There are many glass ceilings in modern day professional football. In English football, the question of why there are no ethnic minority managers currently working in the top five leagues is a continuous thorn in the side of the perceived progress the game has made in this country on the issue of race. Across Europe, the racial glass ceiling is even more pronounced, with certain fan groups telling their team not to sign black players, such as Zenit St. Petersburg, or insulting or throwing bananas at the players of teams that do, such as Villarreal or Atletico Madrid. In this country, the FA has arguably stated its intention to put a class ceiling over its own lower league clubs, with their plans to introduce a League Three, populated largely by the reserves and offcuts of Premier League sides.
However, one glass ceiling that is rarely debated or acknowledged is the presence of women in the men's game. Maybe this is due to the increased prevalence of women's football in the world game, with increased media coverage and near universal condemnation whenever a sleazy old politician says the ladies should wear tighter shorts. Nevertheless, given the popularity of men's football, and the increasing numbers of women achieving the highest qualifications in FIFA coaching, it is something of an anomaly that, until this week, the highest up the male professional ladder a woman has managed was Serie C1, the Italian third division, where Carolina Morace managed Viterbese for two matches in 1999.
But indeed, this week, former Celtic scout and Benfica youth coach Helena Costa was given the full-time gig of managing French Ligue 2 side Clermont Foot from the start of next season, news which was greeted with a near universal reaction of surprised delight, best summed up by the spokesperson for the Clermont fan club: "The boys in the team can be difficult to manage. They can be quite sensitive, that is what the other coaches have told us. With a woman in charge, maybe they will be less demanding."
Aside from the interesting idea that grown men can be so sensitive - maybe bursting into tears in the dressing room over a yellow card, or bringing flowers to the opposition keeper to apologise for scoring against him - that they need a mother figure to coo them better, it's good to see the positive reaction, rather than the old geezers in suits moaning about how football is a man's game, which was never more prevalent than when Jacqui Oatley was named as a Match of the Day commentator in 2007.
Will such an appointment ever be made in the British game? Maybe its a long shot - particularly given that in the WSL, only two of the eight managers in the top tier are women - but we have hope. Literally.
Hope Powell is the most successful national coach this country has had in the past 20 years. turning the women's team from being on the verge of being prevented from qualifying for major tournaments, to one of the main powers in the European game in her 15 years in charge. She was nearly named Grimsby Town boss in 2009; in the next couple of years, I think we'll see her, or if not, another woman, placed in charge of a professional English football team.