified Canada’s grit, epitomising Priestman’s philosophy.

With the historic first gold for the United States’ northern neighbour, a new threat in Women’s football had been established. In a patriotic sense, Priestman’s achievement was even more impressive. She was the first English coach to guide a team to an Olympic final for 73 years and the second to win one. She was also the youngest coach at the games. When she took the job, she was three years senior to her Captain and legend Christine Sinclair. At 35 years old, this is surely just the beginning for Bev Priestman in what could really become a truly impressive coaching career.

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