x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

From turnstile to dugout

They say it's a man's game - but Donna Powell proved the opposite is true by making history on Wednesday night.

Donna Powell takes charge of Fisher against Eastleigh.
Donna Powell takes charge of Fisher against Eastleigh.

They say it's a man's game - but Donna Powell proved the opposite is true by making history on Wednesday night. The 27-year-old primary school assistant became the first woman to take charge of an all-male team when she led out amateur side Fisher Athletic against Eastleigh in a match in south-east London. Champions Hill - a 500-seater non-league ground wedged between a supermarket and a housing estate - was the setting for the clash in the Conference South, the sixth tier of English football.

Powell got the job on a one-off basis as a reward for raising £500 sponsorship money when officials at cash-strapped Fisher came up with the "be a manager for a game" scheme to boost their dwindling funds. Normally she works as a turnstile operator on matchdays - but more than 200 hardy souls turned out on a cold night to see her make her managerial bow. She had to endure chants of "You should have stayed in the kitchen" from Eastleigh fans during the first-half as the high-flying visitors, lying fourth in the division won 4-0 as Powell was unable to stop the struggling hosts suffering a 12th consecutive defeat.

After the match, Powell hit back at critics who dismissed the occasion as merely a publicity stunt. "It wasn't easy for me to shout from the touchline with my little voice," she said. "But I felt the players were listening to me. At half-time I asked for more determination and they gave me that." jeastham@thenational.ae