Behind the scenes at Chelsea Women this summer, Leanne Champ has been promoted from Academy Coach to First Team Opposition Analyst and Coach. It’s an exciting development for Champ in her off-the-pitch career, giving her the chance to work once again with the first-team players at the recently crowned FAWSL champions.
During her playing days, Champ excelled as a full-back as well as playing in midfield. She was a key part of the Arsenal team which dominated the FAWSL in the 2000s, winning five league titles and two FA Cups. At international level, she played for England U19s in the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship, helping them reach the quarter-finals. She made her senior England debut the following year in a friendly against Italy and went on to win 10 caps for the Lionesses.
After a spell at Chelsea, where she combined playing with studying for her UEFA B Licence, Champ finished her playing career in the USA. It was in America that she started coaching, working there for five years in various academies, including a stint as head coach of the Boston Breakers academy team. Unfortunately, her time in America was cut short due to visa issues.
Back in England, Champ gained her UEFA A Licence, and in the summer of 2017, she started working at Chelsea Women’s academy. Long-serving Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was a familiar face at the club, as Hayes had been Assistant Manager at Arsenal while Champ was still a player there.
The ex-England international started off working as head coach for the U16s and as assistant coach for the U18s for two seasons. This was followed by a promotion to work with the first team, first as a coach, then as an opposition analyst. She then returned to coach in the academy again, coaching the U16s to last season’s FA Girls’ Youth Cup, before her latest move back to the first team.
“Being at Chelsea, working in different various roles, I think it’s given me that experience to help develop younger players,” she explained in May 2022, talking about her role in the academy. “I think even doing the opposition [analysis] side of it has certainly helped with my coaching.”
Her latest job sees her return to the first team, this time combining the roles of opposition analyst and coach. As opposition analyst, she’ll be using data and video footage to identify the strengths and weakness of Chelsea’s opponents before presenting her findings to her coaching colleagues and the playing staff.
The fact that she’s working as both a coach and an analyst shouldn’t come as a surprise. Not only do many analysts working in the game have coaching qualifications and experience, it’s starting to become more common for analysts to spend time working with players on the training ground. Although his role is different to Champs’, Mark Leyland’s position as First-Team Coach Analyst for Newcastle United’s men side is an example of how analysis and coaching are becoming more and more entwined. (If you want to find out more about Leyland’s role, we’ve got an article on that here).
Talking about the future of the women’s game, Champ has said, “I think it’s going from strength to strength and I want it to keep on growing. If you look back about five or six years ago, it’s come so far with more young girls playing the game, we’re attracting more supporters, getting record crowds, there’s top players playing in the league and there’s now more investment going into the women’s game. I think we should just keep pushing for more of that!”
Leanne Champ’s journey from England international to opposition analyst at the top of the women’s game is a rare one. But as analysis becomes a more and more important part of the sport, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more former players becoming top-class analysts.
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