Olli Harder: Joining West Ham United, consistent quality and a hardworking ethos
Olli Harder has revealed his excitement at undertaking the women's first-team manager position at West Ham United.
The experienced 34-year-old was confirmed as the Barclays FA Women's Super League team's new manager during the festive break, and took to his new role at the side's training facilities at Chadwell Heath for the first time this week.
In his first interview since joining the Hammers, Harder shared his passion for working with his new team in 'the most competitive league in the world', his initial thoughts on the squad, his long-term ambitions for the Club, and giving the loyal supporters football they can relish...
On joining West Ham United...
"If West Ham calls, you’re not going to say no! It’s a huge Club and obviously, for me, it’s always been an interest to come back to England and coach at a high level. To coach in what will be the most progressive league in the world, the most competitive league in the world, was really appealing to me.
"It’s fantastic to be here. This is a great opportunity for myself. I’m really excited about getting started and moving the team forward."
On coaching in the Barclays FA Women's Super League...
"I think the league itself has taken a lot of steps and obviously, the first thing everyone talks about is the physicality of the league and the tempo.
"As it’s developed as well, the technical side and the tactical side have developed. I think that is something that will continue to develop, and you can see that already in what you might call the top three, or top four, where you have this blend of athleticism, of quality on the ball and tactical ability.
"For us at a club like West Ham, our responsibility is to push into that and move that forward."
On why he is the right man to take West Ham United women's team forward...
"It’s a case of having experience coaching women’s teams. I think that’s important. Understanding the mindset and the culture behind women’s football. It is different to men’s football, and I’ve experienced both at a high level.
"For me, I think taking the team forward in a progressive manner was something they were really looking for, and having something a bit different. Hopefully we can progress the Club into the direction that we want to go.
"Obviously, I’m coming in mid-season and there’s a lot of things that need to be addressed. At the same time, in terms of progressiveness, I think it’s a cultural thing. It’s a cultural shift you find with younger managers. It’s not necessarily myself in particular, but I think you’re starting to see a thread now with a lot of young managers, and I’m fortunate enough to be in a situation where I’ve gained a lot of experience, and I still have a lot to learn.
"It’s also all about, for me, the dedication to the job. Especially coming to a Club like this. It’s about the ethos of the Club. This is a Club built on hardworking people. That is the foundation moving forward. The first thing that I can promise, and I’ve said this to the girls too, is that I will put in the hours and put in the work, and I expect the same from my coaching staff and I expect the same from my players."
On the squad and finding consistency...
"I’ve been pleasantly surprised. There’s a lot of work to do and we’re not going to change things in 48 hours, but there’s something to work with. And, as we develop the squad and we develop the players within the squad that we have, I think we will be pleasantly surprised.
"I think the word here is consistency. There is quality within the squad and quality within the Club in terms of the coaching staff, and competency within the Club. Keep in mind this is a young club when it comes to the women’s game. It’s a historic Club, and a massive Club in the world game. But on the women’s side we are barely a few years old professionally.
"Moving forward for us, it’s about squeezing out that quality that we have in the squad and, for myself, developing the squad as a whole, in terms of recruitment and also developing the young players we already have here in the squad, so we can move forward in a positive way."
On his short-term and long-term plans...
"The short-term target really is the same message I gave to the girls, which is that we look to win the next game. There are too many uncontrollable areas when it comes to saying, ‘we are going to finish in this position’.
"I think, for us, it’s about approaching each game with the right mindset and looking to win each game. If we don’t, we work harder and we try to win the next one. For me, the biggest goal really is to change the mindset and to not focus too much on the position in the table, but focus on results, and the process behind that. I think, if we put that in place, then where we fall by the end of the season is where we fall, for me.
"Mid to long-term, I want us to develop ourselves into a club where we can compete regularly with the top-half of the table. As I alluded to, we are a young club, and there are clubs in our area that have been in the women’s game a lot longer. So we need to catch up, and that’s something that I’m here to help achieve."
On working with the backroom coaching team...
"For me, it’s important to have that continuity and to have that touch-base. The options were there for me to bring in staff, and I alluded to the fact that I think it’s important to give everybody here the opportunity to show what we can do moving in a new direction.
"Thus far, I’ve been really pleased with the response from the coaching staff, and the competency within the coaching staff is excellent."
On giving the fans football to enjoy...
"Obviously, once this situation passes, we very much look forward to having the supporters back. As everybody knows, football is about the fans. It’s there to be enjoyed; to be played and enjoyed by the fans.
"Of course, for us, it’s a sad note when we don’t get to play in front of any fans, let alone our own fans, so we’re really looking forward to that. Stick with it, stay passionate, and we hope to see you at the ground soon."