THE sackings of Willie Kirk and Scott Booth, the two Scottish managers in the FA WSL, have a common denominator – and it's not their nationality. Both were victims of absurdly unrealistic expectations.

Kirk's demise at Everton was overseen by 26-year-old Sarvar Ismailov, who at the time was a main board director and also sporting and commercial director of the women's team. Ismailov, whose uncle is a close friend of Everton owner Farhad Moshiri, subsequently stepped down from all his roles on November 2, for “personal and health” reasons.

The explanation given for Kirk's departure last month – a poor start to the season following heavy investment in the summer – was at least plausible, even if not taking into consideration injuries, time for the new players to gel, and a long unbeaten run against teams outwith last season's top four.

Everton brought in former Lyon manager Jean-Luc Vasseur as the replacement. The Frenchman had himself been sacked earlier this year following a barren season, but was at Lyon when they won the Champions League in 2019-20.

There was, therefore, some logic involved and Everton were prepared to back their demand for instant success with money. Not that the new chapter has started well – Everton's first two league matches under Vasseur, both at home, have delivered one point.

Birmingham City, by contrast, have unrealistic expectations which are not even backed by investment.

The official who announced Booth's appointment in June, and pronounced on his departure three nights ago, is Sarah Westwood. She is the women's team general manager and prior to that, according to her LinkedIn history, was employed by the British Heart Foundation as customer services manager of the Brighton to London Bike Ride.

Unlike Ismailov at Everton, she is unlikely to have played a prominent role in Booth's sacking. However, it is well documented that the club's management of the women's team is unsatisfactory and below the required standard – last season the players complained publicly and volubly about facilities and other issues.

While there have been some improvements, none suggest that the club is truly inclusive. Booth was initially able top up a depleted and demoralised squad with players from Ireland and Scotland, including Lisa Robertson (on loan) and Sarah Ewens from Celtic, but in an increasingly cosmopolitan league had his hands otherwise tied.

“Birmingham are the only club in the league that cannot sign foreign players,” he told me. “If you have the smallest budget in the league, plus you can't sign a foreign player, trying to build a squad to compete is virtually impossible.”

And the reason for no foreign players? As a consequence of Brexit, those from outside Britain and Ireland now require an international visa.

“It's costly to get the visa process underway with the Home Office and you also have to jump through hoops,” Booth said of Birmingham's non-participation.

“The pool of British players who are good enough to play in this league is tiny, and they're all already at a bigger club. A lot of the players I was looking at before I joined were from other countries – and then I got told four days before the transfer window closed that we couldn't sign them.

“I was asking for investment in the next window, and I think that's probably why I was sacked. They don't want to give it.”

Booth's record of nine defeats and a draw in his ten games is not, superficially, a good look. But even then, Birmingham were above Leicester City in the table going into this weekend's fixtures, and the scorelines were not as big as might have been expected.

In retrospect Booth, who took Glasgow City to the quarter finals of the Champions League in 2019-20, probably made an injudicious decision to join the Midlands club.

“I've got on well with the players,” he said. “Every one of them gave their all, but the expectations compared to the level of investment are just ludicrous. I do worry for whoever is going to come in and take the job.”



IN contrast to the cut-throat antics of the WSL, Wednesday's SWPL sponsorship launch, organised by Scottish Women's Football, was an uplifting affair.

It was probably prudent to wait until the COP26 delegates had left Glasgow before announcing Park's Motor Group as the title sponsor but, unlike another company which had been in the frame, this is a good fit for all the clubs in the top two leagues.

The (mostly young) players in attendance were also a refreshing reminder of the positive values football, and sport generally, bring to society.