Lauren Smith is creating a name for herself as a manager, with her Bristol City team seeking to go closer to a Women’s Super League (WSL) comeback against London City Lionesses on Sunday.
If Welshwoman Smith, 34, requires a second view as the Women’s Championship promotion race nears its conclusion, she just needs to step across the corridor.
Bristol City Women practise with the Robins’ men’s squad.
There are two doors labelled manager’s office, one for Smith and the other for Nigel Pearson.
Pearson, 59, was a top-flight defender for Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough before moving into coaching or management in the late 1990s.
Pearson, who took over at Ashton Gate in February 2021, welcomed former Wales assistant manager Smith when he was hired as head coach of Bristol City Women in June 2021.
“He was actually the biggest surprise when I stepped through the door and had the initial chat with him,” Smith, who grew up in Newtown, adds.
“He just stated, ‘you’re a first team, I’m a first team, so don’t bring anything else – we are the first teams of this club, that’s it, no debates’.
“From that point on, it could have been simply words, but he acted right immediately.”
Smith’s team did not train at Bristol City’s training site when she came, and she credits former Leicester City manager Pearson for changing that.
“He was extremely crucial in part of it and simply said ‘why wouldn’t you be here?'” Smith explains.
“It was thrilling for me to have those very refreshing chats with a man in male football.
“When you sit down with him or interact with any of his employees, you actually feel respected and welcomed. I think the two first teams here are linked in that way, which makes it nice to come to work.”
Smith worked as an assistant to Rehanne Skinner at Tottenham Hotspur before taking over as manager of Bristol City following their relegation from the WSL in 2021.
She learned her skills at Bristol City, where she worked as an academy coach and as a first-team assistant coach for seven years.
Smith departed the club in 2017 to become Jayne Ludlow’s assistant coach in Wales.
Despite her expertise, Smith has relied on Pearson’s insight in recent seasons.
“He has twice as many league games as I have in a season, if not more, therefore a lot of our difficulties as managers are different,” she explains.
“But there was a point early in the season when I was trapped with a selection decision and was toeing the line, and I had a talk with him.
“He didn’t answer my query, but he did point me in the right direction. I felt like I had a really wonderful support network and practically a mentor in him, which is unusual because you don’t get that very frequently.
“He comes to our training sessions, and I attend to theirs. On a match day, I was with him. He comes to almost all of our games here, so there is true support and respect for one another, which is fantastic to be a part of.
Pearson will be absent on Sunday since his men’s squad will be in league action against Swansea City when Smith’s team takes the field to face London City.
Bristol City currently leads the Women’s Championship by six points, having lost only one of their 16 league games this season.
With only five league games remaining after this weekend, an away win would cement Bristol City’s grip on the promotion battle.
Smith might become the first Welshwoman to manage in the Premier League, and she has five Welsh players in the team she believes will soon be promoted.
Smith, who has previously worked at the top level of the English game, claims that a return has always been the goal.
“That’s why I took the job,” she explains.
“It was to establish a team, grow the club from a female perspective, and be able to raise our heads high when we got to [the WSL].
“We understand that it will not be an easy task.
“It’s gotten even better since the team was last there, the players have gotten better, it’s gotten faster – everything has changed.
“But, everyone on this squad, the staff, want to be at the highest level, which is why they’re here.”