New Zealand-born coach Olli Harder reckons his Kiwi upbringing helps him cope with the high-pressure environment of coaching at the highest level of women’s club football in the United Kingdom.
“I’m a Kiwi so I just go with the flow,” the 35-year-old has told Sky Sports ahead of this weekend’s clash between his West Ham United side and Aston Villa.
Harder, who cut his coaching teeth at Auckland’s Massey High School (girls) and Lynfield College (boys) before heading overseas in 2008, was appointed West Ham’s women’s manager last December.
His coaching career has taken him to the United States, China and Norway and he’s used his laidback Kiwi approach to cope with the challenges of moving from country to country.
“There’s no consideration like ‘oh well I don’t speak this language or what’s the culture like’, but just ‘this sounds cool so let’s go and do it’. My worst-case scenario is to go back to New Zealand, but that’s not terrible, it could be lot worse,” he told Sky Sports.
Harder’s appointment at West Ham was a surprise to many, having come from Norway where he had coached the Klepp IL women’s team, taking them from the relegation zone to successive top-four finishes in two seasons.
He secured West Ham’s survival in England’s Women’s Super League with three clean sheets achieved in the last four games of their 2020-21 season.
The new season started badly last weekend (September 4) when the Hammers lost 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion’s Amex Stadium.
Meanwhile, one of Harder’s signings has been New Zealand international goalkeeper Anna Leat.
Leat, who started her career with East Coast Bays in Auckland, moved to London in August after being part of the New Zealand Ferns team at the Tokyo Olympics.
Harder signed Leat from Georgetown University where she had conceded only 19 goals in 18 games during her debut season in the United States.
Photo: Olli Harder … image: West Ham United FC.
New Zealand’s other link with West Ham United
While Harder leads the West Ham United’s women’s team, another former New Zealand coach is working with the Hammers men’s team.
Former manager of the NZ Knights Paul Nevin, who is part of manager David Moyes’ backroom staff at West Ham, is also an assistant coach with Gareth Southgate’s England squad.