Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

‘It was hard but it was enjoyable’ – Jenny Archer MBE on her decade with the Crazy Gang and coaching career at Fulham Ladies

Posted on 29 June 2018 by Aramide Oladipo

Jenny Archer MBE is perhaps better known for her influence on Paralympian David Weir CBE, who has thrived under her guidance, winning six gold medals and securing eight London Marathon victories in the process.

The pair founded the Weir Archer Academy in 2013, and Archer details how the ambitious Weir made her lose sleep in the beginning.

She said: “When he came back after Athens, we sat down and he said I know you’re going to be the right coach for me.”

“He wanted the world. He wanted world records, more gold medals, more European titles. You name it, he wanted it. Like an idiot I said alright I’ll take you there and I went home and I didn’t sleep.

“I thought oh God what have I said? I can’t let this boy down, but we haven’t looked back since. We’ve never had a row, we’ve never had a disagreement and he’s always turned up to training.”

Although Archer is now a household name in the world of athletes, her impact on football must never be understated.

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In 1987, First Division outfit Wimbledon FC contacted her about taking on the fitness coach role and it’s fair to say that Archer was sceptical at first.

“I got a phone call saying would you be interested in coming to work with the first team,” she said.

“I thought it was a prank. I went down to the training ground and met Don Howe, Bobby Gould, went for a walk around with Don Howe and he said would you like the job, and I looked at him and said for real?

“He said I’ll teach you their behaviour and what they’re like and I said OK.”

Antics both on and off the pitch saw Wimbledon branded as the ‘Crazy Gang’ but with Archer included in the set-up, they became a force.

During her first season at the club, Wimbledon pulled off one of the greatest shocks in FA Cup history by defeating Liverpool 1-0 in the final.

After turning down the chance to join city rivals Queens Park Rangers, Archer stayed with the Dons and became a physio, and helped the club remain a fixture in the new Premier League design.

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“It was a great 10 years of enjoyment; it was hard but it was enjoyable,” she said.

“I used to do one-to-one coaching with Dennis Wise, Robbie Earle and I also used to work with Vinnie [Jones], he was lovely and Fash [John Fashanu]. It was a family club and if there was trouble at the top, it went right through down to the people at the laundry room. But, it was fun, they worked hard, they played hard.

“It was a great club and everything that I’ve learnt from the teaching to being in the football and the athletics has all been channelled into what I do now.

There’s a beaming smile across Archer’s face reminiscing about her time at Wimbledon, from the players referring to her as ‘Hitler’, to then-manager Joe Kinnear drenching the press with a Lucozade container, to the time she watched Fashanu do martial arts in the swimming pool.

Not surprisingly, Archer experienced sexism during her time in men’s football, and she recalls when a certain Scottish manager had to defend her.

She said: “When we were playing Man United in the Youth Cup, the coach pulled up outside and I got off and this arm came across me and said ‘sorry, no women allowed’.

“Then this little voice came out in the room and said ‘let her in!’, it was Fergie [Sir Alex Ferguson], ‘let her in, she’s their physio!’”

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After a decade at the Den, Archer reluctantly accepted a coaching role with Fulham Ladies in 2000.

“I really didn’t want to go back into a football club because those ten years at Wimbledon were so precious,” she said.

“I told them if you come to me to the track twice a week, I’ll do the job for you.

“The first team came down, they built up a really good squad, people like [Katie] Chapman and [Rachel] Yankey, they were a right pain in the backside but eventually they had to accept that this is what they had to do to progress through their football careers.”

It turned out to be a masterstroke as Fulham clinched the league title and FA Cup, whilst both Chapman and Yankey went on to achieve successful careers at domestic and international level.

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Archer ended her spell at Fulham after five seasons and declined to take the job on full-time.

A successful coaching career in athletes and football earned her an MBE in 2014 which she received in her sister-in-law’s house in Guildford instead of Buckingham Palace, as she wanted to share the moment with her entire family.

She said: “I’ve met the Queen, I’ve met other people but I wanted my family because they’ve been supporting me in everything that I’ve been doing and it was important to me that they got to see that, to see me presented with the MBE.”

Photo Credit: @ Aramide Oladipo