Paul Konchesky: How West Ham fan became a woman manager

Paul Konchesky: How West Ham fan became a woman manager

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Paul Konchesky speaks to player Lucy Parker at a West Ham gamePaul Konchesky was appointed manager of West Ham’s women’s team in May

Paul Konchesky stood with his mother on the north bank of Upton Park as a child to watch West Ham – he now manages the women’s team.

He was a men’s season ticket holder and went back and forth – if he could persuade his mother – and he dreamed of one day wearing the jersey as a player.

That came true in 2005 when Konchesky signed for the club and played 59 games as a full-back.

Now, 15 years after leaving West Ham as a player, he has ambitions to take the club up the Women’s Super League table.

“I never looked back”

Olli Harder and Paul Konchesky watch West Ham playPaul Konchesky was Olli Harder’s (left) assistant coach last season.

Konchesky, 41, has always had a strong female presence in football, supported by his mother.

While gaining coaching experience at West Ham’s boys’ academy, Konchesky often observed the women’s team train.

In 2021 he finally switched to WSL and worked as an assistant coach alongside ex-boss Olli Harder.

“My mother was a big part of my career. She’s a huge football fan so obviously it means a lot to me,” Konchesky told InNewCL Sport.

“When I came back here to work at the academy, the women’s team was always around us. It was always nice to see them play and train, but to be a part of it with Olli [Harder] was great – and I’ve never regretted it.”

Konchesky’s pride in leading a team in West Ham colors is evident. He was born in east London, close to where the women’s team play their home games at Dagenham & Redbridge’s Chigwell Construction Stadium.

“West Ham was my team growing up. I went to the games every week. I have good memories of those days – I used to love it,” he added.

“Those memories change as you grow up and start playing. I still supported West Ham and I wanted them to do well, but when you play against them it’s quite difficult.

“Coming back here in 2005 meant everything to me. I played in the FA Cup final for my beloved club in 2006.

“Life goes on after that and now I’ve come back to manage the women’s team and that’s a big part of me. I want to do well for myself and for the football club.”

“You want to learn from me”

Paul Konchesky plays for West Ham against Tottenham's Dimitar BerbatovPaul Konchesky played for West Ham between 2005 and 2007, including losing to Liverpool in the 2006 FA Cup Final

Konchesky said the players’ skills have “improved massively” since his first involvement in the WSL more than a year ago.

He’s still learning about the league in his managerial role, but the players are getting used to his style.

“I like managing the women the way I would have liked to be managed as a player,” said Konchesky.

“I took a lot from my former managers who were really good and tried to put that into me and how I wanted to run this team.

“If I need to be more optimistic or put more pressure on them to know I’m not messing around, they know it. When I step in, the girls listen and want to learn from me.

“I think I get a lot of that respect from playing and my career speaks for itself. It’s nice that they respect me, but I have to respect them too, and I do—a lot. I think whatever they need, I can help them.”

“Gap not as big as people think”

West Ham celebrate a goal against ArsenalDagny Brynjarsdottir put West Ham ahead against Arsenal in October before they lost 3-1

West Ham have thrived under former boss Harder, finishing sixth in the WSL with the highest score in 2021/22 before the New Zealand manager stepped down in May.

They’ve continued their upward trend with Konchesky, finishing fifth with five wins from their first ten games this season.

And Konchesky believes his side have shown they can compete on the pitch against the top four clubs – Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United.

“I’ve learned that the gap to the top might not be as big as you think. The players are fitter, stronger and there are some smart footballers in WSL,” said Konchesky.

“The aim is to close the gap. We know there is a top 3 or a top 4. When I say the gap is getting smaller, I mean the games in general. We stay in games with the bigger clubs .”

When asked how he would describe his side’s style, Konchesky said they play “up front” and show determination.

“We built our home like a fortress. It’s hard for teams to come to us and win. Even if we go away, we know we can keep up,” he added.

“The excitement and desire to win games – rather than sit back – was shown by my team.”

So what does the East London man want to achieve with West Ham?

“Every year we want to get better,” he said. “I want to win silverware.”

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