Karen Hills sacking: the coach who led Tottenham’s women from fifth-tier obscurity to challenging the best in the WSL
Karen Hills’ 11 years at Tottenham came to an end on Thursday after she was let go along with co-head coach Juan Amoros.
Here, NewsChain takes a look at how far Spurs have come under her management as she bids farewell to the club she led from fifth division obscurity all the way to the top flight.
The ex-Watford and Charlton player began her coaching career immediately after retiring as a player in 2007, starting at Barnet where she spent two seasons under Tracey Kevins as she studied what it took to make it as a manager in the women’s game.
Then in August 2009 came her big break as she was appointed head coach of Tottenham Hotspur Women, who at the time were in the fifth tier of English football.
But the club’s rise began to really kick into gear as soon as Hills joined the club and by the 2010-11 season they were celebrating winning the South East Combination Women's Football League, the third tier of women’s football.
Juan Amoros joined the set-up in 2011 and began working in tandem with Hills as the unconventional method of having two head coaches seemed to gel in the Tottenham dressing room.
In a sensational 2015-16 campaign they won the Ryman’s Women’s Cup and FA Women’s Premier League Cup and a year later the double act steered Spurs to the top of the third tier, the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division.
They then faced Northern Division champions Blackburn Rovers in a play-off where the winners would earn promotion to the FA WSL 2.
On May 28, 2017, two goals from Bianca Baptise and a third from Wendy Martin saw Hills steer Spurs into the second tier, the championship, for the first time in their history.
They finished seventh in their first season and then in their second season found themselves pushing for promotion once more, this time for a place in the Women’s Super League.
And again they were successful as they secured the second promotion place in the Women’s Championship, finishing five points ahead of Hills’ former team Charlton.
Now in the top flight, many felt Spurs were not ready to compete with the biggest and best teams in England as the speed of their rise through the divisions had surprised a lot of people.
But they began the 2019-20 campaign determined to prove doubters wrong and proceeded to win three of their first five games against Liverpool, West Ham and Bristol City.
One of the standout moments of their season came in November when, despite being beaten 2-0 at home by north London rivals Arsenal, the match will be remembered for setting a WSL attendance record of 38,262 at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Spurs’ first season in the WSL was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic as placings were decided on points-per-game, a measure which saw them finish seventh - an impressive first campaign in the top flight.
But the beginning of the 2020-21 season is not how Hills and Amoros were expecting things to go.
The Lilywhites have not managed to win a league match so far after seven games, picking up just three points in the process.
A run of three straight defeats against Everton, Manchester City and Manchester United was then compounded by a humiliating 6-1 drubbing by Arsenal.
That was followed up with a 1-1 draw at home to Reading, before they conceded a last-minute equaliser against Bristol City to draw yet again.
This signalled the beginning of the end for Hills and Amoros, but not before they faced Arsenal one last time, drawing 2-2 in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup and then losing on penalties.
And so the whistle was blown on the coach who led Spurs from an amateur side in the fifth tier to a professional outfit challenging the very best in the country.