Emma Byrne among those to speak out against Shiels’ comments

Northern Ireland boss said ‘women are more emotional than men’ after defeat to England

Former Ireland captain Emma Byrne has labelled comments made by Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels as "absolutely ridiculous" after he said that women are "more emotional than men."

Speaking in the aftermath of Northern Ireland’s defeat to England on Tuesday night, Shiels siad: “I thought they were struggling a wee bit at times to open us up until the psychology of going two up.

“In the women’s game you’ll have noticed if you go through the patterns, when a team concedes a goal they concede a second one within a very short period of time.

“Right through the whole spectrum of the women’s game, because girls and women are more emotional than men, so they take a goal going in not very well.


“So if you watch, if you go through the stats - which journalists love to do - go through stats and you’ll see teams conceding goals in 18 and 21 minutes, and then in 64 and 68 minutes. They group them because that is an emotional goal.

“We conceded in 48, with three in seven minutes or three in nine on Friday [in 3-1 defeat to Austria]. We were conscious of that when we went 1-0 down, we killed the game and tried to just slow it right to give them time to get that emotional imbalance out of their head. And that’s an issue that we have - not just Northern Ireland - but all the countries have that problem.

“I shouldn’t have told you that.”

Former Arsenal goalkeeper Byrne, speaking to Off The Ball, questinoed Shiels’ job security after his comments. “I’d be surprised if he is the manager for the next game to be honest,” she said. “You can’t discriminate like that, it’s the one thing you don’t need in wome’s football when it’s on the momentum, the trajectory (it is).

“For him to say that is ridiculous but the point is he’s thought about it a lot, he’s studied it. There was a lot of games where teams have conceded two goals in a short space of time, he’s decided to put it down to a fact of ’it must be emotions for women, it must be, what else can it be?’ which is absolutely ridiculous, it’s just so silly. I know a couple of those girls and I know they won’t be happy with that so I’ll be interested to see how that carries on.

“I think it’s ridiculous really to say that we concede consecutive goals because we’re emotional on the pitch - I think it’s a load of crap to be quite honest. I’m speaking personally, if we conceded a goal I was more determined to get it right and get possession back. I wasn’t emotional about the goals so to speak, I was emotional about getting myself back in the game or getting my team back in the game.

“In football in general, after you concede a goal the next few minutes are very important, whether you’re a man, woman, dog, whatever. It’s really important because the other team are elated, they’re confident, they feel stronger and you have to try and get the balance back from that but it’s not about being emotional. It’s about the flow of the game and the balance of the game.”

Over in the UK, former England Women goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain described Shiels’ comments as “bizarre”.

“You need to kind of take a bit of responsibility of knowing the value that words can hold and when you give post-match press conferences when you’re feeling emotional after a big game, it’s important to make sure that you’re speaking sensibly and are aware of the message that your words can carry.”

Yvonne Harrsion, chief executive of Women in Football, has also reacted to Shiels’ words, labelleing them as “very unhelpful”.

Harrison said she felt like the clock had been turned back “30 years” after Shiels’ comment, made after watching his side concede four goals inside 27 second-half minutes during Tuesday night’s defeat.

I was disappointed, I was quite shocked,” she said. “Hearing a man talking about women being too emotional in this day and age, I just felt like I’d gone back 30 years, to be perfectly honest with you.

“But I caveat that with his team had just been beaten 5-0 by a very strong Lionesses team and that’s not easy to take, and you’ve got all the media on you.

“Let’s think about the 15,000-plus people who were at the match — that’s amazing. Let’s think about the fact, from a Lionesses point of view, we’re almost there, one more point going into the Euros, so that’s brilliant as well. So there are a lot of positives to take from the game.

“But the fact that we talk about being too emotional, it’s something women have had to face for years and years right across society, not just sport, and the comments are very unhelpful and not particularly inspiring to young girls and boys who were watching that game and think that’s OK to talk like that.”

Harrison pointed to greater investment in sports psychology in the men’s game, but also to goals scored in quick succession in Chelsea’s 6-0 Premier League romp at Southampton and Tottenham’s 4-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.

She said: “If we look at the weekend’s results — let’s take Chelsea or the Spurs game. They were high-scoring games, multiple goals were scored in short spaces of time.

“Villa and Spurs, one was at 66 minutes, one was at 71 — were they emotional? Can they not cope? Have they not got the mental resilience?”

Harrison called on men within the game to counter discrimination on the grounds of gender and to consider how they would feel if their sister, daughter, auntie or grandma were the target of such comments, but also stressed the importance of being able to show emotion.

She said: “Everyone has emotions. When you make comments like that, it’s almost like it’s not OK to show your emotion, so it’s not OK for men to show their emotion.

“And yet we know that suicide rates in men, particularly young men, are very, very high, so why is it not OK to show your emotion?

“I would just challenge people to think more personally about people related to them because, when you do that, you maybe do consider what comes out of your mouth in a slightly different way.