Mary Phillip: Former England captain on managing Peckham Town's men's team

Mary Phillip
Mary Phillip was capped 65 times at senior level by England between 1996 and 2008

"They said 'you've got to go round that way to watch your boyfriend play'.

'No, I'm the manager'."

She was the first black woman to captain England, won 65 caps and lifted a European title with Arsenal, but some opposing teams still find it hard to believe Mary Phillip is the manager of men's team Peckham Town.

Phillip, 43, took charge of the Kent County League Premier Division side last season and guided them to their first senior trophy.

Yet some still "judge a book by its cover", as the former Millwall, Fulham and Chelsea defender told BBC Sport.

"Most of the time when I turn up to the games, they'll look straight at our chairman or our first-aider and go 'manager?' and they'll turn and go 'no, manager's back there'.

"Last season, we rocked up to a game and they refused to let myself through and our TV person through - we film our games. They said 'you've got to go round that way to watch your boyfriends play' and then our chairman had to come and say 'that's our manager'. They let us go through unwillingly.

"It wasn't until we started warming up, we caught them stepping back and saying 'she actually knows what she's talking about, she can do this'.

"Women can do the job, given the opportunity. Just because I'm female, it doesn't mean to say I can't do the job that I've been asked to do. Male or female, it shouldn't make a difference."

And it is Phillip who is making a difference, becoming the first female manager to lead a men's side to a cup success in England, when she oversaw Peckham's run to their first trophy, the London FA Senior Trophy, last season.

"She's got loads of experience. I've nothing bad to say about Mary," Peckham goalkeeper George Legg said.

"I don't really think about whether Mary is male or female.

"She's got loads of experience so, regardless of her gender, it does not matter to us, she's great."

Peckham-born Phillip is no stranger to the team, having been coaching at the south London club "since early 2000" when they started a youth team.

"I was with the Under-8s, then the Under-9s, and I've grown up through the years with them," she added.

"As I started to do my A licence, back in 2016, I wanted to get more hands-on within the reserve team, and that worked towards me getting experience with the senior men's team, and it's a great bunch.

"Last season, their manager at the time stepped down, they wanted a coach with their badges and they asked me if I'd like to take the role on. Obviously I said 'why not?'

"We got to the first cup final in the club's history, of the London Senior Cup, and we ended up winning that."

That was certainly not Phillip's first taste of silverware, though - she won 22 trophies in her playing career, before retiring in 2008.

She also made history in 2003 when she took the captain's armband for the national team and became England women's first black captain, an accolade she says she was not aware of until this year.

"Obviously England had some great black players who came through so I assumed one of them had held the captaincy, but it's a great honour," Phillip continued.

"Hopefully I'm not the last one, but it's a great achievement to have that.

"When I look back on [my playing career], it wasn't a profession then, it wasn't my job, that was my passion, that was my sport. To go to two World Cups, that's a great achievement.

"Top of the list for me was my European medal with Arsenal in 2007, when we won the quadruple."

And what might the future hold, in her coaching and managerial career?

"The goal is to go as far as I can. Whatever doors open up for me, I'll look at them," she continued.

"If I'm given a chance to go and coach in the women's game, I will go and do that, openly and open-minded.

"I've played in the women's game all the way from the greater London women's division three side all the way to the top flight, so why not try and manage at the top level in the women's game as well?"

Mary Phillip was speaking to BBC Sport's Jo Currie

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