Psychologist, history maker, football manager – meet Bristol City’s Oxtoby

Psychologist, history maker, football manager – meet Bristol City’s Oxtoby

Tanya Oxtoby’s Bristol City have earned draws against Chelsea and Manchester City already this season

Much is made of the psychology of football management – getting the best out of your players, knowing which buttons to press and understanding how to deal with difficult characters.

But how many bosses are actually qualified to cope with all of the above?

That’s where Bristol City Women manager Tanya Oxtoby is different to most.

The 36-year-old used to work as a full-time psychologist, having graduated from the University of Western Australia – and now she’s bringing those skills to the Women’s Super League.

“It’s something that makes you very conscious of how you communicate,” said Oxtoby, who last week went down in history as the WSL’s first-ever manager of the month following an unbeaten start to the season.

“I studied psychology, [originally] as a three-year degree, although it took me five years because of the travelling for football and things like that, but it was definitely all worth it.

“It was difficult, but I’m really glad someone pushed me to do it. It helps me in my football now.

“It’s about watching body language, all of that kind of thing. It’s a massive part of the game now at any level, and having a background in that area really helps, especially in pressure situations.

“It gives you a skill-set to fall back on.”

Just like Oxtoby’s path into football management, Bristol City’s start to the season has been somewhat unexpected.

As they lined up for their first home league game of the season against defending champions Chelsea and fielded a matchday squad with an average age of 21, including eight teenagers, few neutrals could imagine City battling to a draw.

Nor did many onlookers predict they would play out an entertaining 2-2 draw at another Women’s Super League title contender, Manchester City, four days later.

But those performances, plus a 1-0 win at newly-promoted Brighton, were rewarded with a brace of September awards for a club that has entered a new era this season.

Bristol City boss Tanya Oxtoby is the first winner of the new LMA manager of the month award in the WSL

Having left her role as assistant coach at Birmingham City to take charge of the Vixens this July, Oxtoby is very much enjoying her start to life as a number one in the WSL, in her first managerial role.

“It’s downhill from here!” Oxtoby joked to BBC Sport. “When the month ended and we had time to catch breath, I thought ‘wow’. It’s a massive achievement.”

The new monthly award for women’s managers from the League Managers Association (LMA) comes in a year when multiple well-established honours – historically only dished out to male players and coaches – have introduced a women’s equivalent for the first time.

Earlier in 2018, Fran Kirby was named as the first Football Writers’ Association’s women’s player of the year, while the Chelsea striker and her England team-mate Lucy Bronze were among those to be shortlisted this month for the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or.

“It has been a long time coming but I think the investment that now goes into women’s football is matched by these awards and the recognition that the game is getting,” said Oxtoby, who became the first indigenous Australian player to captain a W-League side back in 2008.

“It is really important that we’ve all gone professional in the WSL and the result is this recognition. You can’t have one without the other, it goes both ways.

“It’s really pleasing for women’s sport that we’re in a position now where we can talk about these awards. It’s a great reward for the players, coaches and clubs’ investment.”

Of her own honour, Oxtoby added: “I’m really proud, but this [manager of the month] is the players’ award. We can talk about as many things tactically as we want as coaches but they bring it to life on a Sunday.

“They’ve made my job nice and easy for the first month, but now is not a time to rest.”

That’s because the tough opponents keep coming for the West Country outfit, with high-flying Birmingham visiting the Stoke Gifford Stadium on Sunday, 14 October (15:00 BST).

Blues, led by Oxtoby’s former boss Marc Skinner, are second in the table after three wins from four, and the newest boss in the WSL knows her new side will have to “be at their best” to cause her former club problems.

Tanya Oxtoby’s playing career included a spell with Doncaster Rovers Belles

And she won’t be the only familiar face for the visitors, as Bristol City’s other September award winner – WSL player of the month, goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley – is also formerly of the Blues.

“She’s been magnificent,” ex-Doncaster Rovers Belles player Oxtoby said of Baggaley. “She has really excelled so far and she will go on to be as good as she wants to be.

“But it is her leadership off the ball that has been really impressive for me. She lays the foundations in terms of the organisation of the outfield players and her kicking is exceptional.”

Baggaley, a 21-year-old England youth international, appears to be thriving under Oxtoby – as does Scotland international midfielder Lucy Graham, who signed from Hibernian in the summer.

Speaking about Oxtoby to BBC Radio Bristol, Graham said: “She is really driven and she knows what she wants. She gets it out of the players.

“Everybody has jumped straight on board with her whole philosophy and that’s got the dressing room going. It is a happy camp.”

A win over Birmingham on Sunday could propel Oxtoby’s side into the top five, which would be a strong statement from a club that finished eighth in last season’s 10-team league – but she believes they still have lots more to work on.

“We have to get better with the ball,” she continued, adding to Radio Bristol: “We are probably still around 40% of where we would expect the group to be.

“In possession we have got a lot of work to do. There’s a lot to come from this group. They’ll continue to grow.”

Soccer News

via BBC Sport – Football

October 13, 2018 at 07:36AM


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