Key coaching figure Priestman leaves Canada Soccer after 5 years


Coach John Herdman, centre, prepares for practice with Bev Priestman, a member of his coaching staff, ahead of Sunday's soccer game against the United States in the final of the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship, in Houston, TX, on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. (Neil Davidson/CP)

TORONTO — Bev Priestman, who played a key role in helping develop young Canadian women’s soccer talent, is leaving Canada Soccer to become an assistant coach with the English women’s team.

England’s Football Association said Priestman, an English native who has a long history of working with current Canadian men’s coach John Herdman, with serve as head coach Phil Neville’s No. 2 with the Lionesses.

Priestman’s many roles in Canada Soccer include director of the so-called EXCEL developmental program for ages 15 to 23, head coach of the women’s under-20 team and senior women’s assistant coach.

Most recently she coached Canada to a berth in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup later this year via a third-place finish at the CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship.

"I leave Canada after a fantastic 5 1/2 years with many amazing special memories, which ultimately is down to the players and staff I have worked with," Priestman said in an England FA statement. "But I believe now is the right time for me to move on, I wish them every success in the future and I will be forever grateful for my involvement."

Priestman worked at Everton and the FA before moving New Zealand, where she worked alongside Herdman. She is slated to leave Canada Soccer at the end of the month.

The English women are currently ranked fourth in the world, one spot ahead of Canada.

"I am delighted and excited to move to my new position with the Lionesses," said Priestman. "From the calibre of people involved, the investment and the general growth of the women’s game in England, I genuinely believe we can get to No. 1 and I look forward to supporting Phil and the team to do that with my international head and assistant coaching experiences."

England’s next game is a World Cup Qualifier at Wales on Aug. 31.

"I am really pleased that Bev has agreed to join us," said Neville. "She has a wealth of international football knowledge and vast tournament experience. From our conversations, I can already tell that she will bring a great deal to the role."

Under Priestman’s tutelage, Canadian players like Jessie Fleming, Deanne Rose and Jordyn Huitema have made their mark on the international scene.

"Over her five years at Canada Soccer, Bev has been instrumental in helping shape the EXCEL system that develops players for the women’s national team program," Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli said in a statement.

"Under Bev’s direction, Canada Soccer’s U-14 to U-20 players have been given the tools and direction they need to make the next step on their women’s national team journey. We wish Bev the best in her future endeavours."

Canada women’s coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller remains the women’s EXCEL program director. With Priestman leaving, Danny Worthington — who was the U-23 EXCEL director before becoming an interim assistant with Heiner-Moller — will lead the program from 15 through 23.

Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson also continues to move up the Canada Soccer coaching ladder.

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