West Ham have announced the appointment of New Zealand-born Olli Harder as manager of the women’s team.
The 34-year-old has signed a two-and-a-half year deal and arrives from Norway, where he worked as head of football development and first-team coach at Klepp IL, who twice finished in the top three in the Norwegian women’s top tier on his watch, and as assistant manager at the second-tier men’s side Sandnes Ulf.
Harder transformed Klepp IL from relegation candidates in 2016, earning the club a first top-four finish in more than 20 years in 2017 and leading them to second place the following season and third the year after. They finished seventh in the most recent season that finished in November. He was nominated for Norway’s coach of the year in 2017 and 2018.
West Ham Women’s managing director, Jack Sullivan, said: “We had a huge number of incredibly strong candidates for this role, but Olli stood out predominantly due to his progressive coaching style and exceptional attention to detail, which is backed by strong experience and achievements in the women’s game.
“I’m confident Olli will ensure a work ethic and an organisation from the team to accompany his track record of giving young players a chance which aligns with the club’s values. He has lots of new ideas that we are looking forward to implement.”
Harder said: “I’m looking forward to the opportunity of not only working with such a historic club but, more importantly, a club that has committed itself to the development and progression of the women’s game.
“I’m relishing the challenge of moving forward the West Ham United women’s team into what will no doubt be a bright future.’’
West Ham parted ways with Matt Beard on 19 November. Beard joined as manager as the club prepared for a first season in the Women’s Super League in 2018 and guided the team to a first FA Cup final against Manchester City in 2019.
In the league West Ham have lacked consistency, failing to record back-to-back WSL wins since December 2018 and the team had won only one of their first seven league games this season.
The goalkeeping coach Billy Steward and first-team coach Paul McHugh took temporary control, with the Wales manager Jayne Ludlow among those linked. Harder’s first game will be at Manchester City on 9 January.