Brighton have ended their year-long hunt for a new first-team manager with the appointment of former England boss Hope Powell.
The stunning coup follows at least two rounds of interviews since the departure in April 2016 of James Marrs, who led the club to the Premier League title that season.
Brighton said they did not find a suitable candidate in the first round of interviews, last autumn, when former Charlton and Latvia boss Keith Boanas – now in charge of Super League rivals Watford – was among those seen.
And they completed the recent Super League spring series with regional talent club technical director George Parris still at the helm as interim boss, having held another round of unsuccessful interviews.
But their patience has been rewarded with the return to club football of former Millwall and Croydon player Powell, who as manager from 1998 to 2013 played a key role in the development of the England Lionesses and also led Great Britain in the 2012 Olympic games.
She said: “I am delighted to be back in management at a club that has so much ambition, with an amazing infrastructure both on and off the pitch.
“I have followed the club’s progress closely and I was thrilled to hear news of their well-deserved promotion to the FA Women’s Super League last year.
“The team had a solid campaign in this year’s spring series, and the task is now to build a side that is capable of mounting a challenge for promotion into FA Women’s Super League 1.”
Brighton & Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber said: “Hope is someone with an outstanding record in coaching, playing and management within football. She is also someone I know well from my time at the Football Association.
“She has an incredible wealth of coaching experience at the very highest level and had a very impressive career as a player, too.
“We feel Hope is the right person to take our women’s team forward, as we look to gain promotion and establish ourselves as a FA Women’s Super League 1 side.”
The club have also kept their promise that assistant manager Amy Merricks would keep her job under the new boss, while Parris goes back to his day job, overseeing the progress of Brighton’s youngsters through what was the centre of excellence.
Brighton qualified for the Super League just weeks after Marrs left, along with several key players, beating Sporting Club Albion (now West Bromwich Albion) in a play-off.
They finished sixth of 10 teams in the recent spring series, winning twice and drawing four of their nine games, but scoring only eight goals – a clue to where their new manager’s priorities might lie.
Powell twice led England to the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup and also took them to the Uefa Women’s Championship in 2009 before being sacked following their widely criticised performance in the same tournament four years later when they failed to reach the knockout stages.