UK Football

Stockport County: Building A Positive Future

Ben Gilby spoke to Stockport County Ladies Welfare Officer Peter Attfield about how the club have been making the best of a stop-start season in the FA Women’s National League Division One North (13/5/21).

Above: Going for goal – it’s been far too long since Stockport County (left) were in FAWNL action. Photo via Peter Attfield.

Stockport County Ladies were set up following a partnership with the local authority. Formed in 1989/90, Peter remarks that “they were an instant hit.”

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a massive period of adjustment for the club as Peter explains: “None of our teams were able to play or train during the two periods of lockdown, which has been difficult for us trying to keep the club active. A huge thank you has to go to our volunteer coaches who have been doing everything they can to keep players of all ages, fit, engaged and entertained during this time.”

Apart from coronavirus, Peter sees the biggest challenge that the club has to face being the fact that there are no paid staff: “All the coaches and committee have to fit in club activities around full time jobs. The demands of running a first team in the FA Women’s National League without full time staff is difficult. As a club run entirely by volunteers it would not be right to single out any individual, as everyone gives up a significant amount of their free time to allow the club to function. Having said that, our Club Secretary, Jane Morley, bears the brunt of the day-to-day grind of making sure everything happens.”

Peter explained how the women’s club’s links with Stockport County men’s team, who play in the fifth tier of the men’s pyramid has, historically depended on how successful the male side has been doing, but there are signs of very promising developments in the relationship: “We are administratively and financially independent of Stockport County FC. In past years the level of interaction between the two clubs has varied, largely depending on how well the men’s team were doing. Since the takeover of the club by Mark Stott, earlier this year, there has been a significant increase in the dialogue between the two clubs with major benefits for the ladies. We look forward to working together to build on this positive initiative in the future.”

Above: Stockport County (blue) in action earlier in the season. Photo via: Peter Attfield.

This season has been exceptionally stop-start for Stockport County Ladies, and they have only played four games in the FAWL National League Division One North. “It has been very difficult to maintain any momentum so far this season,” Peter observes. “There’s been some very good performances which have been offset against a couple of disappointing results. We had some major changes in personnel, playing and coaching, over the summer and it will be good to see how these changes take shape when we can get a run of matches together. Initial signs are encouraging and hopefully we have everything in place to allow us to progress in the FAWNL.”

In terms of what one of the major strengths are for the club, Peter is absolutely clear: “We regard it as being the pathway available to Stockport County Ladies. When football is back to ‘normal’ we have football available all the way through from five years old Wildcats, right through to open age with teams at county league level, FAWNL Reserve League and FAWNL. We did have a significant increase in the number of new junior players coming to the club following the last Women’s World Cup in 2019.”

In terms of looking ahead to the future of the club, Peter was slightly guarded, perhaps no surprise given the completely uncertain last twelve months that we have all lived through: “At the current time, I don’t want to even attempt to predict what the football landscape will look like in the short to medium term future. Let’s just hope we’re back to training and playing on a regular basis!”

A thought that is echoed by just about every sport loving person around the world.

Above: Sticking together – Stockport County Ladies. Photo via: Peter Attfield.

Helston Clinch The Title

Penryn AFC 0-4 Helston Athletic (11/5/21)

by Paul Parfitt

Above: Helston Athletic celebrate winning the Cornwall Women’s Football League on Sunday. Photo via: Paul Parfitt

Paul Parfitt’s Helston side arrived at Kernick Road knowing a point against second placed Penryn Ladies would be enough to secure a maiden League title. 

Penryn themselves have been in superb form since the end of the lockdown registering three wins and a draw meaning a win for them would leave them in with a chance of winning the league themselves, this was a clash of the two best teams in the division.  

Both teams fielded strong squads and as the match started Penryn took the initiative and had the success in the early exchanges winning 50/50 balls.  Although their link up play wasn’t quite working for them and perhaps showing signs of nerves in the context of the match, Helston still looked dangerous albeit from broken play.  Penryn had the first clear chances to score but a last ditch tackle from Georgie Sweet and a save from Eve Moore did enough to keep the score even.   

On 19th minute Helston’s Abi Locke chased an expertly weighted through ball from Ellie Brewer and lobbed the on-rushing keeper to make it 1-0 Helston and settle some nerves for the travelling side.  

Penryn stayed in the game and their physical and determined approach winning 50/50 ball and pressing and harassing Helston still featured in their game.  Another through ball saw Abi Locke caught accidentally with studs in the follow through of Penryn keeper Clare Churcher, this injury required treatment and brought an end to the goal scorers game.   Locke was replaced by the teams second top scorer Katy Barker-Thomas who immediately caused Penryn problems. 

There was a phase of play in the first half where Helston were caught offside eight consecutive times and captain Sasha Sparkes spoke with the referee during a break in play which resulted in a yellow card and 10 minutes in the sin bin for the Helston captain to the bemusement of many onlookers. 

Down to 10, a galvanised Helston started to take the upper hand, Penryn still looked dangerous but the energy of substitutes Alice Rae and Keri-Ann Moxom added to Helston’s ability to retain the football and play their style.  It remained 0-1 at Half Time.

Parfitt had made four changes going into the second half and Helston started brightly seemingly finding their rhythm, Sparkes re-joined the side in the 50th minute and it was just three minutes later that the familiar combination that has brought Helston 60 goals across all matches this season were back at it again; Katy Barker-Thomas hitting a super cross that beat the punch of Churcher in goal and saw Sparkes rise at the far post to head in Helston’s second.   

With a front three now looking to get after Penryn, Helston enjoyed a good period in the game, Katy Barker-Thomas delivered another superb cross three minutes later and in a desperate attempt to prevent it falling to the striker a Penryn defender headed into her own net to make it 0-3, the away side then had a couple of penalty shouts went by before one was awarded for a late challenge.  The Helston skipper hit the post with her effort and Penryn were let off.  The home side themselves then pushed forward winning a corner and testing both the Helston defence and keeper in what was still a fairly even game.  

Helston made further changes utilising the roll on roll off substitutions and they looked to push on and improve the score.  Helston were utilising the superb throw of Kim Yould and were regularly causing the Penryn defence issues, still blighted with offsides there was frustration for the team in blue.  The Penryn keeper again keeping the score respectable with a string of saves and coming off the better in one to ones with Helston missing one or two open goals also.

As the game crept into time added on there was still opportunities coming and it was somewhat befitting that Helston scored in the 92nd minute to wrap up their League Title Win in Paul Parfitt’s inaugural season; typically fitting too was the goal scorer, with Jade Sweet sliding a pass through for Captain Sparkes to collect and outwit both defender and keeper to slot home and secure the CWFL Trophy for her team. 
The game was a representation of desire and hunger in the Women’s game in Cornwall and the match was played in a manner of that befitting the top two sides in the division.  Penryn’s season is now finished having played all their fixtures, Helston have two remaining away games at Mousehole and Culdrose on the next two Sundays as they undoubtedly look to finish the season unbeaten in the league.  

This Helston side look to take promotion to SWRFL for next season and manager Paul Parfitt has already stated his intentions to enter a Development Side in the CWFL which will be managed by the experienced and popular Kev James.  If you fancy taking up football or playing for Helston next season keep an eye on their socials and go along to their open trials on Sunday 6th June.

Helston Athletic: E Moore, C Sparkes-Bond, C Demouy, E Brewer, G Sweet, G Lane, D White, K Yould, S Sparkes (c), A Locke, S Sparkes-Bond.  Subs Used: J Sweet, K Barker-Thomas, A Rae, K Moxom, S Clouter.

Scorers: Locke 19, Sparkes 53, 90, OG 56 

Kerr-ific Chelsea Retain The Title

Chelsea 5–0 Reading (10/5/21)

By Ben Gilby

Above: All smiles as Chelsea lift the FAWSL title for the fourth time. Photo: @BarclaysFAWSL

Chelsea regained the Barclays FA Women’s Super League title with a comfortable victory over Reading at Kingsmeadow.

Emma Hayes named the same starting line-up as last week’s Champions League Semi-Final which meant that Swedish international Jonna Andersson remained on the bench.

Reading’s season will be filed under ‘transitional’ and the retirement of legend Fara Williams symbolises this end of an era.

The 37 year-old, who lined up for the final time in her career at Kingsmeadow won a record 172 caps for the Lionesses and during a spell with Everton from 2004 and 2012 scored 70 goals in 122 games.

It didn’t take long for Chelsea to show their dominance as the home side earned a corner from the opening play. Jess Carter’s low corner found Melanie Leupolz on the edge of the box and she side footed a shot into the net with just over a minute on the clock.

One thing Reading are renowned for though is their stubbornness and work rate and Kelly Chambers’ team dug in to stifle Chelsea’s forward ambition for the next half hour or so as their defensive pattern shifted to actively press the home side’s offensive play with the consequence that the Blues were forced to go backwards in an attempt to come forwards.

However, if anyone had the creative nous to break through the Reading wall, it was the Kerr and Kirby double act. Ji played a trademark perfect pass out to Kirby which Kerr ran onto. Her ball back to the England star resulted in Kirby hitting a first time effort into the net for 2-0.

Above: Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby – one of the greatest double acts that the FAWSL has seen. Photo: @BarclaysFAWSL

The partnership between Kerr and Kirby is unquestionably the key component in Chelsea’s relentless march to silverware and at this point, it’s important to cast our minds back to October when there was sustained criticism of Kerr and complaints that the FAWSL had been sold a dud.

These critics missed three very important points which were impacting Kerr at the start of the season. Prior to lockdown in March 2020, the Australian had developed a strong understanding with Beth England, her main strike partner at the time. Watching the two together at Kingsmeadow in those three months was a joy to behold as a real telepathic understanding was growing before our eyes.

Then, England had an operation over the summer and never really established herself as a regular starter this season, which meant that Kerr had to develop a new offensive relationship with Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder.

Kirby was unable to play for Chelsea when Kerr first arrived in January 2020 due to a debilitating injury and associated mental battles which the Lionesses star deserves huge plaudits for overcoming to the extent that she is now playing the greatest football of her career. Therefore it was no surprise that it took a number of weeks to build up that understanding, but once it built up, boy did it work.

The third element that the critics were ignoring was perhaps the one which showed the lack of awareness they had about Sam Kerr as a player. To a number of those critics, the Western Australian was simply a goal machine and her failing to find the net was a sign she was a failure. They either showed no awareness of or chose to ignore the huge amount of work off the ball which Kerr was getting through each week for the South London side. Something that she has always done throughout her career which has made her the ultimate team player. Blues boss Emma Hayes was well aware of this part of Kerr’s game and highlighted it week in week out in response to the criticism.

Since then, Kerr has not looked back and apart from scoring 21 league goals of her own this season, the East Fremantle born striker has been responsible for a large number of Kirby’s tally of 16 in a devastating partnership which you feel is only going to get more deadly next season.

Whilst it’s been the trio of Kerr, Kirby and Harder who have earned the column inches and social media posts, there are two other players who have been absolutely vital in the Chelsea’s success this season.

Erin Cuthbert embodies a massive part of what makes Chelsea the team they are. The 22 year-old is the ultimate Scottish terrier snapping around the ankles of the opposition. She is capable of taking on and dominating the best as Lucy Bronze found out earlier in the season when the Irvine born star had the Lionesses’ legend in her back pocket all afternoon long. Cuthbert runs kilometre after kilometre off the ball to neuter opponents and chase down and ultimately win countless lost causes. Erin Cuthbert is the player who will leave the pitch caked in mud when everyone else is pristine clean. It will be the biggest travesty of all if she is not in the Team GB squad for the Olympics.

Above: Another stellar season from Erin Cuthbert. Photo: @erincuthbert_

Then there is Ji So-yun who is coming towards the end of her seventh season for Chelsea. She remains a key part of the midfield establishment at Kingsmeadow. The South Korean has played over 110 games in her time in South London. At times last season there were signs that the opposition were able to successfully out muscle her to reduce her impact on the game. However, from the start of the season, Ji has brought back out her magic wand and has used it to remarkable effect. She is capable of class of the highest order: a perfect centimetre perfect through ball from midfield, pulling the strings to link up play or her famed glorious free kicks.

Reading began the second period on the front foot. It was the tighter and more offensive combination play of their midfielders Rachel Rowe, Angharad James and Fara Williams who were behind this improved standing in the game. Unfortunately for the Royals this was not matched by sharpness from their sole striker Danielle Carter.

Yet again though, as Reading threatened and failed to break through, Chelsea showed them how it was done. A long ball through to Kerr on the right saw her side foot a pass to Kirby who was just outside the ‘D’. She took a touch, created space and unleashed a rocket into the right hand corner of the net.

The Special K partnership combined again for Chelsea’s fourth. Cuthbert played a short pass through to Kirby who looped a ball into the box which Kerr volleyed first time into the net to ensure she won the FAWSL Golden Boot Award as the league’s top scorer.

Cuthbert made it 5-0 when her effort was helped over the line by Royals keeper Grace Maloney.

The scary thing for Chelsea’s opponents in England and Europe is that there is still scope for them to get even better. There is no question for me that Emma Hayes’ team do not have the strength in depth in defence that they do in midfield and up front. Whilst it might seem churlish to suggest this of a team who only conceded ten league goals all season, the highest standards of defence can help to decide the finest margins at the very highest level in the Champions League and if Chelsea want to dominate the pinnacle of European women’s football in the way Olympique Lyonnais did previously, this is where they will need to focus their recruitment.

Above: Magda Eriksson – Chelsea’s captain and talisman. Photo: @ChelseaFCW

Some Blues fans were surprised that last summer only Niamh Charles arrived in a defensive position with the club again focusing on bolstering their offensive options. Magda Eriksson’s loss for a month saw the Blues look more vulnerable than usual. Millie Bright is not the same player without Eriksson beside her at the back.

Interestingly, the only player Chelsea have been linked with so far is Manchester United’s young forward Lauren James. Given James’ family are based just over 10km from Kingsmeadow, it is a move which looks very likely to happen.

Chelsea can celebrate the third piece of silverware for 2020/21, but with a Champions League Final coming up next Sunday and this season’s FA Cup running into the new campaign, they still have every chance to have many more glory days ahead.

CHELSEA: Berger, Charles, Eriksson, Bright, Carter, Ingle, Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Harder, Kerr. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Blundell, England, Reiten, Fleming, Cuthbert, Spence, Telford (GK), J. Andersson.

Scorers: Leupolz 2, Kirby 43, 57, Kerr 71, Cuthbert 75.

READING: Malone, Leine, Cooper, Bartrip, Roberts, James, Williams, Rowe, Harding, Harries, Carter. Substitutes: Nayler (GK), Childerhouse, Flores, Jeon, Eikeland, Chaplen.

Referee: Stacey Pearson.

Terriers Earn Draw Against Red Devils

Huddersfield Town 2-2 Manchester United U21 (10/5/21)

By Jack Walker

Brittany Sanderson and Lucy Sowerby scored as Huddersfield Town Women battled to a well-earned 2-2 draw against Manchester United U21s yesterday afternoon.

The visitors started strongly and took the lead with a crisp left-footed strike that found the bottom corner from range, but Town weren’t behind for long.

Kate Mallin threatened immediately after conceding, sending an effort just wide of the near post, and United didn’t heed the warning.

Moments later, Mallin escaped down the right hand side again and played a perfect ball across the six-yard line for Brittany Sanderson to stretch and turn the ball home to level it up at 1-1 with just 11 minutes played.

Both sides were confident in building out from the back with United clearly showing attempts to mirror their first team, but Town’s high press worked a treat on numerous occasions as Lucy Sowerby and Sarah Danby won the ball in dangerous areas.

As a sign of their intent, the Terriers continued to dominate the first half and almost took the lead through Katie Nutter just shy of the half hour mark.

Serena Fletcher won and took a brilliant free kick out on the right flank and Nutter’s shot looked destined for the back of the net, but the United ‘keeper somehow clawed the ball away before Town’s no.7 attempted an acrobatic overhead kick that fell just wide of the upright.

The away side, though, showed quality too and almost re-took the lead when a cross clipped the crossbar on its way behind for a goal kick. That, however, was the closest either side came to finding the target in the remainder of the first half and the two sides went into the break with nothing to separate them.

Above: Goal mouth action in yesterday’s game between Huddersfield Town and Manchester United U21s. Photo via: Jack Walker.

Town started the second forty-five much brighter than the first and almost scored within a minute if the restart.

Mallin was hacked down on the angle of the area and Georgia Marshall rose highest to meet the cross but her header fell agonisingly wide of the far stick, despite the best efforts of Beth Ibbotson who found the side meeting with the ball already just out of play.

Town threatened from set pieces and it was Marshall who made the difference in the air to give her side the lead.

After a dangerous cross was turned behind for a corner, Danby whipped in a fierce delivery and Marshall towered above all defenders to power a bullet header goalward. The goal wouldn’t go down as hers, though, because Sowerby was stood on the line and took the ball flush to the face. Getting a goal seemed to raise her spirits, though as she bravely carried on.

Despite controlling much of the second half, Town were unable to create many chances and were made to pay when Man United converted a penalty after a handball in the area from Nutter and the scores were back level at 2-2.

As both teams tired, the chances dried up too. Neither side were able to find the illusive winner, but Town manager Jordan Wimpenny was proud of his players at full time.

“The players did brilliantly. We played a completely different style to what they’re used to and, just like we did against Fylde, got a positive result out of it. Without the [United] penalty, we would’ve won the game, but that’s football.

“Man United were very good on the ball and very physically fit – just like Brighton and Hove Albion will be when we meet them in the FA Cup on the 16th May. This game has given us experience of playing against quality opposition and we will go to Brighton and give a good account of ourselves.”

Pride Park’s Resilience Rewarded

Ilkeston Town Development 1-3 Pride Park (10/5/21).

by Boot Room

Long term injury absences, the attritional nature of this season and their third game in seven days meant that Pride Park lined up with just eleven players for yesterday’s game at Ilkeston Town Development at Cotmanhay Playing Fields.

Park found themselves playing into a fairly stiff breeze in the first half but started well. With barely a minute played, Hannah Kwiatek broke clear on the right and her shot was not far wide of the near post. We gradually imposed ourselves on the game, Beth Thompson and Tash Allderidge taking a degree of control in central midfield early on and together with Jess Page and Hannah Kwiatek on either flank created a string of opportunities.

Annie Laight and Izzy Ely were combining well and their runs were causing the hosts’ defence considerable problems. Izzy had a couple of early chances – one just wide and another just over, and both players were also only just beaten to the ball by the ‘keeper on a couple of occasions. Considering Park’s approach play, and the opportunities created, it took quite a while to make the breakthrough but the visitors remained patient. They were finally rewarded just after the half-hour when Laight broke through and, as the ‘keeper came out to narrow the angle, slipped the ball to the side for Ely to side foot home.

Ilkeston’s keeper made a vital interception, coming out to dive and just do enough to divert a low cross that was waiting to be turned in by Laight at the far post.

Goal-kicks were slightly challenging as the ball held up in the wind, and it didn’t take Ilkeston long to be aware of Pride Park’s attempts to play out from goal-kicks and close them down. On a couple of occasions they were nearly exposed as attempts to play out broke down, but the visitors recovered well. Nevertheless, they did try to vary it from goal-kicks and driven kicks from the hand, however, were reaching well beyond half-way despite the wind, on what must be the most compact pitch Park have played on at open age, and a couple of them proved problematic for Ilkeston’s back line as they were forced to turn and face towards their own goal.

Ilkeston looked threatening from a corner, but the visiting keeper did well to come into the crowd and punch clear confidently. Park weren’t able to convert any further opportunities and at half-time it was 1-0.

With the breeze behind the visitors in the second half many through balls goal kicks were running through to the Ilkeston keeper early on, but once Park had adjusted for the wind they started to create opportunities again. Ely had an early shot that was just off target within a few minutes of the restart, but Pride Park extended our lead on 50 minutes, as Ely set up Laight for a finish, lifting the ball up and helping it over the ‘keeper with a first time effort from side-on.

Ilkeston started to come into the game more and posed more questions in the second half, as the midfield battle was more even. It meant that Pride Park’s keeper was starting to be a little more involved and approaching the hour was brought into action, collecting a shot, and racing out to clear well from outside her area. Just after the hour, Ilkeston pulled a goal back. They worked the ball down the right, and as the ball arrived on the right, Park looked well set at the back, but the wide player beat the challenge and her low cross evaded everyone and was turned in at the far post. It was a well worked goal but one that the visitors would have felt that they could have defended better.

Conversely, they were finding it harder to play with the wind at their backs, or this could have been because Ilkeston had improved since the break. It may also have been a factor that the assorted knocks, strains, and fatigue, were starting to take their toll as Beth Jones, Sophie Ayton and Amy Snape required running repairs and it was apparent as the game entered the latter stages that a number of players were running on fumes.

Fortunately, Annie Laight had restored our two goal advantage by then, sweeping Allderidge’s square ball up and over the ‘keeper from the edge of the area. Beth Jones had a shot from distance saved by the ‘keeper, who was unable to hold on to it, and with a little more anticipation we might have had an opportunity – but the ‘keeper recovered well to gather the ball just ahead of Laight and Allderidge saw an opportunistic effort go over the bar. Ilkeston had a sight of goal as the clock ran down but the shot was hit wide.

In the end, it was a win that Pride Park had to work for. Several players were clearly digging into reserves at the end as fatigue from the recent schedule and accumulated knocks and strains started to have an effect. It’s probably fair to say Jess Page won’t have anticipated playing as many minutes in her first three games after four years out, but kept going even when the gauge read ‘empty’!

Amy Snape took a painful (accidental) kick to the ankle with fifteen minutes still to play but soldiered on, and is growing into her role – this was probably her best game for Pride Park to date.

The number of injured and otherwise unavailable players has meant scant opportunity for resting players during games, and there is no let up – this Wednesday is the last of our midweek fixtures when Park play Mercia at Moorways.

Olivia Watson: Back With A Bang

Impetus and Since ’71 are proud to jointly sponsor Sutton United Women’s Olivia WatsonBen Gilby caught up with Olivia recently to find out how things are going for her now she is back on the pitch (9/5/21).

Above: Olivia Watson fires in a shot for Sutton United in their recent friendly against Hastings United Photo: Paul Loughlin.

We last spoke to Olivia in February, so she was eager to update us with what has been going on. “Since we last caught up, off the pitch, I have been working and with the restrictions having now lifted slightly I have been able to see my family and my dog outside, which was amazing.  Football has returned, so we are back in training and have played three friendlies so far.”

With lockdown, hopefully now done and dusted for good, I wondered if this last twelve months have made permanent changes for Olivia both as a person and as a footballer.

“These periods of lockdown have changed my outlook, I definitely have learnt to appreciate life and the little things a lot more and to cherish time with my family and friends. In terms of football, it has taught me not to take the fact that I can play football for granted as you never know when it can be taken away and I now ensure that I enjoy every moment of socialising and being together as a team.”

Sutton United returned to training on 30th March and Olivia gave us an insight into what that first session was like: “It was fun and relaxed with the aim of getting everyone back together and enjoying themselves. We did an eight a side mini-tournament mixed with the U21s. It was great to be back and have the opportunity to catch up, have a laugh with my teammates and enjoy playing again.”

Above: Olivia in action for Sutton United against Charlton Athletic U21s at the end of March. Photo: Paul Loughlin.

Sutton United had their first game back at home to Charlton Athletic U21s. Olivia described what that experience was like: “It was a good run out for the team after the three and half months off and the whole team just enjoyed playing competitively again. We were all a bit rusty at first but as the match went on we grew into the game.  I personally found the game tough as no matter how hard I try to maintain my fitness by running or cycling, playing football is so different – I definitely struggled to get up and down the wing!”

“In terms of our matches between now and the end of the season, we are taking part in the London & South-East Regional Women’s Football League (LSERWFL) spring round-robin friendly tournament, which will be a good experience as we get to play teams that we would not have played in the season. This means we have matches most weekends up until the end of May. We are also still in the Capital Women’s Cup and are aiming for the final, so should have more cup matches scheduled in too.”

In terms of Olivia’s goals between now and the summer for her football, she said: “I think my main goal is to just enjoy playing the friendly matches and training between now and summer, as this pandemic has shown that you never know when it can be taken away and I will also to start preparing both physically and mentally for the 21/22 season.  Specifically, another goal of mine is to improve my movement and confidence with the ball as I feel this is an area I definitely need to develop for next season.”

Artwork: Angelo Tirotto.

Cheltenham Town: Building Towards The Return Of The FAWNL

Dan Lodge, head of PR and media at FAWNL Division One SW side Cheltenham Town Ladies spoke to Ben Gilby about the challenging times of the past 14 months and how they are planning to broaden their supporter base further to aim for Tier Three (6/5/21).

Above: Charlotte Criddle in action for Cheltenham Town. Photo: Mike J. Halford.

Dan began out conversation by outlining the journey that women’s football has taken at the Gloucestershire side. “The club has seen the highs and lows over its 32-year history. It started out originally, as a five a-side team and eventually joined the South-West Combination League finishing runner-up in the league a few times. I don’t know a huge amount about those times, as we’re talking 2000 or 2001, maybe 2002 and there’s not a lot of information available. In 2012/13 the club won promotion to the newly created FA Women’s National League Division One South West and despite a few relegation scares always managed to avoid the drop. Things changed in 2018, Alex Cheal came in as the new manager and made some changes and the club started competing, finishing fourth in 2018/19. We were also fourth in 19/20 before the season was voided, so the club has seen a lot of ups and downs.”

The club have now seen two successive seasons in National League Division One South-West rendered null and void due to the coronavirus pandemic. I asked Dan how the club has coped with such a tough period.

“It’s been frustrating. The players certainly aren’t used to it, although I’m fairly sure that’s the case for everyone. For the players, I’m sure it has a huge impact because they’re so used to being out in all types of weather being active and playing games and there’s the social side of it too and I think the social side of it, being out and able to see friends probably has a really underappreciated value.

“Behind the scenes, it’s made things a little bit more difficult. We don’t have quite as many sponsors coming on board as last season, as a lot of places are having to pull back on spending. That said, we are an amateur club anyway, so nobody gets paid for what we do, so we don’t have that wages aspect to worry about. The problem is training facilities coming out of the various lockdowns. We train in the evenings, so we need floodlights, but the places we normally train like Tewkesbury School, All Saints Academy and Hartpury College aren’t opening back up to the public just yet. So, we’re having to pay for training facilities as we would normally do, except there are fewer facilities open and the same number of teams all searching for a timeslot.

“It’s the same for matches too. I know we aren’t playing games at the moment, but chances are, if we do, they’ll be behind closed doors. So, we won’t have the income from supporters or from food and drink sales to help with covering the cost of booking facilities. I’d say we’re doing OK, but everything just feels that little bit tighter financially.”

Apart from coronavirus, one of the biggest issues facing the club is growing the number of supporters at their games – something which has only been made worse by the pandemic. “Our attendances were on the rise season after season, we were bringing in new sponsors, on the pitch performances and scores were going great and the pandemic has slammed the breaks on all of that a little bit. The 2019 Women’s World Cup was a big driver in promoting overall interest in the club and fans began to get behind their local side. Women’s football in general I think, was riding the wave of the World Cup and attracting new fans. We actually had one supporter tweet us and say he’d never been to a Cheltenham Town Ladies game before the start of that season, and up to that point, and I think maybe until the season was voided, he didn’t miss a home game. So that was fantastic to hear. We just need to make sure we continue the hard work and encouragement of women’s football after the lockdown and after the pandemic too.”

Above: Jade Grove gets a shot away for Cheltenham Town in their FA Cup Third round qualifying match at home to Portishead Town. Photo: Will Cheshire Photography.

So, we’re now having to try and reach further and almost start over again from scratch. That said, our attendances this season were still higher than they were in 2017/18, so we’ve had more people interested during a pandemic than there were out of one in 2018, which is great to see. I can only imagine what our figures would be like had Covid-19 not hit! I’m taking that as a great sign of a bright future.”

The club’s links with the men’s side who play in the fourth tier of the men’s professional league are, as Dan explains, “basically an affiliation. We’re a fully independent club, we have our own matchday venue, training venues, our own board of directors, our own website, and social media. We do work with them and we are building bridges to work together even more year on year, it’s just hard at the moment with us not being able to play games.

“They are very hospitable towards us, they’ve let us play some big games at Whaddon Road, they’ve let us have the same kit as the men’s, in 2018/19 and 19/20 they provided kit for both our senior teams. And in 2020/21 they’ve arranged for us to have a version of the brand-new kit, but with our own sponsors. We could always do more together, and I get on really well with Joycie (Richard Joyce of Cheltenham Town FC), and their media team and interns do a great job covering us, so it’s a good relationship. We work with them when we can, but we can also do our own thing, so it’s flexible but it works.”

Prior to the campaign being rendered null and void, Cheltenham Town were having a decent season in the fourth tier FA Women’s National League Division One South-West.

“It had been positive. We were sat in mid-table. One win and you could be up to third, one loss and potentially down to eighth or ninth. But the performances had been good, our opening day game against Chesham United had us all on edge and I think we all let out a good sigh of relief at the final whistle because it was unbelievably tight. A couple of other results didn’t go our way, but with FA Cup games included, we managed to go on a little bit of a run with positive results. And things, hopefully, will only continue to improve us. We had lots of new players and a new style from last season, so that naturally takes time to gel. I think we need to make the most of our time off the back of lockdown to tighten things up if they need it, maybe shake some of the rust off and get back into the swing of things, but once we have, I feel things will turn a corner over the next couple of seasons and we can make promotion to – and our survival in – FAWNL Southern Premier a real aim.”

“Promotion to tier three I think is a goal for this group of players and we’ve been able to take steps to improve the club with that as a goal. We recently held interviews for a General Manager, and we’ve actually ended up with two extra roles because the candidates were so good. We’ve now got a General Manager, a Commercial Manager and a Matchday Operations Manager, all of which have different things they bring to the table and can hopefully contribute very well to the future of the club and make us a more rounded organisation. Getting those improvements to infrastructure in place will really help us grow in the long term.”

Above: Ruby Scahill on the ball for Cheltenham Town in their FAWNL Division One South West match at home to Maidenhead United. Photo: Will Cheshire Photography

Like any club, the pathway for youngsters coming through to the first team is hugely important. Dan outlined what it is like at Cheltenham Town:  “The pathway is pretty good, I think. There’s been a few players that have made it to the senior level. For instance, Holly Rogers, who recently returned from a spell at Boldmere St. Michael in Birmingham, came up through the ranks, as well as Annabel Davies who had a couple of years in the first team. At the moment our Development Team is packed with youth system products, the likes of Hannah Dix, Leah Rhodes, Amie Boyce and Elle-Mae Simpson all instantly spring to mind. So, the pathway definitely does offer a way up to senior football, all the way from Under 8’s I think the youngest year group is.”

Like any club, Cheltenham Town can only function and prosper due to a group of core volunteers. “Obviously, the players go out there and work hard and bring back the results,” said Dan. The coaching staff and managers who go through the details with a fine-toothed combe and make sure no rock is unturned, there’s Darren Johnson and Evie who work in the shop serving tea and coffee, and if you ever saw them at half-time you’d know exactly why they deserve a mention! The media team do a fantastic job of covering us, both for our own coverage and for Cheltenham Town FC. And then there’s the chairman, and the secretary who sort mountains of paperwork and make sure everything is ticking over and nothing is rocking the boat. Everybody, from the chairman to the girls who work on the gate collecting money, it’s a real team effort and there’s a lot of people behind the scenes making sure everything goes to plan without a hitch who don’t get a mention.”

With, hopefully the first signs of the end of the pandemic on the horizon, we ended our chat by focusing on what Dan’s aims are for the sport and Cheltenham Town more specifically over the next five years or so.

“I’d love to see women’s football grow further, especially at our level. I’ve been involved in women’s football for about four years and it’s great. It would be fantastic to see women’s football in this country grow and I think it will continue to do and the further generations will carry it on as they grow up with more and more exposure being given to the women’s game. Eventually it’ll just become the norm, hopefully. I’d also like to see the FA Women’s National League get more exposure, as the Super League and Championship get a lot of coverage.

“For the club, it’s a tricky one…. Obviously, I’d like to see us get promoted if possible. But it’s always a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’. We’ve all seen clubs in the past, like Blackpool or Yeovil Town in men’s football, who skyrocket up the leagues but can’t sustain it and the decline is almost as rapid as the rise. So, we have to make sure we avoid that.”

“Naturally, we want to build the club and we want to compete at a good level and see how far this club can really go. That said, from my standpoint as Head of Media, if we can’t go forwards, then we definitely don’t want to go backwards. So as long as we’ve got a real stability in the club and we’re able to steadily grow and maintain what we have, and if we can build our fan base and give Cheltenham Town Ladies fans a good time on a Sunday afternoon, then happy days, that’s fantastic. I’d be more than happy with that.”

Above: Cheltenham Town celebrate a goal against Portishead Town in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round this season. Photo: Will Cheshire Photography.

Chelsea Make History

Chelsea 4-1 Bayern Munich (2/5/21).

Chelsea win 5-3 on aggregate.

By Ben Gilby

Chelsea produced a performance to be proud of as they became only the second English team in history to make a European club final. In so doing, there will be a Matilda in the Champions League Final for the second successive year.

Chelsea welcomed back talismanic captain Magda Eriksson after being out for almost a month. Additionally, the club’s regular left back Jonna Eriksson was moved to the bench and replaced by the 21 year-old Niamh Charles.

Bayern went into the game having won all of their previous Champions League away legs this season at Ajax (Netherlands), BIIK Kuazygyrt (Kazakhstan) and Rosengard (Sweden), but Chelsea were a significant step above any of the German’s previous opposition.

Within the opening two minutes, Fran Kirby was found down the right and found Ji So-yun. The South Korean magician’s ball in was headed behind for a corner by Amanda Ilestedt. Bayern cleared, but Chelsea maintained the possession.

The visitors were content to sit back and let the South Londoners have possession and this partly aided the home side in levelling the aggregate score in the tie with the first involvement of Sam Kerr on 11 minutes.

Kirby drove through the centre and laid off a pass to Kerr who was outside her on the left. The Australian cut across and threaded an inch perfect return ball into the box for Kirby who was never going to miss. The goal ensured that Chelsea now held the advantage having scored an away goal in Germany.

Ji was hugely influential in these early stages and she played a delightful dinked pass to Kirby who popped up on the right. The Lionesses’ star tried to curl a shot into the far corner from an outrageously acute angle and didn’t miss by much.

Bayern responded on 15 minutes when a ball was cut back to Lineth Beerenstein, who was a recent tormentor of the Matildas for the Dutch national side. She got a shot away which Jess Carter got in well to block for a corner.

Back came Chelsea on 19 minutes when the visitors repeatedly failed to clear a free kick which allowed Melanie Leupolz to hit a drive over the bar. Leupolz was involved shortly afterwards when her cross in towards Kerr was hit behind by Marina Hegering for a Chelsea corner.

Despite Chelsea having so much more of the game, just before the half hour mark a moment of individual brilliance from Sarah Zadrazil put Bayern back ahead on aggregate and wiped out any away goal advantage that the hosts could have after a sensational strike. Carolin Simon’s corner was cleared straight to the Austrian who was around 25 yards from goal. She took one touch to control the ball before firing an unstoppable shot which flew into the net.

With ten minutes of the half to go, Chelsea had a half-hearted penalty claim waved away by referee Esther Staubli when Ji tumbled in the area under pressure by Ilestedt.

The visitors narrowly missed taking the lead on 38 minutes when Beerensteyn picked Leupolz’s pocket and found Lea Schuller who unleashed a vicious strike which flew just wide of the left hand post.

Chelsea recovered from the initial flurry after the Bayern goal and were given a free-kick with two minutes of the half left. Lina Magull fouled Kirby to the right of centre just outside the box and received a yellow card. Ji’s free kick hit the wall and rebounded straight back to the South Korean star who then guided a shot into the far left corner which trundled into the net.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Bayern came out firing at the start of the second half. Klara Buhl’s tempting cross had to be headed behind by Carter who had Schuller waiting behind her to score.

Chelsea weathered the storm despite the pressure continuing to ratchet up on them. On the whole, it was a second half where clear cut chances were few and far between as the game entered its final stages.

There was a self-inflicted heart in the mouth moment for the home side with twelve minutes to go when Leupolz’s long back pass only just went the right side of the post from their perspective.

Chelsea created a rare chance afterwards when Sophie Ingle’s long ball to Kerr was beautifully controlled by the Australian before she combined with Harder to find Kirby. Her cross from the right was towards the Matildas star but Bayern sub Carina Wenninger got in first. The resulting corner saw Kerr’s header comfortably saved by Laura Benkarth.

The home side pressed again and Beerensteyn conceded a free-kick just outside the box on the right with seven minutes left. Carter curled a glorious ball in and Harder was completely unmarked to head home to put Chelsea in front on aggregate for the first time.

With two minutes to go Kerr had the chance to settle matters once and for all when she used her searing pace to break through and tried to curl a shot into the far right corner, but it was wide.

Bayern immediately hit back to force a corner which resulted in a shot by Buhl which Eriksson had to clear off the line. It rebounded straight to Simone Laudehr whose effort was blocked by Kerr. Ann-Katrin Berger also made an outstanding save with her foot during this period.

The closing stages saw the Germans lay siege to the Chelsea goal. In doing so, Bayern threw goalkeeper Benkarth up front. This desperate gamble had catastrophic consequences for them when Erin Cuthbert won possession just outside her own box and found Kirby. With no-one in goal the England star could not miss and Chelsea were home and hosed.

The Blues will now go on to face FC Barcelona in the Champions League Final in Gothenburg on 16th May.

Speaking after the game, an emotional Chelsea boss Emma Hayes said: “I’ve worked my whole life for today and I’m so proud of my players. In these situations it is so tense. This is the consequence of thousands of hours of travelling and set-backs for me. I’ve done it through hard work and determination. I work with a set of players who were always in control. They did everything possible today.

“We were terrible defending set pieces today, but the team put bodies on the line. I played them a video from a UFC star before the game with the girl saying ‘I’m the best’. We’re in this position because we deserve to be.

“I’ve been here for nine years. It’s been a long time coming. I’m going to have a lovely sing song and cry on the way home!”

The only previous time that England has had a representative in a European club final was Arsenal in 2007. The Gunners lifted the trophy that with a 1-0 aggregate win over Swedish side Umea. Their assistant coach for that game was none other than the present Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes.

CHELSEA: Berger, Charles, Eriksson, Bright, Carter, Ingle, Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Harder, Kerr. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Blundell, England, Reiten, Fleming, Cuthbert (for Leupolz 88), Spence (for Harder 90+2), Telford (GK), J. Andersson, Fox.

Scorers: Kirby 11, 90+4. Ji 44. Harder 84.

BAYERN MUNICH: Benkarth, Simon, Hegering, Ilestedt, Glas, Zadrazil, Magull, Lohmann, Buhl, Schuller, Beerensteyn. Substitutes: Grohs (GK), Boye Sorensen, Corley, Dallmann (for Schuller 61), Asseyi (for Lohmann 76), Wenninger (for Simon 76), Lehmann (GK), Laudehr (for Ilestedt 88), Vilhjalmsdottir.

Scorers: Zadrazil 29.

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI).

Wroxham Women: Moving Forward Together

Darrell Allen, media officer at one of our partner clubs, Wroxham Women, updates us on their progress since the return to football (29/4/21).

Above: Wroxham’s sense of togetherness has been clear from the restart. Photo: Edward Payne.

We are a month on from the re-start of Norfolk Football and it was like the girls had never been away.

After so long away it was hard to know what to expect on our return, the league has been curtailed, the Eastern Region Women’s Football League created a new Challenge Cup format for us to take part in and we also have the prestigious Norfolk County FA, Harrod Sport sponsored Women’s Cup to look forward to.

We had no game over the Easter weekend then our focus and determination really stepped up a level the following week with the boss Rebecca Burton re-introducing the double training sessions, the first on a Wednesday and the other on a Friday to ensure we would be best prepared for the weekend games ahead. 

Our first fixture back saw us welcome Cambridge City Development to Trafford Park, a game we lost 3-1 but after 119 days without a game it was just so nice to experience that matchday feeling again. Before this game we were also delighted to announce the signing of Amber Long and also give a debut in the game to Impetus sponsored Harriet Meers who signed just before Christmas. Harriet has been one of the shining lights at the club since we returned to football, playing every minute so far and is someone who really resembles what Wroxham Women and the values of our club are all about. 

Above: Wroxham have prepared well for their forthcoming Norfolk County Cup campaign. Photo: Edward Payne.

It was disappointing to return to action with a defeat but the week that followed was hugely positive as the team put in over three hours hard work across two sessions to be ready for our trip to AFC Dunstable on 18th April. We were thrilled to come away with a 4-1 victory, Pip Pleavin opening the scoring with a delightful free kick before Grace Birchall and brace for Lauren Bullard made it a comfortable afternoon on the road for the Yachtswomen, a brilliant way to respond after a tough opening game.

What was so pleasing about the AFC Dunstable game was it was showed our great team spirit, not one player was left to fight their own battles, we gelled together, played together and delivered a win to be proud of, a win that was so important for lots of reasons and installed a fresh injection of confidence and belief across the board at the club.

Our focus for the rest of the season now switches to the Norfolk Women’s Cup as we are all set to host Mulbarton at Trafford Park on Sunday in the Quarter Finals. It has been so great to be back with Football and despite only being back a month it is a season that could end with a trophy in less than three weeks time. We have only just begun our journey, and whether or not captain Jess Horn lifts a trophy in May, what is possible in the seasons to come is a delightful prospect as we continue to grow our club. 

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Tier Three’s Top Two Tie!

AFC Fylde 1-1 Huddersfield Town (26/4/21)

by Jack Walker

Above: Huddersfield Town going for goal. Photo: Jess Hornby.

Huddersfield Town Women played out an entertaining 1-1 draw with AFC Fylde Women at Kellamergh Park, stretching their unbeaten run to thirteen matches.

Heading into the game on the back of a 12-match winning streak, the Terriers made a positive start against their FA Women’s National League Northern Premier 2020/21 title rivals, but couldn’t find the breakthrough until the second half.

It was clear to see why both teams were fighting it out at the top of the league before the campaign was curtailed as neither side gave the other any time or space on the ball, but a piece of brilliance from Beth Ibbotson opened Town’s opponents up.

The defender came out from the back, pushed forward and delivered a wonderful cross which picked out Brittany Sanderson inside the area and Town’s no.11 dispatched a clinical finish to give her side the lead.

Just like their previous game against Derby, however, Huddersfield conceded almost immediately after scoring when Fylde attacked from the restart and turned the ball passed Bethan Davies and into the back of the net for an instant equaliser.

And the home side almost took the lead just before the hour mark, but Davies leapt brilliantly to turn the ball away from the top corner to keep the scores level.

This spurred Town on and the women in blue and white continued to dominate large parts of the second half, with Lucy Sowerby and Sarah Danby causing Fylde’s backline numerous problems in the second forty-five.

Having scored from two corners in last weekend’s Women’s FA Cup win, the Terriers threatened from set pieces throughout against Fylde, too, but couldn’t take advantage of superior opportunities.

That being said, their hosts didn’t pose as much of an attacking threat as in the 3-3 curtain-raiser at the start of the season, showing just how much Town have improved defensively in Jordan Wimpenny’s first season in charge.

That bodes well for next month’s long journey to face Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup on the south coast and Wimpenny was pleased to see his side defend well for almost the entire game against Fylde.

“I’m really pleased with the performance from the group. Today’s game was an opportunity for us to get ready for the FC Cup and thank you to Fylde for giving us that opportunity.

“I asked the team to set up a certain way at the set piece [Fylde’s equaliser] and the set piece happened differently to what we expected, so I take responsibility for that.

“We’ve got a lot of training sessions and a few matches before Brighton and we’ll do our very best to prepare as well as possible to give a good account of ourselves.

Zoe Laughton made her first team debut in the 1-1 draw and did “very well an influenced the game when she came on”, said Wimpenny. Laughton was thrilled to get the nod.

“I was buzzing to get on and really enjoyed it. I was told to go on and make a difference and that’s what I tried to do. Hopefully I can learn more from the group going forward!”

Three Points But Two More Injuries For Park

Wirksworth Colts 0-3 Pride Park (26/4/21)

by ‘Boot Room’

Above: Pride Park celebrate a goal in their 3-0 win at Wirksworth Colts yesterday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Pride Park travelled to Wirksworth the second placed side in the Derbyshire Ladies League Division One on Sunday. With the number of players unavailable through injury and changes in circumstances mounting to an alarming extent it was something of a relief to welcome three debutants to the line-up (one familiar and two new faces) providing much needed reinforcements and, as it turned out, just in the nick of time.

It was a sunny afternoon, but there was a deceptive chill to the breeze which Park were playing into in the first half. The opening exchanges, indeed most of the first half was quite patchy as both teams tried to get a grip of the game without really doing so. Although Wirksworth were a player short, there wasn’t really much to choose between the sides; although the breeze didn’t seem particularly strong it was acting as something of a leveller for Wirksworth.

That said, the visitors were tending to rush which combined with a dry, hard and bobbly surface and the hard work and pressing of Wirksworth, made for a lack of quality. There were momentary outbursts of good combination and individual play, however, and there were a few chances created, but we were unconvincing with our early shots on goal.

With only a quarter of an hour played, Izzy Wilsoncroft pulled up with a quad injury and had to be helped off and was unable play any further part in the game; we’re keeping everything crossed it’s not as bad as it looked. Fortunately, we were able to turn to the bench and resumed after a quick re-shuffle.

The best move, and scoring opportunity, of the first half came just as it was drawing to a close. After some good build up play down the left, involving Rachel Weaver, Izzy Ely and Jess Page, Maja Znamirowska hit her shot just wide, and a slightly disappointing first half ended goalless.

Pride Park started the second half much better; within a minute of the restart Znamirowska was clear beyond the last defender and cutting in from the left. She could possibly have taken a couple more steps before shooting, but she took her shot early and didn’t really get the connection she wanted, hitting her shot straight at the ‚keeper who was able to gather the shot in.

Above: Pride Park pushing forward yesterday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

As it turned out, that was a just a rehearsal, as a couple of minutes later Znamirowska again found herself clear on the left after being played in by Rachel and this time made no mistake with a crisp left foot shot that gave the keeper no chance.

As the second half progressed we were creating more and better openings than in the first half, but Wirksworth’s defensive line was working really hard to deny us time and space. When we did get sights of goal they were very quick to close us down and several chances for Tash Allderidge, Annie Laight, Izzy Ely and Znamirowska were denied through shots being blocked or charged down.

Whereas the first half had been fairly even, the visitors were having the better of play in the second half but while it remained a single goal margin there was always an element of risk that Park could be caught out on the break. Wirksworth got forward a few times and started to look threatening, but we generally recovered our ground well and either snuffed the attack out, or limited any opportunities to half chances or shots from distance.

We did, however, need the insurance of a second goal and it came from the most unexpected of quarters. Sophie Ayton had been struggling for a while with a back injury, and came off just after the hour, Amy Snape coming back on at right back with Beth Thompson moving to centre back.

Nearly ten minutes later, and coming up to a quarter of an hour left to play, one of the visitors’ attacks was half cleared by a Wirksworth defender towards Snape, who ran on to the ball and hit a sweet first time shot from fully thirty metres out (if not more) which rose up and then dipped beyond the ‘keeper and under the crossbar. It was by any measure a superb strike, and a memorable way to mark a debut. Perhaps even more memorable was the look of surprise on the goalscorers’ face and her reaction when she realised she had scored!

Three minutes later and Beth Jones added a third: another eye catching strike, receiving the ball side on to goal, and hitting a fierce shot over the keeper from just outside the area, that went in off the underside of the crossbar – definitely one for the cameras!

Above: The Derbyshire landscape forms a dramatic background to the game played at Anthony Gell School yesterday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

Today’s game posed a very different challenge to that which we had faced last week, and after a slightly frustrating first half, we rose to the challenge in the second half and three memorable strikes – and a welcome clean sheet – secured the points.

With three debutants providing much needed reinforcements it was a pleasant change to have substitutes to call upon, and it was just as well, with the injuries suffered by Wilsoncroft and Ayton. Pride Park don’t play again until a week on Wednesday, so they will be hopeful this provides sufficient recovery time. It is beginning to look very much like the remainder of the season is going to be increasingly attritional.

If that proves to be the case, the versatility of the Park squad will be tested. Beth Thompson once again proving her versatility by covering four very different positions in this game, starting at left back, moving to right midfield, before dropping back to right back and finally moving into central defence, after playing a good proportion of the season in centre midfield.

Two of Pride Park’s three debutants were at different stages of returning to football, whilst the third is at a different stage of the football journey altogether. It was good to see Jess Page playing again after a break of around four years prompted by injury, and she was involved in some of our best moves. It is early days in Jess’ return to playing, but she showed she can still play, and there is more to come as her match fitness and confidence grows. Amy has had a shorter break from playing but had a debut to remember. She insists she rarely scores – and she will probably have to play for a very long time to score a better goal! Gosia is at an entirely different stage, and for her the objective was to get some playing time to try to gain some experience of match play.

Pride Park now have ten days until their next game, the return fixture against leaders Draycott Victoria at Moorways on Wednesday 5th May (kick off 7.15pm), during which time they will hope some of their walking wounded are able to recover.

Terriers Travel To Fylde For Mouth Watering Friendly

by Jack Walker (24/4/21)

Above: Action from Huddersfield Town’s last encounter with AFC Fylde on the opening day of the 2020/21 campaign. Photo: Jess Hornby

Huddersfield Town travel to AFC Fylde in a highly-anticipated friendly as they build up to the mouthwatering FA Cup fifth round tie against FA Women’s Super League side Brighton & Hove Albion on May 16th.

The 2pm kick off will take place at Kellamergh Park Stadium behind closed doors and sees the top two sides in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier meet for the first time since the opening day of the season.

Last time the Terriers met Fylde, the two sides played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in the 2020/21 campaign’s curtain-raiser, during which Town struck the woodwork three times.

After fans were robbed of the opportunity of seeing the clubs lock horns in what was already a fierce title race when the league was curtailed, manager Jordan Wimpenny expects another tough test in the North West.

“It’s going to be another tough game. The 3-3 draw (on the opening day of the season) came at a tough time when we were still adapting to new approaches, but look how far we’ve come.

“They’re a good side who were fighting with us at the top of the league so we know what they’re about and know that they will be up for it. They’re very good defensively so we’ll have to try and break them down.

“We’re all in this together and if you look at what the players have gone through these last two years, it’s not surprising to see their determination and togetherness on the pitch. We never give up.”

In Hudderfield Town’s most recent game, played last Sunday, the Terriers made it to the fifth round of the Women’s FA Cup by beating Derby County 3-2 at the Stafflex Arena last weekend.

Town took the lead in the 15th minute before Derby County equalising a minute later, but star striker Laura Elford scored twice more to register her hat-trick and put the game out of sight. A late consolation by Derby County was the only scare before the full time whistle was blown.

Jordan Wimpenny was pleased with the way his team handled Derby County’s challenges.

“I feel that the team deserved that after that performance. I feel that it was a tough game against Derby and they threw all sorts at us. The team had to weather a lot and you know fight together and for each other.”

Having drawn an FAWSL team in the fifth round, Wimpenny knows the team can’t get complacent and must go out with a winning mentality, but also knows the challenges Brighton will pose will be a completely different experience.

“I’ll always try and prepare for games to try and win and we know what oppositions coming next and it will be an unbelievable challenge and occasion for the players to go and experience and one that I think they deserve after this season.

“To keep progressing and go and experience that and have something as a reward for all their efforts and their performances, I look forward to accepting that challenge and see what lies ahead in the next round.”

Marine Women: New Kids On The Block at the Heart of their Community

Ben Gilby spoke to Marine Women’s manager Iain Scott and assistant manager Declan Henry about the relatively new tier seven club who play in the Liverpool County FA Girls and Women’s Open League (22/4/21).

Above: Marine Women gather after a recent game away to Southport. Photo: @MarineWFC

Declan began our conversation by outlining how the club were formed less than a year ago.

“Marine knew for a while that they would like to establish a women’s team but there were questions around the who, when and how. Last summer after the lockdown the decision was made that the club should take the leap and form the team and Iain Scott was appointed as the Manager.”

“The team had six weeks to prepare for the season which was an incredibly tight turnaround, fortunately we were able to make use of the club’s relationship with Frankie Meadows from Crosby Stuart. Frankie is a grassroots legend and a pioneer of girls’ football on Merseyside, he was able to assist in building a competitive squad ready for the season.”

“Since the start of the season we’ve continued to grow, recruiting additional players so we’re in a position to establish a second team and making preparations for next season.”

This season Marine gained worldwide headlines when the men’s club were handed a fairy tale home FA Cup tie against the mighty Tottenham Hotspur. Ahead of the game, a post appeared on Marine Women’s social media challenging Spurs’ FA Women’s Super League side to a pre-season friendly. I wondered if they had heard anything back yet.

“The community were bursting with pride and a great relationship was built between Tottenham and Marine. The tweet was sent by Iain, the manager, in light of the news that the FA Cup fixture was to be played behind closed doors, and we are hoping that if the women’s fixture goes ahead it will give fans the opportunity they so richly deserve to be in the stands and to see the two great clubs go head to head. The clubs are in contact but there’s nothing to report just yet.”

Iain Scott, the club manager explained further: “I believe in my players, each and every one of them is an incredible athlete, I wouldn’t have sent the tweet if I did not genuinely believe that it would be a competitive fixture.”

“I was gutted when I learned all the fans were going to be missing out on going to the men’s game against Spurs, it’s possibly the biggest game in the club’s history and to play it without fans was devastating. Hopefully if this game can go ahead between the women’s sides it will give the fans the chance to re-live that excitement.”  

Above: Marine pre-game against Southport. Photo: @MarineWFC

Marine’s first season has coincided with coronavirus lockdowns and the huge restrictions connected with that. I asked Declan just how hard it has been.

“It’s been really challenging, not just in terms of footballing, but also managing player’s health and well-being away from the pitch. Financially it’s been hugely challenging to the club and the lads run in the FA Cup was monumental in helping to offset those financial challenges.”

“The players all have football in their hearts, it’s taken a massive effort to make sure that we can keep them engaged, motivated, happy and healthy without being able to get together for a kick about or training. In terms of footballing, it’s been a small price to pay in order to protect our community and also ourselves and our own families.”

“Outside of the pandemic one of our largest challenges has been the speed at which the team was put together, we started the season with players having to play out of position and provide cover while we worked hard and continued to recruit in players to strengthen across the pitch.” 

We’ve already touched on links with the men’s club in relation to their FA Cup match with Tottenham Hotspur, but I wondered what things were like on a more formal basis.

“We are firmly part of one club,” said Declan, “We’re well supported and we have the board of directors behind us and they’ve given us a budget to establish and build a competitive side. Unfortunately because of the times we’re living in we’ve not been in a position to enjoy that relationship fully but there’s a few ideas we’ve had that will come into fruition as and when we’re able to put them into action.”

Marine’s first league season has been very stop start, Declan explained how things have been going: “The season has been hugely challenging in a number of ways, but everyone at the club is happy with the performance. There is work to be done but to achieve what we have in such a short space of time has been fantastic.” 

“Tactically we need to develop and become more confident in how we play, sometimes we’ve allowed our opposition to dictate the game to us on the pitch but that confidence will build with experience and spending time at the training ground and on the field together. With such a short period of time with the players before the season began it was always a tall order to expect them to take all the direction on board but the girls have been nothing short of incredible in that sense.”

“We’ve been able to learn more about the players, and they’ve had the chance to get used to playing alongside each other and we’ve been introducing changes in our play building it up over the season. In our last few games we’ve really seen the squad come together despite the results and now it’s about fine tuning that and being ready when football returns.”

“The gaffer has been able to make some exciting signings over the past few weeks, and with the players we already have in the squad we’re now in prime position to progress.”

Despite the club still being in its infancy, there is already a pathway from girls to women’s football at Marine as Declan explained.

“We’re in partnership with Crosby Stuart through our relationship with Frankie Meadows and as girls age out at Crosby Stuart they will come to Marine for a trial. This season we have brought in 5 U-18s players through the Crosby Stuart pipeline and they’ve already had a great impact on the squad.” 

The club, like everyone, rely on a small band of volunteers. Manager Iain Scott outlined some of Marine’s.

“We do our best to sing about all of our heroes, but we’ll take this chance to praise them as well!”

“Firstly, Rachel Lamb and Nicola Taylor. Both work for the NHS, and both have been on the frontline in combating the pandemic as a Trauma Nurse and Paramedic respectively. They’ve both remained committed to the team and have given up their time off-shift to train hard with the squad.” 

Above: Marine’s home stadium, The Marine Travel Arena in Crosby. Photo: @MarineWFC

“Nor Daley is also an incredibly talented artist and has balanced her roles as defensive midfielder, clinical support worker and mum, to make time to carry out photoshoots for our players.”

“I want to thank all of our players, this season has thrown challenge after challenge in their faces. They’ve pulled together and pulled each other through it all and are a fantastic squad to work with.”

“Also the families and friends of the players and our fans for standing in the wind, rain and even hail to cheer us on, they’re part of the team too and I’d like them all to feel that way.” 

Liam (Dempsey – goalkeeping coach)has also been great, not only working our keepers, but spending time with all of our players to help them work on technique, finishing and playing out from the back.”

To close, Iain outlined his goals for the club and team over the next few seasons. “As a club we’re looking to have progressed up a few tiers on our journey to the Super League. We’re hugely ambitious and that vision is shared by our players, coaching team and the club staff.”

“Watch this space! This team is going places, our vision and goals are set, and we have the ability, drive and determination to achieve them.”

Chelsea One Step From The Title

Manchester City 2-2 Chelsea (21/4/21)

By Ben Gilby

Above: Sam Kerr, in dominant first half form, gets away from Alex Greenwood at the Academy Stadium tonight. Photo: @ChelseaFCW

Chelsea moved within three points of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League title after earning a draw at closest challengers Manchester City.

In a high tempo, all action encounter of the highest quality, it was a dominant first half performance from Matildas star Sam Kerr which ultimately proved to be the difference. The Fremantle born striker scored her side’s opening goal before winning the penalty that delivered their second.

Both teams were missing their captains, Manchester City’s Steph Houghton has been out for almost a month now with an Achilles injury. Chelsea’s Magda Eriksson had to come off last Friday night in her side’s FA Cup 4th Round tie against Championship side London City Lionesses.

The stats pre-game emphasised just dominant these two sides are. Manchester City had only conceded three times at home all season, hadn’t conceded at all for over 600 minutes and had never lost to the reigning champions at the Academy Stadium. As for Chelsea, they went into the match unbeaten in their last 37 away games (since a loss at City) and were 21 matches unbeaten against City and the other FAWSL big gun, Arsenal.

The early exchanges saw the two sides probing down the same flan of the pitch with Chloe Kelly and Erin Cuthbert pushing on. From a City perspective, Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood were trying to stick as tight as possible to Sam Kerr from the get go.

The hosts built a succession of half chances. With ten minutes gone, Sam Mewis cut in from the right and played in a dangerous ball which Millie Bright had to clear for a corner. The pressure that this built ended with Mewis heading over the bar.

Chelsea received their first opportunity just afterwards when Kerr was shoved in the back by Greenwood. The resulting free-kick out on the right saw Pernille Harder head wide under pressure in the air from Bronze.

The South Londoners came closer still two minutes later when a viciously in swinging corner from Erin Cuthbert on the right saw City keeper Ellie Roebuck come, miss the ball completely and Melanie Leupolz’s looping header had to be cleared off of the line by Greenwood.

Chelsea looked to profit from another City error when Keira Walsh’s attempted pass was intercepted by Ji who immediately found Kerr. The Western Australian put her foot down on the gas and raced towards the box, but was denied just inside by a perfectly timed tackle from Greenwood which resulted in the concession of a throw in.

It was from another corner that Chelsea finally profited. This time, Cuthbert played in an out swinger towards the centre of the box. Kerr lost her marker Greenwood and got between Caroline Weir and Lauren Hemp to power a trademark bullet header into the right hand side of the net.

Yet, just two minutes later, City were level. Weir fed Hemp on the left. Her ball in wasn’t dealt with by Bright which allowed Chloe Kelly the easiest of opportunities to turn the ball home and she didn’t look the gift horse in the mouth.

It took only a further five minutes for the next goal arrive. City coughed up possession in midfield with Kerr profiting. With no support in sight, the striker ran though and went to round Roebuck who caught her on the ankle with a palm of the hand. The Australian went down and referee Rebecca Welch had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Harder and drilled the ball into the net to the right of centre to re-establish Chelsea’s lead.

Above: Pernille Harder, scorer of Chelsea’s second goal from the penalty spot, gets away from Sam Mewis. Photo: @ChelseaFCW

City responded well once more with Bronze’s effort having to be pushed over by Ann-Katrin Berger for a corner which the German then claimed comfortably ahead of the interval.

It was a harum-scarum start to the second period with City looking to push for the equaliser and the visitor’s content to hit on the counter.

With fifty minutes played, Kerr went down grimacing and required attention from the Chelsea physio before returning to the action.

City continued to build the pressure with Hemp at the centre of much of what was good about their play, but Chelsea were successfully playing the high press which was making life hard for the home side to get in behind.

It was from another counter attack that saw Chelsea away down the left with 25 minutes left. Fran Kirby got free and drove into the box before laying it back to Kerr whose side footed effort was wide.

A carefully controlled flurry of possession saw the visitors slowly build towards goal on seventy minutes which earned a corner. Another dangerous flag kick from Cuthbert resulted in substitute Niamh Charles’ effort going wide of the right hand post.

An uncharacteristic error from Fran Kirby gifted City a lifeline with just over fifteen minutes left. Her loose attempt at a back pass allowed Kelly to play a ball across the box. Bright swung and missed her clearance which allowed Hemp was able to smash home the equaliser.

Buoyed by the goal, City so nearly took the lead with just over ten minutes to go. Bronze won a corner off of Jonna Andersson. Kelly’s ball in was met with a back header from Hemp which was denied by an outstanding save by Berger who back palmed it onto the top of the bar and over. An incredible moment – the like of which ultimately decide matches.

Chelsea responded with Cuthbert sliding a pass across the outside of the box towards sub Guro Reiten. The Norwegian star drove an effort agonisingly wide of the right hand post.

There was one final chance when Kerr broke clean through but Roebuck saved just seconds ahead of the final whistle.

Despite City’s best efforts to find a winner, they never quite conjured up the ingenuity to break through for a third time. It will now take a slip up of unimaginable proportions for Chelsea not to retain their FAWSL title.

MANCHESTER CITY: Roebuck, Bronze, Dahlkemper, Greenwood, Stokes, Mewis, Walsh, Weir, Kelly, White, Hemp. Substitutes: Mannion, Coombs, Stanway, Beckie, Morgan, Park, Lavelle, Benameur (GK), Davies.

Scorers: Kelly 29, Hemp 74.

CHELSEA: Berger, Carter, Bright, Ingle, Andersson, Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Harder, Cuthbert, Kerr. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Blundell, England, Reiten, Fleming, Charles, Spence, Telford (GK), Fox.

Scorers: Kerr 25, Harder pen 34.

Referee: Rebecca Welch.

Pride Park Suffer Misfortune and Defeat


Draycott Victoria 4-0 Pride Park (19/4/21).

from ‘Boot Room’

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Above: Pride Park (in red change kit) take on Draycott Victoria. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

An unfortunate combination of mishaps, injuries, ailments and events came together at the weekend to rule several of our players out of our trip to Draycott in the Derbyshire Ladies League, leaving us with just ten fit players available to start the game. With regular goalkeeper Jade Howell one of those missing, Vicky Wilsoncroft took the gloves as a very capable stand-in.

Particularly after last week’s false start to the resumption of our league season after the horrendous injury to Janine Wardman, we were hoping for a trouble – and injury free – game of football, and as if to give us a sign, the sun was out and it was a pleasantly warm afternoon.

The girls started in a determined mood and stayed compact and organised, denied space to Draycott, and mounted a stout defence. Although Draycott, inevitably, had the most of the possession, it was Pride Park with the early chances, all coming on the counter-attack, with Maja Znamirowska – playing only her second game in a year due to the Covid-related restrictions – a constant threat.

It was Maja who broke down the right flank after 27 minutes, and was getting beyond the Draycott defender, only to be taken down just inside the penalty area with a barge from behind. Tash Allderidge took responsibility for the spot kick, and hit it firmly but the ‘keeper managed to get across and get a hand to it – a rare blemish on Tash’s very good penalty record – and the ball was cleared from the rebound.

A minute later and Maja was in behind the Draycott defence again, going very close. Inevitably, despite our best efforts, Draycott were going to get chances and their first opportunity of any note came just around the half-hour, a dipping shot that Vicky did well to tip over at full stretch.

There was nothing Vicky could do about the next shot, after 33 minutes, which flew into the top corner from outside the area. It was a setback, but one that was brushed off quickly as Pride Park continued to defend doggedly and hit Draycott on the break.

There were a couple of minutes left to half-time when Maja latched on to a pass from Tash, and hit her shot for the left corner – only to see it ricochet off a recovering defender’s head and fly only just inches wide of the other post, leaving the goalkeeper completely wrong-footed and stranded. The resultant corner lead to a scramble in the goalmouth, but we just couldn’t find the decisive touch before a defender lifted the ball over the crossbar from the edge of the six yard box for another corner. It was a breathless end to the first half in which Pride Park could feel very unfortunate to not be at least on level terms.

Draycott had been frustrated by a really dogged, well organised and committed first half by Pride Park and, although the goal that divided the teams was very well taken, they could consider themselves a little fortunate to be ahead at the interval.

On a warm afternoon Pride Park were looking for more of the same in the second half – the only question was how long it would take before the prodigious effort they were putting in on a warm afternoon would take its toll. Eight minutes after the restart Draycott won a corner on our left which was initially cleared, but the ball fell to a Draycott player, was played wide and then put back into the box for a header from five few metres to double Draycott’s lead.

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Above: Pride Park advance against Draycott Victoria yesterday. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

With a two goal lead, and a numerical advantage on the pitch – and on the bench – Draycott had a degree of comfort, but Pride Park weren’t giving up, as Maja again went close after some really good combination play down the right between her and Annie Laight. Draycott extended their lead further with an excellent curling shot from wide that was placed in the far corner of the goal, giving Vicky no chance.

Draycott had by now recognised the threat posed by Maja and she was being shadowed by two or three defenders. Despite their close attention, Maja was still proving to be a handful and with fifteen minutes to play she threatened to break clear again, only to be body checked by a defender. The free kick was in range, but although Beth Jones was able to clear the wall, she wasn’t able to get the ball down again enough to trouble the ‘keeper.

The pitch had caused both teams problems with first touch and control, and the ball had a tendency to bobble unexpectedly on the hard, dry, surface. After seeing the players trying to control the ball and play “classic” football, it was entirely appropriate that when Draycott scored their fourth goal, with about five minutes left, it was from a toe poke from about ten metres, which in the circumstances was being smart to do what was effective.

As the game drew to a close Pride Park had one last opportunity for a consolation, as Tash Allderidge hit a close range effort wide of the ‘keeper only to see her instinctively stick out a foot to deflect the shot. It summed up pretty well how the ball just didn’t run kindly for Pride Park on a day when they were always going to be up against it and needed just a little helping hand from Lady Luck.

Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable game and a very encouraging performance from which the players can take a lot of pride. The odds were heavily weighted in Draycott’s favour, but they were made to work very hard for their win and the scoreline doesn’t really do Pride Park any justice. At least it was an injury-free afternoon, which is something we are grateful for.

We were pleased to see some old friends – a couple of former players – take advantage of the weather to come down and support us, and really appreciated Simon coming along in the absence of the injured Janine – at times providing her with a commentary of the game in her hospital bed via the phone!

Next week’s opponents are second placed Wirksworth Colts. Kick off at Anthony Gell School in Wirksworth is 1.30pm.

Burnley’s Big Day

Burnley 0-6 Manchester United (19/4/21).

With thanks to Burnley Women for sharing with us some photos of their big Cup tie against FA Women’s Super League side Manchester United yesterday.

Town Win Sets Up Brighton Tie

Huddersfield Town 3-2 Derby County (19/4/21).

By Jack Walker

Above: Huddersfield Town celebrate a goal against Derby County that sets them up with a tie against FA Women’s Super League side Brighton & Hove Albion. Photo: Jess Hornby.

Huddersfield Town Women emerged victorious from a five-goal thriller with Derby County to book their place in the fifth round of the Women’s FA Cup after a fierce and competitive game.

The Terriers held on for a dramatic 3-2 win at the Stafflex Arena, coming out the other side after positively weathering the storm in the first half against Derby County at the Stafflex Arena on Sunday afternoon.

The hosts started brightly with Lucy Sowerby linking up well with Laura Elford on the right hand side, whilst Derby created chances of their own in the early stages as the contest turned into a midfield battle with both teams searching for the opener.

Laura Elford gave Town the lead in the 15th minute as she was played in down the near side, took the ball down, and finished at the second time of asking. Although the hosts went in front, Derby equalised just one minute later and the Rams continued to threaten, smashing the right hand post eight minutes later.

With the two teams level at the break, it all came down to the second forty-five minutes and, just like in the previous round, Town’s substitutions worked a treat as Kate Mallin emerged from the substitutes’ bench to claim two assists.

In the 72nd minute, the winger whipped in a corner which was bundled over the line by Elford before the same combination saw the prolific striker completed her hattrick just four minutes later – rising high to once again head the ball in.

Above: Going for goal – Huddersfield Town against Derby County yesterday. Photo: Jess Hornby,

The two goals in quick succession secured victory and, although there was a late scare as Derby pulled a goal back seven minutes before full time. Town now travel to Brighton away in the fifth round of the Women’s FA Cup on May 16th.

Manager Jordan Wimpenny admitted it was a nice feeling to win the contest in the way the team did.

“It’s always a nice feeling to win a game and to progress to the next round is great. I feel the team deserve that after this performance.”

Debutant Paige Crossman was also very satisfied with her afternoon’s work. “We had to be quite tight in areas. I had to stay back and sit a lot more than I normally would. You’ve got to do what is right for the team. I think in my legs I knew I had it in my head that I will be fine physically. Just getting 90 minutes out the way, psychologically it’s a big thing. I feel we had quite a lot of space outside wide.”

Chichester & Selsey Go Down Battling

West Ham United 11 – 0 Chichester and Selsey (19/4/21).

From Caz Evans

The scoreline will suggest that West Ham gave Chichester and Selsey a ‘hammering’ but that wasn’t officially the case.

The West Ham team featured many international players and a strong starting 11. West Ham got off to a quick start when the referee adjudged Amber Howden of a handball in the area, something that she seemed to be the only one to see, and although Issy Foster in the Chichester goal went the right way and was close to it they were 1-0 up after 2 minutes. This of course massively affected the team and their game plan. Emily Van Egmond was a constant threat and her height and stature proved too strong for the Chichester defence as she scored four first half goals, some great headers along the way to give West Ham a substantial lead.

Chichester were working hard and closing down the ball, but West Ham were in confident mood after a few quick goals and the difference in fitness levels showed. Sarah Saunders up front for Chichester held the ball up well and Chichester had a threat from set pieces but unable to test the keeper. 7-0 at the break.

Manager Sadie Blakely asked her team at half time to continue to compete and enjoy the game and improve on their first half performance. 15 minutes had gone in the second half before Chichester were unlucky to concede again when a shot cannoned off the post and off a Chichester player into the goal. Another strange decision on a penalty was awarded and although again Foster got her hands too it, the strike was too strong to keep out. Foster was having an incredible game and pulled off a fantastic save to deny West Ham a tenth and out for a corner.

Above: Emily van Egmond – scorer of four for West Ham United. Photo: @WestHamWomen

It was though ten soon after however. Suddenly, Chichester found themselves on a break down the West Ham right hand side, with great link up play between the three centre midfielders, Ariana Fleischman, Megan Fox and Gemma Simmonds, the ball into the box met by Tash Wild and found the bottom corner…only for the linesman to raise his flag and Simmonds was offside in the build-up…gutted! West Ham finished the game off with an eleventh The score line maybe a bit harsh in terms of the commitment and work ethic of Chichester and Selsey on the day but everyone at the club and their supporters are proud of the achievement this season. For a bunch of players who get to train twice a week, have had four months off due to Covid-19 and have to pay to play the game they love, we are extremely proud.

The fact the players have had two games recently after so long out and played against a professional side also showed the difference in women’s football. A club getting their day against a Super League side is what the FA Cup is about, but it also highlighted the difference in the Women’s football pyramid and maybe something the FA should look into. This game wasn’t the only one to be high scoring.

The only controversial actions of the day was when the West Ham manager decided to bring on his goal keeper Mackenzie Arnold, who played in goal for Australia against the Netherlands in week, and played her in centre midfield. Secretary Caz Evans commented “It is important for clubs to remember where they came from to get where they are now. Some clubs used to be in our league (tier three) until they were given a huge financial backing from either their men’s club or the FA. If all clubs had the financial backing like this then this huge gap in women’s football wouldn’t be so obvious. It is hard for a club like ours to financially make every season and when the team who have worked so hard see clubs doing things like this to them, it is not helping the situation. I personally would like to see the FA and Women’s Football Board really think about all other teams not just those with ‘big names’ and clubs with lots of money! Myself and the whole club are extremely proud of our manager, coaches, players and volunteers for all their hard work this season, previous seasons and all future seasons ahead. We are looking forward to the new league season and another great FA Cup run.”

Helston Return In Style

Helston 6-1 Mousehole (19/4/21).

From Paul Parfitt

A glorious April Sunday afternoon welcomed the return of league football to Kellaway Park for the first time in 2021.  Unbeaten Helston were playing host to third placed rivals Mousehole as the Blues looked to carry on their fine form from 2020 and push towards securing a first league title and promotion to the South Western Regional Football League.

Helston started brightly with Abi Locke finishing a good move assisted by debutant Eve Moore who has recently signed from Bideford Ladies.  It was role reversal after 26 minutes as Locke set up Moore with a superbly driven cross into the six yard which Moore expertly pivoted on to steer home for her first for the club.   

Helston enjoyed a period of control without ever finding top gear and manager Parfitt rung some changed on the half hour mark making use of the leagues roll on roll off substitution rules.  Five minutes before half time Locke won the ball in midfield and from 20 yards out curled a wonderful shot inside the far post giving the Mousehole keeper no chance. 

After the break Helston showed a little more dynamism with Moxom and Yould controlling midfield with some simple play, this dynamism was spurred on in part by the quick fourth goal scored by captain Sasha Sparkes who finished a cross from Barker-Thomas.    Helston’s control in this period was rewarded with Sparkes turning provider this time for a driven finish from Katy Barker-Thomas.  

Helston had two free kicks in a dangerous area one of which Barker-Thomas appeared to have scored from only for the referee to deem that it had not crossed the line.  The Mousehole keeper pulled off several saves to deny the Helston forwards and when Yould and Moxom combined to send Sparkes through for the home team’s sixth in the 65th minute the result was confirmed.  Helston will feel they could and should have scored more but Mousehole fought back and scored and excellently worked goal from Midfield with Richards driving through to score in the 72nd minute.  

Both teams were obviously pleased to be back on the pitch for the first time in months and there were signs of rustiness from both sides.  Helston will be content in knowing they got the points but the manager will also know there are areas to work on and opportunities to improve in the coming weeks.  Helston host Illogan this coming Sunday in their next league fixture. 

HELSTON:   N Marable, G Sweet, S Sparkes-Bond, E Brewer, C Demouy, D White, K Moxom, A Locke, E Moore, S Sparkes (c), K Barker-Thomas Subs Used:  K Yould, R Hannaford, L Bate, S Clouter, C Sparkes-Bond.

Scorers: Locke 5, 40, Moore 26, Sparkes 48, 65, Barker-Thomas 52.

MOUSEHOLE:  C Britten, I D’escrivian-Nott, F Davies-Kirsop, B Hayward, T lobb, L Mannon, S Richards, R Storey, L Taylor, L Williams, S Wilson Subs Used:  K Mayall, H McEwen, J Spencer-Amos.

Scorer: Richards 72.

Kirsty Evans: In Conversation

Penryn AFC Ladies Kirsty Evans tells us about her footballing journey (16/4/21).

Above: The Penryn Ladies AFC team. Photo via: Yaina Andrew.

“I was born at Blackburn Royal Infirmary in 1990, which is the best year to be born in, and yes, I am a Blackburn Rovers fan.

“I started playing football around the age of six. I always used to be on the back fields playing with the older kids and I then decided during school to join Rhyddings Football Club which then helped me to move across to the academy at Accrington and Rossendale College.”

“The biggest challenge I have faced in football was joining my first adult team. After the Accrington academy I moved down to Cornwall and decided to join a ladies team. At the time I played for Bodmin/Illogan.”

“When I’m not playing football, I work full time at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro as a Helpdesk operative which organises the movement of the hospital, making sure patients get to appointments and staff are safe.”

“This season has been a slow one at Penryn as Covid has effected everyone. The club is trying to rebuild its friendship with the community and with other clubs. Hopefully the club houses will been packed when we have cup games. We have been informed we have a few games left to play, so hopefully we can play them all, have a laugh and enjoy the sport again.” 

Pride Park: Providing Opportunities & Inclusivity in Derbyshire

Ben Gilby speaks to David Kwiatek, the club secretary and first team manager of Pride Park FC who play in the tier seven Derbyshire Ladies League Division One (15/4/21).

Above: Pride Park FC Photo: David Kwiatek

David began our conversation by detailing the journey that women’s football has been on at Pride Park FC. 

“The club was originally formed from a group of boys playing at the Soccerdome on Pride Park, as a single boy’s mini-soccer team in 2002 and has grown from there. We formed our first girl’s team as under 10s in 2005-6 and they eventually progressed through all the age groups and into Open Age, with some of those original players still playing for our Ladies team. At our height we had thirteen boys and girls teams but hit a barrier when it came to forming new teams, and the numbers declined. We decided to concentrate all our attention and resources on establishing new girl’s teams and finally reversed that trend when we established a FA Wildcats Centre for Girls. At the same time, having been a club without a home – playing at various venues scattered across the city of Derby, we located all our teams’ training and our Ladies home matches at Moorways Stadium.

David then outlined the specific difficulties that Pride Park have faced over the past twelve months or so since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s been a challenge to maintain enthusiasm and motivation, but we’ve tried to stay engaged with our members and it was a relief all round when we were able to resume training at the end of March. It has taken some juggling on the financial side, particularly early on when we didn’t know whether the League would resume and what costs were still to be faced, but our members have been supportive and patient throughout. It also meant that we lost the momentum we were building through our FA Wildcats Football Centre for Girls as we have had to pause the programme during the pandemic (although we were able to place all the girls that were attending with teams) so will be starting afresh when we resume.”

Apart from the pandemic, Pride Park face other challenges. “Like many grassroots clubs, the biggest challenge we face is having sufficient volunteers to run everything,” David said.

Above: Pride Park in action against Mickleover in September. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

“We have a small and dedicated group of volunteers who work wonders, but are constantly stretched and often covering more than one role, so it is far from ideal. As well as they do, we could do so much more if the work could could be spread. It’s something the Committee have been giving a lot of thought to and we have plans to really push for more volunteers in the coming months.”

“All our volunteers and helpers are unsung heroes, whether they are on the Committee, coaching, helping with a team or running the line or all of these! They all make a valuable contribution without which the girls and ladies would not be able to train and play each week, which is, ultimately, the aim.”

“In that context it’s difficult to single out individuals, and I’d like to give them all a shout out – but will mention Andy Hobson, one of our newest volunteers, having started coaching with his daughter’s team only a short time ago. His enthusiasm and willingness to be involved in the club’s activities – playing a big part in getting three teams up and running – reinvigorates the old hands like me! Our Treasurer, Dave Wilsoncroft has been handling our finances for as long as anyone can remember and longer than he’d like! Then there’s our Chairman James Skinner who coached a team for around ten years, helped out with others, managed kit on behalf of the club, and now provides a steady and calming lead in meetings.”

With football now able to resume again, I asked David what the club’s schedule looks like between now and the end of the campaign.

“We’re about to resume our league season, with the first of eleven remaining fixtures. The Derbyshire Ladies and Girls League had the foresight with the support of the Derbyshire FA to make provision for an extended season, into June, which has proved necessary, and have kept the clubs fully informed along the way. As things stand and with a couple of mid-week games, we should finish our fixtures in mid-June.”

Above: Pride Park on the ball against AFC Mercia. Photo: Shaun Hardwick,

David then went on to outline the pathway from girls to women’s football like at Pride Park.

“We currently have four junior teams – under 8, 9, 10 and 12 girls, in addition to our Ladies, so in total there’s around forty girls and sixty players in total. We were also running a FA Wildcats Football for Girls Centre before the pandemic, so the aim is to resume that with a focus on four to seven year old girls.” 

With the club playing in the seventh tier Derbyshire Ladies League Division One, I asked David what the division was like. 

“The League has two divisions and a total of twenty-one teams, so it caters for a range of abilities and ambitions, from those who just want the opportunity to play, to those seeking to progress as players or as teams up the pyramid. There’s a sprinkling of players that have played at a higher standard, including the FA Women’s National League. There are, for example three Development teams of clubs with teams higher up the pyramid; Chesterfield, Ilkeston Town and Woodlands, as well as a couple of clubs with a team in each Division.” 

“We are first and foremost a real grassroots club – in contrast, say, to those associated with elite professional clubs and who clearly have similar aspirations for their women’s team – all our members pay subscriptions and having done so, have a reasonable expectation to play. Our primary focus is on providing footballing opportunities for girls and ladies based around an ethos of respect, enjoyment and inclusivity.” 

Above: Pride Park building pressure against AFC Mercia. Photo: Shaun Hardwick

“Our Ladies team still has a nucleus of players from our original girls’ team of 2005-6, and the value of the sense of community and friendships that creates is important – success can be measured in many ways, not just by the winning of trophies. Having said that, we do aim to be competitive, and have had some successes – we’ve played in Division One of the County League for all but our inaugural season, in four cup finals (winning one), finished as runners-up in the League, and have reached the County Cup semi-final on three occasions.”

“We have considered stepping up to the Regional League in the past, but the travel required for away days has been the biggest stumbling block – particularly for players with family and work commitments on match days – and in line with our ethos we don’t want to be in a position where we have to bring in additional players and turn away existing players in order to make that next step, having seen the impact this has had on other teams. It’s something we keep under review, however, as the make-up of the squad and situations change, so it’s certainly not something we’d rule out.”

As ever with our club features, we ended our conversation by looking ahead to the Pride Park’s goals for the short term future. 

“When I first got involved in the female game some sixteen years ago, the prospects for a professional women’s game in England, with mainstream TV and media coverage, and genuine career opportunities for women in and around the game seemed a long way off,” David said.

“In that time, all those things have become reality – which is astonishing progress. I think, and hope, the women’s game will become more established over the next five years with those trends becoming more embedded. More particularly, that heightened visibility and acceptance will, I hope, encourage even more young girls to play the game and to give them the opportunities to do so. There’s a lot of focus by the FA, understandably, on elite clubs being used to promote the game, but I’d like to see more of a link up with grassroots clubs to provide a genuine playing pathway for girls of all abilities.” 

Above: Pride Park on the ball against Wirksworth Colts. Photo: Shaun Hardwick.

“I also think the increased professionalism at the top level will, inevitably, bring many of the less appealing aspects of the men’s game into the female game – which will, I think, be a pity, as the absence of diving, shirt pulling etc – cheating by any other name – is one of the first things newcomers find so appealing about watching the female game.” 

“Finally, I really hope that within the next five years the tendency to try to compare men’s and women’s football will have passed. It drives me mad – amongst many other reasons the games are at different stage of evolution so it’s meaningless! Why can’t you simply enjoy and appreciate elite athletes – whatever their gender – for what they can do? We don’t compare male sprinters to female sprinters, male tennis players to their female counterparts, so why do it with football?! Rant over!”

“As for Pride Park, I hope we will be buzzing with one, possibly two Ladies teams, a girls team for each age group, and a thriving Wildcats Centre to bring along the next generations of players, all supported by an army of committed, skilled and well supported – and appreciated – volunteers!”

O’s Go Down Fighting

Leyton Orient 1-2 Chichester and Selsey (12/4/21)

By Brendan Pitcher

Above: Midfield tussle for the ball between Leyton Orient (red) and Chichester and Selsey yesterday. Photo: Paul Hynes.

Leyton Orient’s FA Cup run came to an end yesterday after they were narrowly defeated by a Chichester and Selsey side from the division above at the Breyer Group Stadium.

Katherine Long equalised for The O’s after Sophie Phelps had given the visitors an early lead. Chichester then restored their advantage before half time through Tash Wild. Orient gave it everything they had in the second half, and even missed a spot kick, however it wasn’t to be as they bowed out at the Third Round stage.

Chris Brayford made one change from the side that comfortably defeated Hounslow last weekend. Skye McNally picked up an injury in that one and was replaced in the starting lineup by Cheryl Anderson.

Playing at The Breyer Group Stadium for the first time in over a year, Orient adapted to their new surroundings pretty quickly. They had the ball in the net four minutes in, after Long converted Lauren Heria’s through ball, though her celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee’s flag.

Ten minutes later, Chichester took the lead. Naomi Ogunde could only parry Megan Fox’s free kick into the path of Phelps, who turned home to give her side an early advantage.

Not fazed by that early setback, Brayford’s side responded immediately. ‘Keeper Issy Foster flapped at Egle Trezzi’s dinked ball in, which allowed Nyara Denny to steal away with it, the O’s winger then prodded it towards goal where it was met by Long who converted from virtually on the goal line.

Above: Leyton Orient celebrate Katherine Long’s goal. Photo: Paul Hynes.

Long could have had another mid-way through the first period when her deflected strike grazed the woodwork and went behind.

But it was to be Chichester who scored next, in an end to end first half. Gemma Simmonds broke through the O’s defence and struck one low against the post where, luckily for the visitors, Wild was on hand to prod home from close range.

Knowing that a defeat would spell the end of their season, Orient came out the traps with a renewed sense of purpose in the second half.

They won a penalty in the 49th minute when Long was brought down in the box. Midfielder Réa Laudat stepped up to take the spot kick, but fired her effort well over, much to the disappointment of everyone in red.

The O’s almost levelled on the hour mark when some neat interplay between Heria and Denny led to the latter producing a curled effort that forced Foster into a superb acrobatic save.

Above: Combative action between the two sides yesterday. Photo: Paul Hynes.

In the 67th minute Brayford made his first substitution, with Laudat the player to make way for Michelle Young.

Orient continued to dominate the majority of the possession but failed to create anything clear. This forced Brayford into another switch, as Scarlett Smith replaced Anderson in an alteration that saw the O’s move to a three at the back formation.

The home side were once again denied by the woodwork with ten minutes remaining, as Young’s cross/shot was tipped onto the post by Foster.

Smith’s presence up top allowed the O’s a different option in attack, and she came closest out of anyone to levelling the scores with five minutes to play. Trezzi lifted a ball into the box where the forward was waiting, but she could only loop a header agonisingly wide of the far left hand post.

Brayford rolled the dice in the final minute as he brought on Kayleigh Xidhas for Long, however it was to no avail as Orient’s stop start season came to an end on an frustrating afternoon in E10. 

Teams: LEYTON ORIENT: Ogunde, Lee, Kerr, Bradley, Anderson (Smith 76′), Trezzi, Heria, Denny, Laudat (Young 67′), Barton, Long (Xidhas 90′). Subs not used: Feltham, Zahui, Cannon.

Scorer: Long 17. 

CHICHESTER AND SELSEY: Foster, Burke, Capel-Watson, Phelps, Howden, Wild, Simmonds, Fox, Staple, Yeates, Lake. Substitutes: Alexandre, Saunders, Fleishman, Blakely

Scorers: Phelps 13, Wild 38.

Boro Blast Four

Middlesbrough 4-0 Wem Town (12/4/21)

By Graham Falk

Above: Katie Wilson (centre) celebrates with her team mates after scoring Boro’s opening goal. Photo: @BoroWomen

Middlesbrough Women eased into round four of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup with a 4-0 win over Wem Town Ladies at Bedford Terrace this afternoon.

A goal in each half from Katie Wilson coupled with strikes from Libby Dixon and Armani Maxwell fired the Teessiders into the next round as Steph Fairless’ side made it two wins in a week.

Fairless made only two changes from the team that beat Hull City last week, as captain Rebekah Bass returned for the injured Emily Marsh, while Eve Marshall was preferred to Jasmine McQuade.

An even first half saw a speculative effort from Wilson fool the Wem Town goalkeeper on 24 minutes to put Boro in the driving seat.

However, Wem Town found themselves with a glorious opportunity to level only seconds later, but found Rosie Todd in fine form.

Above: Celebrations after Katie Wilson’s second goal which put the North-Eastern side 3-0 up. Photo: @BoroWomen

Whilst the first half was an even affair, Middlesbrough Women showed their quality in the second period, and Dixon doubled the lead with a well taken finish from Rebecca Olley’s superb through ball to engineer the pathway to the next round on 49 minutes.

Dixon, Millie Bell and Dale would see chances come and go with Boro firmly in the ascendancy, but it would be Wilson who would add gloss to the win, smashing home her second, rifling into the top corner from 20 yards out on 66 minutes. 

Substitute Armani Maxwell’s 76th minute strike cemented a dominant Boro second half when she placed home an excellent left footed shot.

Wem Town, who battled until the very end, almost got a consolation with the final kick of the game but, once again, Todd refused to allow the Boro net to bulge.

Middlesbrough’s win puts them into round four, as they face Women’s Championship side Sheffield United at Bedford Terrace.

MIDDLESBROUGH: Todd, Robson, Wilson, Bass, Cassidy, Morrison, Bell, Marshall, Dixon, Dale, Olley. Substitutes: Newton, Hebb, Maxwell, Boyle.

Scorers: Wilson 24, 66. Dixon 49. Maxwell 76.

Burnley Joy At Earning United Tie!

Burnley 0-0 Sunderland (Burnley win 3-1 on penalties)

Above: Burnley celebrate their win on penalties which brings them a home tie with FAWSL side Manchester United next weekend. Photo: @BurnleyFCWomen

With a place in the fourth round of the Women’s FA Cup at home to Manchester United at stake, early in the game Sunderland were quick to test the Clarets backline. Abbey Joice got a shot away that Bracewell palmed out for a corner, before Emily Scarr took a shot but Bracewell caught calmly from distance.

In return Evie Priestley shot from a wide position but the ball passed wide of the far post.

Sunderland continued to press, and the Clarets had a let off when Keira Ramshaw rose up high and headed just wide from a corner.

The tempo was high, and the Clarets breathed another sigh of relief when a free kick on the edge of the area was shot straight at Bracewell.

Burnley picked up and were feeding out from the back mostly by Dani Cooper and Lizzy Hamer, forcing the Sunderland backline to work hard. Then a long Sunderland cross had Bracewell stretching high to palm out for another corner.

Emily Scarr launched a free kick from distance causing Bracewell to tip over the bar. Then, as the half time whistle edged closer, Ramshaw launched another ball forward, hitting the bar.

Hopes that the break would bring a change of fortune were forthcoming in the early stages.

Above: Burnley get a shot in against Sunderland yesterday. Photo: @BurnleyFCWomen

Megan Dykes, who replaced Chloe Mapp, was working the Sunderland defence and the Clarets started to make an impression by winning several corners, one resulting in a shot from Melissa Brown that was blocked by a defender.

Matt Bee made another Burnley change with Katie Thomas replacing Evie Priestley.

The game became much tighter as the half progressed, though the visitors remained solid as Burnley made advances.

Sunderland won another free kick, that Bracewell collected with ease, but the pressure was mounting.

A back pass to Bracewell was hastily cleared but only to a Sunderland player rushing forward, who shot at goal but the attempt went wide.

Burnley however applied plenty of pressure throughout the second half. They win a corner which is quickly cleared before Nic Worthington shot hard but it flew over the bar.

In end to end action, Sunderland respond as Ramshaw tees up a shot but it goes wide.

In another change for the home side, Olivia Greenhalgh made way for Sammy Fleck.

Above: Conditions were hard going at times. Photo: @BurnleyFCWomen

In the closing minutes, Sunderland continued to attack. Emily Scarr shot from a central position and in added time Joice shot but found the path to goal blocked when the ball deflected for a corner, that the Clarets cleared.

As extra time commenced, the Clarets were soon on the attack, with Katie Thomas working hard in the Sunderland box.

Emily Scarr was quick to find herself in a one on one with Bracewell, who came out on top, but the Clarets defence had to dig in as the pressure continued.

Burnley’s Olivia Wilson came off worse in a tackle and was replaced by Kenedy Owen.

In the last few seconds of the first period, Burnley won a corner, though it was cleared as the referee blew the whistle.

With it all to play for, the Clarets enjoyed some positive play when Hamer crossed to Thomas but the keeper was well positioned to collect.

A foul on Dykes on the edge of the area resulted in a free kick for the home side, but the kick by Owen is floated over the bar.

Cara Bickett and Kerry Hope, worked hard all game against strong Sunderland forwards, with Bickett blocking a shot by Sunderland substitute Libbi McInnes.

With time of the essence, the game swung from end to end.

Following a coming together, Melissa Brown was replaced by Nicola Shirtcliffe, with a handful of added on injury time.

Burnley pressed forward but the last effort went to the visitors, who won a corner, that was subsequently cleared.

A penalty shoot out was required to separate the two sides.

Burnley stepped up first with Cara Bickett burying the ball in the net.

Emily Scarr followed for the visitors and hit the ball with power into the bottom left hand corner.

Next up was Burnley forward Katie Thomas who found the top right corner with her shot.

Jessica Brown was next with a shot that was confidently palmed away by keeper and captain Bracewell.

At 2-1 to Burnley, Nic Worthington’s shot hit the bar.

Grace McCatty steps up to the spot but has her penalty saved.

Megan Dykes is up next for Burnley who fires her effort into the top corner.

Above: Lauren Bracewell makes a penalty save for Burnley. Photo: @BurnleyFCWomen

At 3-1 Louise Griffiths steps up but Bracewell makes another fantastic save, to secure the win and a place in the fourth round of the competition, for Burnley FC Women.

Burnley will face Manchester United Women of the Women’s Super League in the fourth round of the Women’s FA Cup on Sunday 18th April.

Above: Burnley celebrate their win and a home tie against Manchester United. Photo: @BurnleyFCWomen

Teams: BURNLEY: Bracewell, Cooper, Wilson (Owen 96), Brown (Shirtcliffe 117), Bickett, Hope, Worthington, Hamer, Greenhalgh (Fleck 83), Priestley (Thomas 69), Mapp (Dykes 53). Substitutes: Gibbins, Tobin, Rawstron

SUNDERLAND: Moan, Brown, McCatty, Herron, Griffiths, Ramshaw, Mullen, Joice, Manders, Scarr, Blakey. Substitutes: Hutchinson, Libbi McInnes, Beer, Studholme

Referee: Declan Brown

Huddersfield Seal Penalty Kick Glory

Huddersfield Town 1-1 Brighouse Town (Huddersfield Town win 5-3 on penalties) 12/4/21

by Jack Walker

Above: Huddersfield Town taking on Brighouse Town in the FA Cup Third Round yesterday in difficult conditions at times. Photo via: Jack Walker

Katie Nutter scored the winning spot kick Huddersfield Town Women came from behind to beat Brighouse Town Women 5-3 on penalties and progress to the Fourth round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup.

With the teams level at 1-1 after normal time, the extra thirty minutes produced few chances, with strikes from Serena Fletcher and Sarah Danby the closest Huddersfield came to a winner.

Having beaten Newcastle United 3-0 after extra time in the previous round just seven days earlier, Brighouse started the better of the two sides and took the lead through Amy Woodruff’s penalty when ex-Terrier Ellie White was fouled in the area after a contest for the rebound of Drew Greene’s effort which came back off the bar.

The Terriers, though, had also played a full two hours in the second round against Liverpool Feds, triumphing 3-2, and the FA WNL table-toppers equalised against their West Yorkshire rivals early in the second half.

Kate Mallin was forced off through injury at half time, so was replaced by Lucy Sowerby and the Terriers’ top scorer in the 2019/20 season had an immediate impact as she brought fresh energy and enthusiasm off the bench and created the leveler, whipping in a fizzed, left-footed cross and Brittany Sanderson was on hand to smash the ball home at the far post – sending her first-time effort back across the ‘keeper and into the far corner of the net.

Above: Huddersfield Town poised to take a free kick against Brighouse Town yesterday. Photo via: Jack Walker.

From then on, the tie was very tight with neither group of players able to fashion further clear-cut chances. Despite not being at the races, assistant manager Marcus Wilkinson praised Huddersfield’s resilience and determination.

“It was a difficult game and we had a few players get injured after such a long break, but our team spirit was brilliant and we can now get ready to face Derby in the next round.

“We weren’t at our best, but we kept at it and I was always confident that we would win the shootout.”

Bethan Davies saved Brighouse’s fourth spot kick and memories of the historic Cup run of 2018/19 entered the mind when Huddersfield scored all five of their penalties and, just like in that famous win against Charlton Athletic in 2018/19, Nutter dispatched the winning penalty to send her teammates into raptures.

Due to the league season being cancelled, Town haven’t played round four Derby in 2020/21, but know it will be another tough match up. Wilkinson stated that they cannot afford to look beyond the fourth round.

“We have to take each game as it comes. Derby beat West Brom 4-1 and we beat them 3-2, so we know it will be tough. Derby were third in the league and we will prepare and be ready for them. We want to go as far as we can in the competition and end the season well.”

Teams: HUDDERSFIELD TOWN: Davies, Ibbotson, Mallin, Abbott, Griffiths, Nutter, Evans, Danby, Elford, Sanderson, Marshall. Substitutes: Carter, Fletcher, Sowerby, Samways, Dobby, Crossman.

BRIGHOUSE TOWN: Simpson, Bamforth, Gompertz, Legge, Dobson, Lee, Greene, Cass, White, Woodruff, Dobson. Substitutes: Freibach, Whitman, Parnham, Connolly, Brazier, May.

Wolves Rack Up Another Cup Shock

Watford 1–4 Wolverhampton Wanderers (11/4/21)

By Ben Gilby

Above: Wolves boss Daniel McNamara celebrates with his team after their magnificent win at Watford this afternoon. Photo: @WolvesWomen

Wolves created a big FA Cup shock with a comprehensive and fully deserved 4–1 win away to Watford, who are a division above them in the FAWSL system.

It was a second successive week that the Daniel McNamara’s side had knocked higher league opposition out of the FA Cup having seen off Northern Premier side Nottingham Forest in Round Two.

It was the FAWNL Division One Midland side who started the better at the home of their FAWNL Southern Premier opponents. Within two minutes, Lowri Walker played in Jade Cross with the home keeper Chrissie Wiggins having to come out and deal with the danger.

Watford’s first chance came with four minutes gone when Emma Beckett fired across goal but no-one could get on the end of it. Shortly afterwards Megan Chandler hit an effort over the bar for the ‘Golden Girls’.

But Wolves remained on the front foot and it was they who took the lead after nine minutes. Cross broke through, drew Wiggins and hit home from the right hand side of the box. It was another goal to add to her incredible record having scored seven hat-tricks last season, finishing as the divisional golden boot winner twice and being the club’s top scorer for the last five seasons.

Above: Jade Cross about to pass Watford keeper Chrissie Wiggins to score Wolves’ opening goal. Photo: @WolvesWomen

The visitors were showing the greater energy, when defending they were getting in the faces of Watford and snapping at their heels.

It was increasingly apparent that the home side could not cope with Jade Cross as she continually threatened. Walker put her away once more and a corner was forced.

Watford slowly grew into the game and a dangerous ball in from Emma Beckett down the left was headed out by Anna Price, but fell at the feet of Chandler who hit a shot from the edge of the box which was just off target.

Wolves responded with a great cross field ball by Jamila Palmer for Walker who nipped into the box, but just as she was about to pull the trigger, a fantastic tackle from Francesca Ali denied the effort.

This was the start of the growing influence of Ali on the game as the half entered its final quarter of an hour.

Adekite Fatuga-Dada then got free down the right for Watford, laid off for Beckett who played a ball in and Katie O’Leary comfortably turned the ball in to level matters three minutes before the break.

Wolves had an opportunity to retake the lead just before the half-time interval when Cross found Alish Miller who in turn fed Tammi George. Her effort was narrowly over the bar and it was 1-1 at the break.

It might have been expected that Watford would come out and maintain this momentum at the start of the second half, but it was not to be.

Above: So much to celebrate for Wolves this afternoon. Photo: @WolvesWomen

Instead it was Wolves who pressed right from the start and within seven minutes regained the lead. A pinpoint free kick out on the left, just outside the box from Anna Morphet was met by the feet of Kelly Darby coming in towards the back post and the visitors were back in front.

Watford tried to respond but created very little, with their best opportunity coming just after the hour mark when Fatuga-Dada skipped down the right wing and then cut inside rounding several defenders before shooting just wide of the left hand post.

The Midland side went further ahead on seventy-one minutes when George was brought down in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Morphet and the 19 year-old former Aston Villa defender hit the ball into the bottom right hand corner.

Three minutes later and Wolves were in dream land when Palmer unleased a stunning strike from outside the box.

The remaining fifteen minutes were pretty comfortable for Wolves with Watford unable to mount anything like a comeback.

This was a quite magnificent win for Wolves over a Watford side who have consistently challenged hard for promotion to the FA Women’s Championship over the past few years.

With second tier side Blackburn Rovers travelling to the Midlands for the Fourth Round next weekend, don’t rule out another eyebrow raising result. This Wolves side mean business.

Teams: WATFORD: Wiggins, Higgins, Kmita, Beckett, Chandler, O’Leary, Vyse, Meiwald, Bell, Ali, Fatuga-Dada. Substitutes: McLean, Stojko-Down, Smith, Harney, Holt, Lewin, Humes, Biggadike.

Scorers: O’Leary 42.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS: Thomas, Morphet, E. Cross, Price, Darby, George, Walker, J. Cross, Palmer, Edwards, Miller. Substitutes: Conod, Johnson, Riley, Conlan, Jones, Paraiso, Glover, Anslow, Dickon.

Scorer: J. Cross 9, Darby 52, Morphet (pen) 71, Palmer 75.

Wroxham Women: Back In Action!

Ahead of our partner club Wroxham Women’s return to action this Sunday against Cambridge City Development, Ben Gilby spoke in depth to captain Jess Horn, vice-captain Grace Birchall and new signing Harriet Meers, who Impetus is proud to sponsor (9/4/21).

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Wroxham Women, previously Acle United, have been one of the top clubs in the fifth tier Eastern Region Football League Premier for several seasons now. Whilst due to the pandemic, they must wait at least another year to achieve promotion to the FA Women’s National League, they have returned to training and are about to embark on a series of games between Sunday and the end of May.

Whilst Impetus readers may be familiar with the background of the club’s Harriet Meers (https://impetus885775742.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/harriet-meers-lots-to-look-forward-to-in-2021/) , who we are delighted to be sponsoring, this was our first opportunity to touch base with club captain Jess Horn and vice-captain Grace Birchall.

Therefore, we opened our conversation by going back to the very beginning of their footballing journeys.

“I’ve played football since I was able to walk!” laughs Jess Horn, “I have an older brother, Jack who always put me in goal to shoot against! I joined my first team when I was four or five in Brandon. I’d be playing games; friendlies, scoring goals, but the results didn’t mean anything. Everyone got a medal at the end of it, which me, with my inner-competitiveness hated because I wanted the results to stand and to be named the winner!”

“I was there until I was eleven or twelve and then moved over to Thetford Bulldogs and was there for a few years and started playing at the Suffolk Advanced Coaching Centre (ACC). I got into their under-16s a year early. I was playing for two teams, one on a Saturday, one on a Sunday in the Suffolk League and the Norfolk League. I then moved to West Ham United where I had the progression to play for their first team when they were still in the FA Women’s National League, but that was the year that they got their FA Women’s Super League licence and I was only sixteen. My old coach at West Ham took over at CK Basildon in the third tier. We didn’t win a game and got relegated. They changed their name to AFC Basildon, so I played there for a year under new management and was in and out of the first team and played some games for the Development side to get some minutes.”

“Things ended at Basildon towards the start of the first lockdown in March 2020. I knew Bex (Burton, Wroxham head coach) after having done a few training sessions there when the club were Acle United before I joined Basildon. I joined in the pre-season there for 2020/21 and have been at the club ever since.”

Above: Wroxham captain Jess Horn captured in training. Photo: Wroxham Women FC.

Grace’s early experiences were similar. “Yeah, like Jess I was kicking a ball as soon as I could walk. I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t kicking a ball in the garden. I also had an older brother to contend with, so that’s always a challenge when you have someone older to prove yourself against as to who was the better footballer.”

“I started playing among the boys at primary school and many a game of two on one against my brother and my Dad in the garden. That quite often ended with an angry Grace! I got a lot out of it though, I definitely learned to lose a lot!”

“I first played for a local team called Red Rose. Whilst I was there, a few Dads who had come along to watch asked my Dad if I had tried out for Norwich City. He said that I hadn’t and they said I should because I was a good player. I tried out at Norwich City when I was eleven and I got in and I played for their Football in the Community (FITC) team. I guess it’s sort of like a girl’s academy side. I was there until I was sixteen.”

“At this stage you move on to women’s football. I played a couple of games for the first team but it didn’t really fit with how I wanted my life to go, so I decided to move in order to enjoy football rather than pursue football. I based that on my last year with the under-16s where we had an excellent coach, Darren Moss, and I had my best season. I was at the age when I thought ‘If I don’t get picked for England, then football is not for me’. I didn’t get picked for England, so I thought I needed to go on and find somewhere to enjoy the game.”

“I then looked around for local teams and went to Hethersett for a few years, which I absolutely loved. I’ve still got friends there and we played in the same league that Wroxham are now in. I then went to university in Sheffield and played for Rotherham United for a couple of years when I was up there.”

“Northern leagues are definitely a lot harder than our leagues! It was definitely a different style of football – a lot rougher and much better quality, so it certainly kept me on my toes.”

Above: Wroxham vice-captain Grace Birchall in action for the club against Newcastle United in a pre-season friendly. Photo: Colin Lock

“After university I came back to Norfolk and had a bit of time away from football because I wasn’t coming back to a team and I didn’t know if I wanted to. I knew Bex (Burton, Wroxham head coach) through Norwich City before I first came to Acle United. At that point she was also a player as well as coach. I knew quite a few of the Acle girls and I thought that it was the place where I would start to enjoy football again. So, I joined and every year it has got better.”

“The transition with the club going from being Acle United to going to Wroxham has been excellent. The standard that we’ve now set ourselves is so much higher.”

Turning to Harriet Meers, Impetus last touched base with the defender who we sponsor in February. She updated us with what she has been up to since that last conversation:

“In some ways it’s been handy to have a bit of time out from football as I’ve had so much uni work. I’ve used the time though to increase the distances I’ve been running and then last week training finally came back and I feel kind of battered, to be honest! I had uni football training last Tuesday and Wroxham training last Wednesday. We just played games and stuff, but already my legs are all bruised up. I couldn’t walk down the stairs on Thursday morning. I did a half marathon and felt absolutely fine the next day, but I can’t do an hour of football, which is great!”

With Wroxham now back in training it has brought to an end a very difficult period of keeping in touch with each other online. From Jess’ perspective as club captain, that also had additional responsibilities from a pastoral perspective.

“It was hard because we have a big squad and you want to make sure everyone is OK. We tried to keep a discussion going in the main group and people were putting in the runs they were doing and fitness work, but others don’t necessarily like to praise themselves by showing what they had done, so we got a Wroxham Women Strava group going (a fitness social network) which meant we could see what everyone was doing.”

Above: Harriet Meers, who Impetus are proud to sponsor. Photo: Rebecca Burton.

“We did lots of Zoom calls and quizzes in the January period which was nice, but they fizzled out because it went on for so long as we had them in the first lockdown and people began to get sick of them again. It’s nice to be back now though and actually see people’s faces in real life!”

With Grace at university completing a second degree, it has enabled some aspects of her life to continue to something approaching normal to some extent:

“I was on placement through January and February working from nine until five, but I’ve really missed my hobbies! I didn’t have that normal release in the evenings and weekends that we all had before. Trying to stay active has been the main thing for me. The Zoom calls were good. Jess mentioned the quizzes and I think it was good that it wasn’t just the coaches that organised them, it was actually some of the players sorting them out and running them. That made it fun. Having said that, it still didn’t compare to the first night back at training last Wednesday and seeing everyone face to face properly again and having a proper giggle.”

We then reflected how the experiences of the last twelve months had changed the players both as people and as footballers.

“I definitely appreciate things a lot more,” said Jess, “These periods we’ve had of lockdown have been the longest spells I’ve had without playing football since I was three years-old. I think I almost took having team-mates and a football family around me for granted. You don’t actually realise what a difference it makes seeing them every week.”

“Getting back to football last week really showed me how good it is for your mental health,” identified Harriet. “You think you’re fine doing all the running and solo fitness stuff, but when you’re back and involved with all the laughter and stuff, it was brilliant. It’s just so de-stressing. We didn’t really do much in terms of fitness and actual football, but the fact it was there from a social and psychological perspective was really good.”

Above: Grace Birchall heading for goal. Photo: Wroxham Women FC.

“For me, it’s helped to me to appreciate what I’ve got and what we’ve got at Wroxham,” said Grace. “Coming back in to training could have seemed a scary thing as we haven’t been socialising in large groups. Yet we came back and it was as if we’d been training the whole time. Everyone just felt back into having a good time with each other – taking the piss out of each other and smashing the tackles in, Jess shoving me off the ball for example!”

Jess outlined what that first training session was like in terms of content: “It was more of a ‘let’s get everyone back together, it’s been rubbish for however long, let’s have some fun’. It was all about getting us to remember how much fun football is.”

“You know, there’s running fitness and there’s football fitness. Right now it’s the football fitness we need to concentrate on like changing direction and having Jess shove you in the back!” added Grace.

The club now return to action this Sunday. The Eastern Region Football League have put together a Champions League style competition with clubs divided into groups. Each side will play each other once with the top placed teams in each group progressing to the semi-finals.

“We have a group stage with Cambridge City Development, who we’ll play at home, Dunstable and Haringey Borough who we will both play away,” explained Jess, “Additionally, we will come into the Norfolk County Cup in early May at the Quarter-Final stage.”

With Harriet having signed for Wroxham just days before the December lockdown and now finally able to aim for selection for the squad for the first time, I wondered what her personal goals were between now and the end of May.

Above: Jess Horn in action for Wroxham. Photo: Edward Payne.

“The step up to Level Five football is a big one for me. I haven’t played Regional level football. I’m fairly confident off the ball but I want to work on my confidence on the ball, because I don’t want to be in a panic!”

“I want to learn about the other players and how they play around me, additionally.”

With Wroxham being linked to Bure Valley Youth FC as part of their player pathway development, the youngsters at that club have been speaking to Impetus about the importance of female role models and how the Wroxham Women fulfil this for them. Jess spoke about the importance of this.

“It’s been really hard because of Covid we’ve not been able to go down and see them or help them with training. They haven’t been able to come to our games this season as well. We love knowing they are there for us and we’re there for them and it will be great to be able to get that going again.”

Grace added: “Having a pathway and female role-models is just so important. When I was younger, my favourite player was Michael Owen as he was small, fast and could score goals and I wanted to identify with that.”

“I did have female players that I looked up to as well. My main one was Rachel Yankey. She came and played for England at Carrow Road, I think it was against Iceland (in March 2006). She was a winger and I was a winger at the time. I really liked watching her play and watching how she played. I was lucky enough to get her shirt after the game, so that really excelled my interest in looking up the women’s game and thinking that these were the players that were paving the way for us and that is important at any level.”

Above: Harriet Meers – hoping to make her Wroxham debut now that football is back! Photo: Rebecca Burton.

“Rachel Yankey was playing at the elite level and, obviously we’re not that at Wroxham, but we’re still paving a way for those girls at Bure Valley and that’s so important to know that there is somewhere to go for them to play.”

Harriet was also very clear about the importance of female footballing role models. “Unlike Jess and Grace, I didn’t have anyone around me in football and I didn’t start playing until I was fourteen or fifteen. If there were women footballers around me I would have become more aware a lot earlier. I got made to do ballet and stuff like that which definitely wasn’t for me!”

“I started coaching eighteen months to five year-old children before I even started playing, so even me kicking a football round with them, so the odd few girls that turned up to these groups and the boys would look up I think and make it less scary for them. It’s really important to have female role models in there as well.”

“It’s all well and good having a male coach with you, but when you have an actual female player coming along you can see where you can end up. I would definitely be a better player than I am now if I had started earlier.”

Harriet’s point about male coaches then sparked an exchange about why there were still far more males coaching in women’s football than women.

“I guess it’s probably because of a lack of promotion of women coaches when they themselves were younger,” suggested Jess, “In years to come, because there has been more promotion for it and people like us coming into the game, you will get more females coaching.”

Above: Leading the way – Wroxham captain Jess Horn. Photo: Wroxham Women FC.

“You’ve now got more females going into being pundits, like Alex Scott, for example,” Jess continued, “You are starting to see people moving into areas which were totally male dominated in sport and there is a lot of praise for her, which is really good for promoting women in football.”

“There’s also more schemes in place for women in football now,” Harriet highlighted, “At uni I did my Level One coaching in the first year and it was subsidised. Every year there are more subsidies for females to start coaching badges which means they might pay less than a guy would to do which is a great way to get them involved, even if it is just at the grassroots level.”

With Wroxham and previously, Acle United consistently challenging for promotion into the FA Women’s National League, I wondered what the players felt the team needed to do to ensure that Level Four status could finally be achieved and then maintained.

“Every year that I’ve been involved at the club, things have got better and better,” said Grace. “The recruitment that Bex and Richard Giles (team secretary) do gets better. As our profile rises further, more female footballers recognise our name and that brings more interest from higher level players, which is what we will need for promotion.”

“You can’t discredit the coaching that we get. I think we have the best coach in the League and I think Bex would be one of the best coaches in the League above (FA Women’s National League Division One London & South-East).”

“It’s all about finding that nice combination of bringing in the right players. It’s not about bringing in the best players, it’s bringing in the right players. You need to fit in with the team and be a team player, so finding that combination of training and improving plus bringing in talent to challenge.”

Above: Grace Birchall. Photo: Wroxham Women FC

“Nobody should feel like their spot in the team is a given. They should feel like they have to take their spot every week. That’s the type of squad we need. Everyone has to be challenged. Once we have that, then we’ll really start to see where we can go.”

For Jess, the important thing to highlight was standards. “There is a big gap between our League and the National League immediately above us. We also need to think about bringing more fans in, for example and having those ticket payments because, at the end of the day, that is what funds the club. Having people buying a pint and some chips to watch us play and see Grace score however many goals…”

“The way we are going,” Jess continued, “We are getting interest from players because they are seeing how happy everyone is at the club, how much a family feel there is and how together we all are.”

“I came to the club at the start of Lockdown One in March 2020 and I was just doing the Zoom calls, I’d never seen anyone face to face until June which was when we were finally allowed to train non-contact and I felt like I’d been at the club for years. Everyone was so lovely and so welcoming. I’d never been in a team with such a nice bunch of girls. There were no groups, no secret jokes that other people didn’t get.”

“There’s never an awkward moment, it’s like a family, pretty much. You have to have that to progress to the next League because you cannot have a team of individuals – it doesn’t work.”

Harriet agreed: “I can vouch for that. When Bex first messaged me about coming along to the club, I was so nervous. I had never really trialled anywhere else. Going along, everyone was coming up to speak to me and then they messaged me after the session – it just felt so welcoming. Even if I get nervous before a session now, as soon as I get there it just goes because everyone is so friendly.”

Above: Harriet Meers. Photo: Rebecca Burton.

We closed our discussion with the players making some aims for the next part of their careers.

“Ha! I’ll be so old in five years’ time!” laughed Grace. “I’d like us to get promoted because that’s what we’ve been pushing for the last however many years. I’d want to win a County Cup Final because that’s been a bit of a thorn in our side. We’ve lost finals and semi-finals and there’s been a lot of heartbreak involved in that. Being in the Final which has been held at Norwich City FC’s Carrow Road and bringing our modest fan base there with their big drums, singing their songs would be absolutely epic to make it and lift the trophy at Carrow Road.”

Jess sees some changes ahead in her career: “I want to go to uni to study to become a paramedic. That will take up quite a lot of my time. Obviously I still want to keep playing, but it will be interesting to see how I manage it. But, I want for us to get promoted and win trophies plus the awesome socials that we can have.”

Harriet emphasised the enjoyment aspect “Trophies are always a bonus! I just want to continue to enjoy the sport. That’s the most important thing for me. I don’t want to get to the stage where I am more stressed about football than enjoying it.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Paige Walder: Graphics and Goal Assists

Whilst Paige Walder may be known to regular readers of Impetus for all of the high quality graphics and artwork she provides the site with via Graphics by PW, you might not know that she is also a footballer and recently joined Saltdean United of the London & SE Regional Premier (tier five). She spoke to Ben Gilby about her career and goals with the Sussex side (8/4/21).

Above: Paige Walder unveiled as a Saltdean United player. Artwork: Graphics by PW.

It was Paige’s graphics business that we started talking about. Graphics by PW has provided artwork for Chelsea and England star Fran Kirby for a while and the business has really taken off now as she explains: “Graphics by PW has been going great thank you, working for Fran has brought in other high profile clients like Sam Kerr, Maren Mjelde and a GB athlete named Lauren Jones. With high-profile clients comes high-pressure, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it and hope to continue to grow.”

Apart from her graphic designing work, Paige has just announced a return to playing football. I wondered how that came about. “Well, for the last two years I’ve followed my partner as she plays professionally across Europe. When the pandemic first hit we left Italy and have been in England ever since. I’ve missed playing so much over the last few years and feel like now is the perfect time to dust my boots off and see if I’ve still got it.”

Above: Paige in action for Sussex. Photo via: Paige Walder.

The club that Paige is joining are one who are hugely successful. “Saltdean United are a great club with big ambitions. The manager, Joe McTiffen actually coached me back in my teenage years. He’s asked me every year since he started the team to go and play for him and he’s finally got his way, persistence is key, haha. On a serious note, since starting in 2015 they have been promoted time after time and show no signs in stopping anytime soon and I’d love to be a part of that success.”

Paige has a strong history in the women’s game in Sussex, as she explained to me. “I started football at 12 years old but only began to take it seriously when I turned 16 and was scouted by Brighton and Hove Albion. After four seasons there and I stayed down south and joined Lewes whilst playing for the Sussex county team also.”

Since joining Saltdean United, due to the pandemic, Paige has only just been able to physically meet up with her team-mates.

Above: Paige (right) in action for Lewes against Portsmouth. Photo via: Paige Walder.

“We’d been doing zoom HIIT sessions every week and had our first training session back on 29th March… I’m was 99% sure that our first session was going to include some sort of fitness testing which I was really excited about!”

We closed our chat by looking at what Paige’s immediate and longer term aims for her return to the sport: “A personal aim for me will be to get on the assist sheet as much as possible as a central midfielder. With regards to the team I would love to help them gain promotion up to the third tier of English football and with the squad we have I’ve got a great feeling that big things are going to happen for this club.”

One thing is for sure, Impetus will be following Paige’s progress closely…and readers will no doubt see more of her amazing artwork on our site in the very near future!

Bell’s Bullet Sends Boro Into Round Three

Middlesbrough 3-1 Hull City (5/4/21)

By Graham Falk

Above: Millie Bell celebrates her stunning strike to give Middlesbrough the lead yesterday. Photo: @BoroWomen

A 35-yard Millie Bell strike capped off a superb return to action for Middlesbrough Women as they beat Hull City 3-1 in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup Second Round.

An early strike from Katie Thompson (20) was cancelled out by Faye Dale (39), Millie Bell (81) and Eve Marshall (88) as the Teesiders ran out clear winners.

Going into the game, Middlesbrough manager Steph Fairless handed Katrena Morrison her first senior start and also selected Emily Marsh, Faye Dale and Savanna Robson in the starting line-up.

In a typically cagey start, Katie Thompson’s over hit free kick almost looped into the Boro top corner, before the Hull winger made no mistake only a minute later, tapping home after Rosie Todd had saved her first effort.

Hull almost went further ahead on 34 when Emily Smith seized on a slack pass, but she fired over from 10 yards out.

It was Faye Dale who would punish Hull moments later as she latched on Katie Wilson’s superb through ball and rounded ‘keeper Abi Wallace to net her first senior goal for the club.

Above: Faye Dale, scorer of Middlesbrough’s opening goal. Photo: @BoroWomen

If the first half was an even affair, then the second half belonged to Boro. Wing-back Millie Bell going close twice from long range, including a free kick which pinged off the base of the post. It was third time lucky for Bell, however, as she blasted home a 35-yard rocket nine minutes from time to fire Boro into the lead, minutes after a Tigress counter attack saw the pacey Smith hit the outside of the post.

Super sub Eve Marshall would seal it at the death, feeding off Rebecca Olley’s pin point ball to cut inside and fire beyond Wallace in the City net. The win extends Middlesbrough’s season for at least another week, as the team welcome Wem Town to Bedford Terrace in round three next week.

Teams: MIDDLESBROUGH: Todd, Wilson, Marsh, Morrison, Robson, Cassidy, Bell, McQuade, Dixon, Dale, Olley. Substitutes: Newton, Marshall, Hebb, Maxwell, Boyle.

Scorers: Dale 39, Bell 81, Marshall 88.

HULL CITY: Wallace, Pedersen, Jackman, Symington, Pegrum, Tanser, Martin, Bott, Thompson, Smith, Acroyd. Substitutes: Cooke, Oxley, Brannigan, Walby, Westmorland, Padget.

Scorer: Thompson 20.

Dramatic End Leaves Tractor Girls Feeling Blue

Billericay Town 2–1 Ipswich Town (4/4/21).

By Ben Gilby

Above: Billericay Town celebrate Therese Addison’s winner with two minutes of normal time left. Photo: @BTFCWomen

Two goals from Therese Addison, with the second coming just two minutes from the end of normal time, ensured Billericay Town created a minor surprise by defeating their fellow FA Women’s National League Division One London & South-East side Ipswich Town.

Ipswich, who had progressed to the fifth round of the competition last season and earned a trip to FA Women’s Super League side Manchester City in the process, now face a long wait before they can take out their frustrations out on the FA Women’s National League in the new season.

The Tractor Girls threatened early on with Natasha Thomas finding Anna Grey on the left hand side. Her cross rebounded off of the Essex side’s defender Esme Lancaster for a corner which the hosts dealt with.

It took five minutes for Billericay to get out of their own half, but when they did, they threatened Ipswich. An early cross in from Zoe Rushen found Therese Addison, but she was adjudged to be offside before getting a shot away.

Grey continued to threaten down the left, but Lancaster continued to prove she was up to the challenge after putting in a magnificent challenge to clear the danger, when anything less than a perfectly timed tackle would have resulted in a penalty.

The home side got their first shot in on goal thanks to a free kick after Addison was fouled around ten metres inside the Ipswich half. Up stepped Ellie Jeffkins with a shot from extreme long range which bounced wide of the left hand post.

Billericay were more in the game now and were trying to play some easy on the eye triangular passing in the build-up. Unfortunately from one such move, Jay Blackie lost possession to Natasha Thomas who shot from distance and Amy Mullett pushed it over the bar. From the resulting corner, Lucy Egan’s effort came back off of the bar.

Ipswich built the pressure and continued to earn corners at regular intervals.

Sixteen minutes before the break, the Tractor Girls took the lead that their pressure deserved, and it was their stand out player Anna Grey who delivered a sensational goal. She hit an effort from over twenty-five yards which dipped over Mullett and into the net. A classy finish from a classy player.

Above: Anna Grey – a superb goal for Ipswich Town. Photo: Ipswich Town Women.

Yet, Ipswich’s lead lasted for no more than ninety seconds and it was another absolutely magnificent goal. A free kick for Billericay on the right from Danica Dougal was headed across the box to Therese Addison. She was surrounded by two Ipswich defenders, but turned and hit an instant shot which flew into the net.

The visitors responded well and came close on several occasions. Grey caused more havoc down the left with ten minutes of the half remaining and earned her side their sixth corner of the afternoon. Shortly afterwards, Paige Peake found Grey once more and her low ball in found Thomas, who was less than five yards out from the goal line. It needed a mere tap to go in, yet somehow the Ipswich forward managed to lift the ball over the bar.

With the clock ticking towards the forty-fifth minute, Ipswich thought momentarily that they had regained the lead as Grey’s low ball in from the left was tapped home, but the assistant referee had his flag raised.

With the last kick of the first half, there was another golden opportunity. A free-kick was awarded to Billericay five metres out from the ‘D’ to the left of centre for handball. Addison hit a scorching effort which came off of the top of the right hand post before the half-time whistle went.

The second half began with a bit of a chess-like exchange with the only immediate opportunity coming via Anna Grey who played a ball in which eventually found its way to Lucy Egan who fired an effort from thirty yards over the bar.

Ten minutes into the second period, another long range effort from Therese Addison, this time from almost forty yards, flew just centimetres over the bar.

Billericay continued to press and a free-kick rebounded off of the knee of visiting keeper Lucy Williamson for a corner. A viciously in swinging corner saw Williamson forced to push it out for a second one which the Suffolk women cleared.

As the game entered its last quarter of an hour, chances were few and far between. Ipswich did earn their tenth corner of the game after Grey’s shot was deflected out. The set piece came in and was headed wide by Lucy Egan.

The match looked to be heading towards extra-time, but, with two minutes of normal time left there was a dramatic turn of events.

Amy Mullett’s goal kick was collected by Jay Blackie in midfield. She eventually found substitute Paige Clemenson on the right wing who got free and played a ball across the box. Ipswich had plenty of defenders between the ball and Billericay’s sole attacker Therese Addison, yet somehow a swing and a miss later, the ball fell perfectly for Addison who simply could not fail to score.

Above: Therese Addison slots home the winner with two minutes of regulation time left. Photo: @BTFCWomen

The drama continued as almost ten minutes of stoppage time was played. Ipswich, as you would expect pressed. Page’s cross was met on the volley by Maddie Biggs but it went just wide of the right hand post.

The Essex side almost saved their visitors when substitute Kerry Stimson’s header back towards goal needed a diving palm round the post by her own keeper Mullett.

Six minutes into stoppage time, Ipswich were awarded a free kick just outside the box after a foul by Lucy Jones who was yellow carded for Billericay. Paige Peake’s free kick curled over.

With almost a hundred minutes played Clemenson got through again and tangled with Grey in the box. The Billericay substitute went down but the referee waved away penalty claims and blew the final whistle.

It was an excellent result for Billericay Town who now go on in the competition. Ipswich Town, after two frustrating seasons which has seen their hopes of promotion into the third tier taken away from them due to coronavirus, now have a long summer ahead of them before competitive action resumes.

Above: The Billericay Town squad celebrate together after the game. Photo: @BTFCWomen

Teams: BILLERICAY TOWN: 23) Amy Mullett, 3) Ellie Jeffkins, 4) Lucy Jones, 5) Danica Dougal, 6) Courtney Lumley, 7) Jay Blackie, 9) Therese Addison, 10) Robyn Moody, 13) Zoe Rushen, 14) Esme Lancaster, 22) Georgie Morton Substitutes: Alex Baker, Edita Dobreva, Paige Clemenson, Lily Price, Teni Charles, Connie Forman, Freya Fuller, Millie Stacey, Kerry Stimson.

Scorers: Addison 31, 88.

IPSWICH TOWN: 13) Lucy Williamson, 3) Eva Hubbard, 4) Blue Wilson, 6) Lucy Egan, 7) Natasha Thomas, 11) Anna Grey, 15) Molly Sutherland, 17) Sophie Peskett, 19) Abbie Lafayette, 24) Paige Peake, 30) Lucy O’Brien. Substitutes: Sasha Adamson, Georgia Allen, Zoe Barratt, Maddie Biggs, Olivia Billson, Lindsey Cooper, Amanda Crump, Ellie Rossister, Paige Wakefield.

Scorer: Grey 29.

Lisa Topping: The Big Return Is On!

Impetus is proud to sponsor Chorley Women’s Lisa Topping. Ahead of the much hoped for return to action, Ben Gilby spoke to Lisa about a difficult month at the club, which saw the sad passing of one of Chorley Women’s biggest supporters Momma D, who was a much loved figure around the club (1/4/21).

Lisa began our catch-up by letting us know how she’s doing at the moment. “I’m doing well and am keeping everything crossed that we are on the right track to get back to normality. Football is a massive outlet for me so I’m ready to get back with my team mates and play the game we all love.”

The club recently experienced the sad passing of ‘Momma D’. Lisa outlined why she was so special to everyone at Chorley Women.

“Momma D was an amazing, caring person who will be missed by everyone at Chorley. She dedicated so much of her time and energy in to the club, along with her husband Geoff and daughter Janet. Even when Janet’s playing career was over, Momma D would be at training watching – even in the middle of winter – and when it was shooting practice she would be stood at the back of the field retrieving all of the missed shots in the dark where there were no floodlights!”

“She and Geoff travelled all over to away games to watch us play and never missed a thing to do with Chorley. She brought sweets in to the locker room before games, gave pep talks, helped at every fundraising event, gave game debriefs, gave players cut-outs of articles on themselves from the local newspaper and cheered us all on at every game. She was so passionate and caring it’s hard to imagine a Chorley game without her there.” 

“Every game we play now will be in honour of her memory. Once we get back together as a team we will discuss what options we have to commemorate her throughout the season and at games. I’m sure there will be some pre-game rituals put in place for every game and celebrations of her life and commitment to the club.”

“She’s the centre of a lot of our Chorley stories so whenever we reminisce she will be remembered. Like when I took a shot and she told me how awful it was, or when she’s got her head torch on searching for miskicked shots in the brambles and when she even interrupted a team talk.” 

With coronavirus restrictions starting to ease once more, Lisa updated us on the situation at the moment about training and her own fitness. 

Artwork: Graphics by PW

“Betti, one of our senior players, has continued to do an excellent job with virtual sessions. I’ve continued to get out and run, cycle or kick a ball on the local park by myself. This has helped keep me in some form of shape but I’m definitely ready to get back with the team and push on together. We thankfully haven’t got long to wait as we will be training in April.” 

Despite training starting again, the FA have announced that Chorley’s season in the FA Women’s National League Division One North has been rendered null and void for the second year in a row. I asked Lisa what she felt about the decision:

“This must have been such a hard decision for the FA. Whichever way they decided, clubs and players were going to be disappointed. This time away from the pitch has really made me appreciate the years I have left to play so I’m definitely ready to get going and compete again. We were prepared either way. If we needed to play multiple games a week to catch up we would have but similarly we respect the decision made by the FA and league.” 

Some parts of the country have already said they are going to run County based cup games or friendlies. Lisa ended our conversation by updating us on the situation specifically at Chorley. 

“Our manager, Ben Gooden and the rest of the management team have been working really hard to get a plan together since hearing the news. He is really proactive so I know he will have plans in motion. I know we are getting some friendlies booked in and I’m sure if there is a cup set up in Lancashire we would enter it. Ben is really keen to keep us all fit, healthy and prepared and ready to go into next season strong. He will make sure we use this extra prep time well.”  

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Exciting Major Addition To Helston AFC Squad

Ben Gilby reports on a major new signing for Helston AFC Women – which is a clear statement of the club’s aims to play at a higher level sooner rather than later…(31/3/21)

Above: Helston AFC Women have unveiled Keri-Ann Moxom. Photo via: Paul Parfitt

Today is transfer deadline day for registering players to compete in the Cornwall Women’s Football League and Helston Athletic Women have secured the major signing of 29 year-old central midfielder Keri-Ann Moxom from Callington Town.

Helston manager Paul Parfitt said: “I am pleased to have made this key signing in such a timely manner. Keri-Ann played for Helston then progressed to Callington as they were two leagues higher and matched her ambitions.  She now sees that ambition is at Helston with the squad I have built since joining the club last year and I am finally pleased to be able to work with her after four years of watching her play and admiring her ability.  She is a fantastic individual and a big name player in the Cornish women’s game – her mum used to play for Arsenal Ladies when she was younger also.”  

“It is testament to the current squad and our team ambitions that Keri-Ann has decided to leave Callington and join a team currently two leagues below.  Keri-Ann is a fantastic player and a big personality both on and off the pitch, we have had a very successful start to life as Helston Women and I am further impressed that Keri-Ann is joining us now to help us obtain further success and silverware and be part of that journey.”

“That commitment alongside all our existing players who want exactly the same success and put the work in every week bodes for a very exciting time for women’s football at the club and in West Cornwall in particular.” 

“We are focussed on building on our early development and the thought of being able to add Keri-Ann to a midfield already boasting Dani White, Kim Yould, Georgia Lane, Alice Rae and so on offers superb and unrivalled options for me as the manager.”

“It is our desire at Helston to field both a First Team and Development Team next season and capturing the signature of Keri-Ann Moxom alongside our other most recent addition; Eve-Charlotte Moore from Bideford/Illogan combined with optimising the youth talent coming through at the club shows our intention not only to field two teams but to field two competitive teams capable of challenging for silverware on all levels.” 

“Whilst Keri-Ann represents our ambitions on the pitch, off the pitch with the Development side we are also mentoring two existing squad members who will take Player/Coach roles next season.” 

Speaking about her move back to Helston, Keri-Ann Moxom said:

“It will also be nice to be back playing with some of the girls I really grew up playing football with and I would love for my Mum to watch me again as she used to watch me every weekend, but since playing further away she hasn’t been able to support me. I look forward to helping the team getting to the level they deserve to be at.”

“The decisive factors in joining Helston is the aim to win promotion to the South-West Women’s Football League and being much closer to home. I want keep playing the best football I can for as long as I can! I would love to see promotion once if not twice and definitely some silverware.”

“Of course there are a few friendly faces which I am looking forward to be back working with as it were, but I just love how the club is run in general, it definitely aided in my decision to make the move.”

Keri-Ann also shared the details of her footballing journey up to now: “I started playing for my first team when I was twelve years-old for Falmouth United. I used to play with the boys a lot on our estate, and it was one of my friend’s dads who used to coach Falmouth Boys, he invited me to training and introduced me to their girls’ team. My Mum used to give up a lot of her time to drive me to training sessions, sometimes three times a week when I played at county/regional level. I managed to be selected for England U15s when I just turned 15, and I remember my Mum taking so much time off work and paying for travel so that I could attend camps and sessions all over the country.”

Keri-Ann’s mother hasn’t just had a major role on her career due to her transporting her all over the country for football – her influence comes from her own footballing career.

“She used to play for Arsenal Ladies when she was younger and has always been my number one fan. I owe everything to her really, as well as the many coaches I had between the ages of 14-24.”

Keri-Ann’s arrival at Helston has created great excitement as the club chairman Paul Hendy highlights: “Very occasionally you know one of your managers has secured the signing of a very talented and special player.  Upon hearing Keri was again going to play for Helston was one of those moments.  She returns to a squad which is full of potential with an exciting season on the horizon”.

At Impetus we’ll be following Helston’s progress when their matches re-start in the very near future.

Bure Valley’s Youngest Girls Tell Us Why They Love Playing Football!

We’ve had some fantastic Friday articles from the youngsters at our partner club Bure Valley Youth FC over the past few weeks. This time, two of the club’s youngest players, cousins Autumn and Ella tell us why they love playing at Bure Valley FC (26/3/21).

Hello, I am Autumn. I am 5 years old and am in reception class. I go to football at Bure Valley FC. I am a Mini Kitten. I like going to football to see all my friends like my friend Ellie from school. I have made lots of new friends too. The best thing is I get to see and play with my cousin Ella. My Mummy and my Auntie Rosanna are my coaches and sometimes my sisters Gracie and Poppy help too. I like playing lots of different games. My favourite game is the numbers game. At football I have lots of fun and I love seeing my friends enjoy it too. When I play football, I am like my Mummy as she plays for a team too! My favourite football team is Everton because my Daddy likes them, and I also like Norwich City. 

Above: Two of Bure Valley YFC’s youngest players Autumn and Ella share their love of the game. Photo via: Ted McCarter.

Hi, my name is Ella, I am 5 and in reception class. I like playing football at Bure Valley Mini Kittens as I get to see my cousin Autumn and my Auntie Victoria. I love playing football and practising new skills. The best thing too is my Mummy is my football coach and my Auntie, that’s great as they are really nice and fun. I have lots of new friends there too. I’m left footed but my right foot is nearly as good as my left now. Over lockdown I’ve practised every day in my lounge. My favourite ball mastery skills are toe taps, tic toks and sole roles, I can do toe taps really fast now! I also love practising my step overs and scissors and lately I’ve worked on my turns; I find my step over turn and drag back the easiest but need to practise my Cruyff turn more as I find that one really tricky. My favourite football player is Teemu Pukki who plays for Norwich City FC and my favourite England player is Harry Kane. 

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Bure Valley Youth U12s Big Interview!

In the latest of our articles written especially for Impetus by the players of our partner club, Bure Valley Youth FC, their U12s, the Panthers, interview Emma, the coach of the U11s team, the Bobcats. Emma is also the club treasurer and secretary (19/3/21).

Above: Bure Valley Youth U12s, the Panthers – our star journalists this week! Photo via: Ted McCarter

Q – Layla asked: Who is your favourite footballer? 

A – Emma answered: Obviously its David Beckham, he was a  fantastic footballer and is not bad looking either! 

Q – Phoebe asked: What is your favourite thing about being a football coach? 

A – Smiles on our players’ faces, seeing the girls enjoy themselves, coming together as a group and making new friends along the way. 

Q – Sydney asked: Did you ever play football?? 

A – No, I never played. I played netball at school. When I met Ted (my husband, and Bure Valley YFC’s chairman), I got into it. I’ve now done my FA level 1 coaching qualification, I an co-coach of The Bobcats (U11s) and I’m a Norwich City season ticket holder, things have changed a bit!

Q – Rebecca asked: What is your proudest moment as a coach? 

A – I just love seeing the girls play well, seeing the girls put things that they have learned in training into matches. Oh, and winning the U9 Cup was pretty special.

Q – Lyla asked: Which team would you most like to play for? 

A – Barcelona. I have been lucky enough to go to the Nou Camp and see them play. It was an amazing experience. 

Above: The U12s carrying out their interview with Emma on Zoom, especially for ImpetusPhoto via: Ted McCarter.

Q – Evie asked: Who is your favourite team in the UK apart from Norwich City? 

A – I was born in Enfield, London so Tottenham Hotspur as they are the nearest big team to there. 

Q – Lily asked: If you had to design a new Panthers kit what would it look like? 

A – Hmmm… how about pink with some leopard print stripes? 

Q – Mia asked: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened whilst at Bure Valley YFC? 

A – That’s easy! Whilst a team presentation was in progress, a loose ball found its way to the back of the parents who were watching the trophies being handed out. Whilst retrieving the ball, I tripped over it and landed on my backside. The parents turned around and saw me in a crumpled heap on the floor. It was so embarrassing! 

Q – Daisy asked: What is the best match you’ve ever been to? 

A – Well, seeing my son scoring in an away game was great. Seeing my daughter using her blistering pace fly down the wing was brilliant and seeing Ted play in goal in a friendly match was great too. I loved all of those! 

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Tyler Dodds: From The North-East Of England To The South of Italy

Tyler Dodds swapped life at Middlesbrough in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier to take up a professional contract at Serie B Italian side Pomigliano in the midst of a global pandemic. Ben Gilby spoke to Tyler to find out how it all came about and what life is like near Naples (18/3/21).

“I love football and have been playing since the age of four years old.”

Above: Tyler Dodds (maroon shirt) in action for Pomigliano this season. Photo: Luca Bottaro.

Speaking to Tyler Dodds it is so obvious just how important the game is to her. “I only really went to college and university just to keep playing at a high level and ended up with a BSc & MSc as well as representing England and Great Britain,” she says.

Yet, it’s not just about football with Tyler –  “I also love to sing, which makes sense coming from a family of singers” – more about that later!

“I started playing football when I was four years old and played for boys team until I was ten where I had to join a girls team. Shortly after I got selected for Sunderland where I’ve spent most of my career. In that time I’ve played for Gateshead College then Northumbria University winning many league and cup titles. During this time I was selected for England (u19’s-u21’s) and the World University Games in Taipei 2017 representing Great Britain. I had a season at Durham Women FC before returning to Sunderland AFC Ladies and then went to Middlesbrough Woman FC where I spent three years. I’m currently out in Italy playing professional football for Pomigliano in Serie B, this opportunity only happened due to Covid.”

Above: Tyler in action for Middlesbrough last season. Photo: Matthew Appleby.

Tyler played level three football for three years at Middlesbrough where she was very much at home. “I’ve loved my time at Middlesbrough, the staff and the girls are all amazing. I’m the type of player that needs to feel appreciated in order to play well and Boro were constantly being positive and helping me to improve. It’s a club that will definitely go places in the future as they have a great backbone of staff wanting to better the club. In my time at Boro, I was actually the top goal scorer for two years in a row and I was hoping to make it a third this season before the move to Pomigliano.”

So how did a player in tier three receive the offer of a pro contract with a Serie B club in Italy?

“I had an offer to play abroad just appeared to me and within a week I was gone. If it wasn’t for Covid ruining my normal job all year having no income, and the constant lockdowns postponing matches, then I would have stayed for sure. But due to Covid, my 2020 was not normal in the slightest and playing football abroad and getting paid for it seemed like the most sensible but scary decision, plus I’d always wanted to be just a footballer, a childhood dream. It was a really tough decision to leave Middlesbrough though as the staff and girls are honestly so great!”

Tyler then explained just what life is like in Southern Italy with Pomigliano both on and off the pitch.

“It was certainly a shock leaving all of your home comforts behind, and coming to a team where just three people speak English. Thankfully the girls I live with are lovely and have helped with my Italian, I can now count to twenty. So far I have really enjoyed the experience, getting to play football six days of the week is great!”

Above: Tyler pictured when unveiled as a Pomigliano player. Photo: Luca Bottaro.

“The matches have been challenging but I feel confident enough that we can continue getting points and still aim for promotion to Serie A.”

I asked Tyler just how hard going to play in another country in the middle of the pandemic with associated travel restrictions in place between Italy and the UK. “If it wasn’t for Covid I would have never plucked up the courage to go and play football abroad. But I’m very big on Christmas and I was meant to go back home after ten days in Italy, however due Boris announcing more variants a couple of days before I was due to fly home, all of the flights were cancelled and I haven’t been home since. My family and friends do say that I’m better over here playing football rather than risking catching Covid back home with the numbers being so high.”

In terms of Tyler’s own footballing heroes, there’s only one: “I look up to Kelly Smith so much, she was my idol as a kid growing up playing football and I wanted to be just like her. She scored goals for fun, had memorable celebrations and was needed on the pitch.”

We closed by discussing Tyler’s career goals: “My forever goal would be to make it into the England women’s senior team. It’s every girls dream to play at the highest level possible and it might sound silly but I’m not going to stop dreaming.”

Yet it is not just football that plays a big part in Tyler’s life – singing does too. “So if the world was normal, I would be a professional singer alongside a footballer. Unfortunately both require the weekend so it’s difficult trying to balance the two, but I love football and singing so much. Normally meaning I have a very busy life with an even busier weekend, full of travelling to both gigs and matches with not much sleep but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having two passions is a blessing, as without Covid ruining my singing career for the time being, I have been able to pursue football.”

Tyler Dodds is one young woman well worth following – there’s every reason to believe that not only will she make a real name for herself as a professional footballer, but also become a singing star too.

No Points: New Book on Women’s Football

Ben Gilby spoke to Beth Pritchard whose new book No Pointsabout the premature end of the women’s football season due to Coronavirus last year, comes out today. In the interview, Beth tells us about how the idea of the book developed and some of the contents that we can all look forward to reading (15/3/21).

Above: Author Beth Pritchard with her book No Points, which comes out today. Photo via: Beth Pritchard.

Beth has been involved in the women’s game for a while, as she explains: “I work for Lincoln City Women. When I joined the team, they had no media presence to the point I didn’t know there was a women’s team on my doorstep – at the time, they were Nettleham Ladies and played just a couple of villages over from my house. I decided I’d spend a season working with the team just to get my foot in the door in the journalism and media industry but at this point in time, I wanted to be the next Louis Theroux and sports journalism wasn’t a long term goal. However, I fell in love with it and can’t imagine working in any other field and feeling the same passion.”

In terms of how the book came together, the first seed was planted by the bizarre prospect of seeing all 2019/20 league tables not telling the full story of eight months of action: “When it was announced last season that the past eight months were being made null and void, it didn’t sit right with me that the league tables on fulltime.com we’re all filled with zeros. The season may not have counted but the teams had still racked up the points so why should that have been wiped?”

“I was fortunate enough for Chris Slegg to ask me if I wanted to help with the latest edition of the Women’s Football Yearbook at a similar time and obviously jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the great work Chris and Tom Garry do to keep a record of something that is recorded time and time again in the men’s game. Unfortunately and understandably, the 2020-21 edition didn’t record the FAWNL as previous years’ had so I saw a ‘gap in the market’ so to speak and wanted to fill it. I don’t want people to look back years down the line – perhaps doing their dissertation on women’s football as I was doing at the time of the idea – and not be able to find this valuable information.”

I asked Beth to give us a brief outline of the book in a bid to see what potential readers of this important publication can expect:  

Above: Beth’s new book is available on Kindle as well as a hardcopy. Photo via: Beth Pritchard.

“I collected information that is still in the public domain and collated the information I’d asked the FA Women’s National League in order to give a factual overview of the season. However, not only can readers expect to learn facts, I wanted to make the book personal and emotional. Therefore, I contacted clubs, managers, players and fans to ask about the season. I wanted to hear how they felt about the null and void decision as well as their teams’ performances along the way.”

The book took almost a year to produce from start to finish, as Beth reveals: “I actually started writing in the first UK lockdown but ever the procrastinator, I didn’t finish it until Lockdown 3.0. This was partly due to slow responses from the participants but also partly because I was fitting writing this around my paid work. When it started to look like completing the 2020-21 season was uncertain, I had renewed motivation to get this book finished. I relied heavily on social media to find what clubs had said about games etc and have to give @talkingWOSO a particular shout out for tweeting statistics as the season went along. So, all in all the writing process was very difficult.”

One of the issues in compiling the book was the different experience in trying to get information together from the top two divisions and FA Women’s National League sides: “Researching FAWSL and Championship teams was so much easier than finding the same information for FAWNL sides. Mostly it was because club website and local news sites had match reports and interviews weekly, something still lacking in the lower leagues. It was also clear that teams with higher ranked men’s sides had better infrastructure to record their women’s teams’ progress. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Derby County were great examples of this.”

Above: Beth proudly holding her new book. Photo via: Beth Pritchard.

Women’s football is full of incredible characters and it is what makes the game such a wonderful thing to write about. I wondered who were the people who really stuck with Beth during the process of writing the book?

“I spoke to Steve Maddock about Barnsley being outspoken when it came to the null and void decision. It was very interesting to hear him speak so passionately about wanting a resolution – of course, that was because his team were almost guaranteed promotion and their ‘solution’ was something that positively impacted them and not the rest of the sides.”

In terms of the message that the book wants to give, for Beth it is that “I wanted to focus on the issues in reporting as opposed to the issues with the league decision and make clear I’m not criticising the season being voided, especially after Carol West, chairperson of the FAWNL, agreed to answer some of my questions.”

“I think there’s a long way to go to achieving a level playing field in women’s football. It’s so much easier for teams with more money to promote themselves, as volunteers in the FAWNL and below can’t be expected to invest time and money into hiring people to publish match reports or keep their websites up to date. It won’t be until more money is pumped into the lower levels of the pyramid that we’ll achieve equality here and really hope that happens soon.”

In terms of where people can buy Beth’s book, at the present time it is only available on Amazon, as Beth says: “I really like the idea of supporting small, local bookstores but due to the niche nature of the book, I couldn’t afford to take that financial risk. I hope that any future books I write will be more widely available but for now, it’s only on Amazon.”

To buy Beth Pritchard’s No Points, or find out more, click on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Points-Beth-Pritchard-ebook/dp/B08Y5XSVYR/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=no+points+beth+pritchard&qid=1615829753&s=books&sr=1-1

Bittersweet Cup Victory for Rampant Chelsea

Bristol City 0–6 Chelsea (14/3/21).

By Ben Gilby

Above: Chelsea lift the Contiental Cup at Vicarage Road. Photo: @ChelseaFCW

Chelsea produced an absolutely rampant performance to retain the Continental Tyres League Cup Final at Vicarage Road but the success was tempered by an appalling injury to Maren Mjelde.

The first final not to feature either Arsenal or Manchester City was effectively over before the half-hour mark as a dreadfully outclassed Bristol City were undone by a super show from Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby.

All the talk pre-game was the dreadful condensed schedule that Chelsea had coming into the Final, which included a trip to Monza in midweek to take on Atletico Madrid. However, any fears that this was a realistic concern was put to bed with just over a minute gone.

Above: Sam Kerr scores her first of the afternoon. Photo: @BBCSport

Sophie Ingle took possession inside her own half to find Canadian international Jessie Fleming. In turn she played in Guro Reiten. A perfect pass towards the right found Fran Kirby who got in behind the Vixens defence and squared a perfect low ball across the box to Sam Kerr who was not going to miss at the back post. Just ninety-four seconds had been played.

Chelsea continued to swamp their opponents and with seven minutes gone, Melanie Leupolz’s corner to the back post saw Magda Eriksson rise above Yana Daniels at the back post and head narrowly wide.

The Blues were playing some incredible pass and move football in the early exchanges which their Westcountry opponents found  nigh on impossible to prevent, forcing them continuously on to the back foot.

Above: Sam Kerr’s trademark celebration seen at last in England after her second goal at Vicarage Road. Photo: @BBCSport

With ten minutes gone, Chelsea underlined their dominance with a second. A poor ball out of defence was gobbled upon by the rampant Londoners. Kirby grabbed possession centrally just outside the box and played a perfect ball towards the left for Kerr. The Matilda beat her defender with ease and slotted home before the producing her first trademark backflip in English football.

Just before the twenty minute mark, Chelsea had strong claims for a penalty waved away when Gemma Evans brought Kerr down in the box.

It was relentless from Chelsea with the Vixens simply unable to escape their own half. The Blues had another strong penalty shout Yana Daniels looked to have handled as a ball came into the box. The Londoners were only awarded a corner.

With twenty-four minutes gone, Bristol City lost possession once more with Kirby benefiting again. She ran through the middle and played a ball out to Kerr on the right. The Western Australian returned the favour to the Lioness who continued her run to the edge of the box which saw an effort go narrowly wide of the left hand post.

Above: Fran Kirby salutes her first goal. Photo: @BBCSport

Chelsea put the icing on the cake before the half-hour mark and it came from a catastrophic error from Bristol City goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley. She found herself on the edge of the ‘D’ with Kerr breathing down her neck as she attempted to make a clearance. The City custodian’s attempted ball out was woefully weak and directed straight at Kirby who simply looped the ball back over Baggaley’s head into the net.

Four minutes later, Kirby grabbed her second. Kerr took possession in the centre circle. Gemma Evans failed to get an effective tackle in which allowed the Fremantle born star to feed Kirby who ran onto the pass, drew Baggaley who tried to block the effort, but the shot deflected off of the keeper and rolled in.

With three minutes of the half remaining, Kirby was denied her hat-trick. Jemma Purfield simply could not stop her 1-2 with Kerr which led to the former Reading star getting a shot away which Baggaley blocked with her legs.

Above: Fran Kirby marks her second with Sophie Ingle. Photo: @BBCSport

Just before the break, Bristol City had their first shot on goal as Ebony Salmon got away down the right and played a cross over which was headed back to the other Fremantle born player on the pitch, the Vixens’ Ella Mastrantonio whose effort was over the bar.

Shortly afterwards the half-time whistle sounded and the only matter remaining to be settled in this Final now was how many goals Chelsea would add in the second period.

Bristol City started the second half by winning their first corner of the game, but Chelsea dealt with it well. Ann-Katrin Berger’s subsequent clearance found Fran Kirby who scampered away along the right before finding Guro Reiten centrally. A perfectly weighted ball across Vixens defender Keira Skeels gave Sam Kerr a golden opportunity to claim her hat-trick and she rolled her shot past Baggaley with ease.

Less than six minutes later, Chelsea added yet another goal as substitute Drew Spence to took possession and played a lovely through ball which eventually found its way to Kerr on the left who fed Kirby once again. The England star could have smashed home her hat-trick, but she played the ball across to Norwegian star Guro Reiten to fire home for a stunning team goal.

Above: Bristol City are literally down and out as Guro Reiten celebrates her goal. Photo: @BBCSport

It was now reaching humiliation for Bristol City, and a minute later Kerr was clean through once more, but Baggaley was quickly off of her line to block the shot well.

Just before the hour, Ebony Salmon showed her immense skill. Running down the left, she drew Millie Bright and beat her before firing a vicious effort which Berger did well to deflect over. From the resulting corner, Salmon found Skeels who forced another save from Berger.

A combination of Chelsea’s big lead and them having made a raft of substitutions changed the flow of the game. City were now seen more coming forward with Faye Bryson delivering a great cross from the right which was met firmly by the head of Aimee Palmer with Berger needing to push the effort over.

Seconds later, Charlie Wellings released Salmon who ran on to the right hand side of the box and got a fierce drive away which Berger tipped over for another City corner.

Above: Ella Mastrantonio heads clear for Bristol City. Photo: @bristolcitywfc

With fifteen minutes left, Maren Mjelde received what appeared to be a serious knee injury after a challenge from Palmer, and the Norwegian had to be stretchered from the pitch which will be a major loss for Chelsea for the big games ahead.

When play resumed, City created another opportunity. Harrison was played through but just as she was about to get a shot in on goal, Hannah Blundell put in a challenge to clear the danger at the cost of a corner.

The West Londoners responded with Niamh Charles showing great strength to get free down the left and play a ball in to Drew Spence who met it on the volley but the effort went wide.

That was the last chance as the game drifted towards its conclusion. Chelsea’s incredible performance and achievement is sadly blighted by the appalling injury to such a key player in Maren Mjelde. For Bristol City, they need to put this result behind them quickly to pick up another couple of results which will ensure their FA Women’s Super League status is preserved for another season.

Teams: BRISTOL CITY: Baggaley, Bryson, Skeels, Evans, Purfield, Humphrey, Bissell, Mastrantonio, Wellings, Daniel, Salmon. Substitutes: Smith (GK), Rafferty, Allen, Palmer, Collis, Harrison, Layzell, Jones.

CHELSEA: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Leupolz, Ingle, Kirby, Fleming, Reiten, Kerr. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Telford (GK), Blundell, Carter, Ji, Charles, Cuthbert, Harder, Spence.

Scorers: Kerr 2, 10, 48. Kirby 29, 34. Reiten 54.

My Footballing Experience

In another article written by the players of Bure Valley Youth, one of our partner clubs, Maisie from their Under 14s team shares her experience playing football with us and why she loves Bure Valley Youth FC so much (12/3/21).

When I was younger I used to compete in individual sports, therefore I had little experience of any team sports like football. When I started at Bure Valley I knew most of the girls there from school, and I knew them well however, I didn’t know their style of play or their skills. As I trained and played more, I understood how they worked together and I started to experience how teams sports work.

I am always excited to play with the team and eager to score. I love the adrenaline rush when the ball gets played at my feet in a forward position and when our team scores or when we win a game. I also love every training session, they are all different and fun. We usually play a match at the end of the session, this helps me improve my skills so I am ready for the game at the weekend. Everyone is so supportive at the club, the players but most importantly the coaches. They work harder than all of us, they prepare the sessions, they make them fun, and not only do they teach us to be better footballers but also to be better sportspeople.

I am a season ticket holder for Norwich City, I go to Carrow Road with my dad and brother, it is absolutely brilliant. I love learning new tricks and experiencing thousands of people enjoying the same moment together. Watching football got me into football, it’s always been something I enjoy and I wanted to try it. Many of my friends at school attend a football club and they all said the club would be happy for me to join. I am so pleased I have started football , and recently my dad has started to coach, and it really feels like a family.

I have loved my time at Bure Valley and can’t wait to start it up again when allowed. It’s a big part of my life now and I can’t wait to start another chapter.

Artwork by: Graphics by PW

Beecholme Belles: Doing Great Work In Banstead

Impetus are proud to be joint-sponsors of Sutton United Women’s Olivia Watson. One of Olivia’s early football experiences came at local girls side Beecholme Belles. Ben Gilby spoke to the club about their set up, challenges and how they remember Olivia (11/3/21).

Can you tell us about the journey that girls’ football has taken at Beecholme? Gary Tuhill and Ray Watson, who were frustrated at the lack of opportunities for girls to play competitive football, established Beecholme Belles in 2000.  The team was made up of sisters and friends of a Beecholme Colts boys team.

In 2001 there were enough other clubs to join the Belles in the Surrey County Women’s & Girls League.  The Under 11s at that time went on to win the League, League Cup and County Cup treble! The Under 10 team – which included a number of Under 8s and Under 9s – went on to be the runners up.

Since then our teams have had mixed results but Beecholme remains at our original Council owned ground in Banstead and is still a club run by parent volunteers dedicated to giving girls the opportunities in football that boys readily enjoy. 

Above: Olivia Watson, now of Sutton United and co-sponsored by Impetus in action for Beecholme Belles. Photo via: Beecholme Belles

Towards the end of last year, we annonuced the joint sponsorship of Olivia Watson at Sutton United. Olivia started her footballing journey with you at Beecholme Belles. How is she remembered at the club? Libby’s potential was spotted by Jim Hobern who was one of our manager / coaches at the time.  Jim was coaching at a local primary school tournament and remembers speaking to her mum and being surprised to hear Libby wasn’t already a member of a club. Jim said: “After the footie tournament I asked Libby who she played for, as I didn’t recognise her from other sides in the league, she said she had never played before and was easily girl of the tournament. I left Beecholme’s details and didn’t hear anything until we played a netball tournament at Shawley and she again was girl of the tournament. But fortunately her mother, Vanessa was there, and I managed to convince her that Libby should come and see if she likes football at Beecholme and the rest is history.“ Libby joined Jim’s team in 2008 and finished as an Under 18 in 2015/16 when her team won the Surrey League Challenge Cup and were Surrey County League Champions under the management of Jim Hobern and Jim Carter.

At that time the Club didn’t have a women’s team so Jim negotiated with Kingstonian LFC and a lot of the team transferred. A strong bond was formed both on and off the pitch and the girls still keep in touch.  Beecholme tries to continue that ethos of not only allowing the girls to develop their football skills but also their social skills and confidence.  We recognise some girls will continue to play football but that all of them can go on to become confident and happy women in whatever they do.

What sort of proportion of girls have gone on from Beecholme Belles to play senior women’s football? We don’t have the capacity to keep track, but we do know that Libby is one of 6 former Belles playing at Sutton United:- Sophia Demetriou (U21s Captain), Erin McNicholas, Fern Colepio, Georgina Wicks & Ellie Denton.  Other players have moved on to Mole Valley, Tooting Bec WFC, Roffey FCW and Walton Casuals LFC as well as playing at university or on scholarships in the United States. Some younger players have moved on to Chelsea or Brighton & Hove Albion.  It works both ways though because we also accept players who have played at Chelsea or Brighton & Hove Albion!

Above: Olivia Watson on the charge in her days with Beecholme Belles. Photo via: Beecholme Belles.

We started our first women’s team in 2019 so there is now the opportunity for girls over 16 / women to play in the County Flexi League.  This is an area that has seen rapid growth over the last few years with fantastic support from Surrey County FA.

How have things been since outbreak of coronavirus? How has it impacted on the club? The biggest impact is the cessation of football training and play.  When we were presented with the guidelines from the FA and Government last summer we developed a Covid Plan, appointed a Club Covid Officer and parent volunteers from every team stepped up to act as Covid Marshals.  That very quickly helped us to take the necessary precautions and allow (initially small) group training to restart. Approximately 95% of players returned to weekly training which we managed to arrange throughout the summer with the help of our volunteer managers / coaches.  We saw it as a way of supporting the players’ mental and physical wellbeing.  We were very lucky to get financial support from Surrey County FA & and the Football Foundation to cover increased costs e.g. PPE first aid, hand sanitisers.

The Club has exceptional relationships with its coaching partner LionHeart Football and Blenheim High School who provide us with winter training facilities.  The Committee and groundsman continues to work hard throughout lockdown to support our members to ensure we’re ready as soon as restrictions are lifted. 

Above: Olivia Watson striding away for Beecholme Belles. Photo via: Beecholme Belles.

Other than the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, what are the biggest challenges facing the club on and off the pitch at the present time? The biggest challenge is the costs of running a grassroots club.  We don’t own our own ground so lease a public recreation ground from the Council, which we then pay to maintain.  We have to provide our own equipment; the biggest is of course goal posts and nets.  We have no storage so have experienced net damage from the local wildlife and just before Christmas someone actually stole our new 11v11 nets on a Saturday afternoon!! 

How many different girls teams do you have at Beecholme Girls? How have they got on in their league and cup matches in recent years? For the 20/21 season we have 10 teams ranging from U9s through to open age women’s team. We also run two Wildcats Centres in association with Surrey County FA and our coaching partner LionHeart Football.  It’s been a mixed couple of years but almost all teams have gained promotion and our senior youth teams (U16s and U18s) both sit in the County’s Premier Divisions.  It’s now another difficult season and it’s possible we won’t get to finish, but as things stand it looks like our U12s, U13s and one of our U14s are likely for promotion next season.

What are Beecholme Girls’ aims for the season once lockdown is over and games can recommence? To train and play as much as possible! We didn’t get to have a celebration or pre-season tournament last season so once restrictions allow we’re planning a BIG celebration for all the players and their families!

How has the club kept touch with players, coaches and parents during the difficult coronavirus period? Managers have kept in touch with Whatsapp groups doing loo roll challenges etc. and LionHeart has held a series of online fun football sessions replacing our usual Friday evening training. 

Are there any particular unsung heroes at the club who you wish to highlight for their great work? The three busiest members of the Committee (Michele, Lorraine & Karen) no longer have daughters at the Club but still put in many hours a week ‘behind the scenes’.  Without them plus of course all our volunteer managers and other Club officials (e.g. Angela & Lisa our Fixtures & Referees Secretaries) we just couldn’t operate!

What are Beecholme Belles’ aims for the next five years? To get back to playing football and provide opportunities for as many girls / women as we can.  We’re somewhat restrained with a very small home ground but perhaps we’ll develop relationships to access more local pitches which will allow us to grow the number of teams.

Artwork by: Angelo Tirotto.

Marking #IWD2021 With Wroxham Women

To launch a whole week of special features on Impetus to mark International Women’s DayBen Gilby spoke to Kate Pasque, Cyan Fullbrook and Rhianne Brister from our partner club, Wroxham Women about what International Women’s Day means to them, their impressions on the treatment of women in the sport and the importance of role models because “you can’t be what you can’t see.” (8/3/21).

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

KATE PASQUE: International Women’s Day is a really powerful day where experiences and stories are shared and everybody comes together to drive forward the need for equality. For me, it’s an important day to reflect on how proud I am to be a woman and also acknowledge how grateful I am to all of the incredible women that have had a big impact on my life.

CYAN FULLBROOK: International Women’s Day is an opportunity to honour the women who have been at the forefront of fighting against gender inequality. It is also a day to reflect on the work that still remains. IWD is a day to continue to highlight discrimination and inequalities in education, economics, sport, and legal rights in society. It has become more important to me as I have got older to learn how I can make changes myself, even small ones like my use of language, calling out questionable behaviour and listening to and supporting other women.

RHIANNE BRISTER: International Women’s Day is a celebration of the progress that has been made in equality for women in history up until now, and an opportunity to highlight ways that we can improve this equality further. It is a great opportunity to put a spotlight on inspirational movements, people and ideas hopefully inspiring young women and girls in the process.

We have heard many cases of derogatory comments being made to prominent female footballing presenters and pundits in recent months. What difficulties have you experienced in pursuing your own footballing careers?

KP: I think I am fortunate that I cannot recall any significant difficulties I’ve had throughout my football career personal directed at me. I think maybe that is to do with being on the pitch so there is the respect between the players on the pitch. I have been involved in games even within the past 2/3 season’s where the opposition’s bench or supporters have used language directed towards our manager or players on the bench to try belittle them purely because they’re a woman. The exact same kind of derogatory comments which have been used towards pundits, which seems to be on a weekly basis at the moment.

CF: I think football in general has a cultural problem with forms of abuse compared to most other sports (where women compete too). We’re still seeing racism, homophobia and sexism in 2021 which is particularly rampant online. It has a trickle-down effect on society which affects both men and women. Calling out and reporting this behaviour is the least we can do. I just hope younger generations are more open minded and educated and one day we really do see it being kicked out.

When I started playing football outside of school (95/96) there were next to no local girls teams so initially I was in a mixed team. Then North Walsham Girls was started up by another players’ mum where we had to borrow the boys’ kit to play in. Finding kit that fits women is still an issue today!

At Primary School the boys would make me play in goal because they all wanted to be the Shearers, Wrights, Giggs etc. Turns out I actually got quite good at it!

In High School I was teased a lot by boys for my sporting ability and innuendos about my sexual orientation as I never presented overtly ‘girly’. I was the only girl who chose football when doing GCSE P.E (at the time I was playing for Norfolk Schools and Norwich City). Once they saw how good I was (getting the same marks as the ‘top’ boy) I was being asked to come play for their teams! I still get nervous when telling men that I play football because this teasing has stuck with me and I worry about their potential comments being hurtful – even though it’s never happened since school!

RB: I would not necessarily say I have got any clear memories of specific situations where I have been on the receiving end of derogatory comments or actions regarding my football, however it has always been the norm to accept that women’s football is not “worth” the same as men’s football (or that of girls and boys too). While growing up, there definitely were more opportunities for boys to progress to a high level of football than girls (in my personal experience) but of course there were far more boys playing football and so more avenues to a high level does correlate. The Wildcats programme is something I am fond of as it gives girls the opportunity to try football out with no pressure or competitive aspect so girls can decide if football could be for them, I had the opportunity to go along to a session last year and this is something I would love to do again.

Above: Kate Pasque of Wroxham Women. Photo: Edward Payne.

There is no doubt that women’s sport is more in the public eye than ever before – but there is still an awful long way to go in terms of equality (the recent furore over girls’ academies not being able to continue during lockdown when boys ones were being a case in point). What do you believe are the priorities in this area to develop further?

KP: It’s obvious there is still a long way to go, football has been seen as a ‘male’ sport for too long. However, I do think it has also come a long way in the last 10 years, which gives me a lot of hope for the next 10 years!

CF: I genuinely cannot understand why, at Academy level, girl’s football has had to stop. Obviously there needs to be more women involved at the decision making stage in the FA. If it’s a case of Government classification of what is ‘elite’ why aren’t we/the FA demanding change?

RB: The key thing for me is to get the public interested in women’s sport to the extent that they will pay to watch in similar numbers to the men’s game. The likelihood of this happening soon is probably small, but we are going in the right direction. The focus on increasing interest, commitment, and therefore ability at a young age is crucial to the progress of women’s football becoming of greater public interest. Reclassification of football as a unisex sport instead of a “boys” sport will enable more girls to feel comfortable enjoying, playing, and watching it.

In terms of equality – what do you believe specifically needs to happen at Wroxham’s own level of the sport, in terms of funding, opportunities, representative football etc?

KP: I think we’re in a really good position at Wroxham. Our chairman Lee and head coach Bex have plans for the club to grow more and more, and are giving us the best opportunities to do this as a team. It’s exciting to think where this club could be in 5 years’ time.

CF: I think if women’s teams are affiliated with the men’s they should get the same opportunities and level of support top down. I have been part of other teams where, although we wore the badge, had next to none of the club support the men’s and boys’ teams have. This includes quality of coaching, facilities, equipment, sponsors/funding and access to medical support.

RB: I feel so lucky to be part of a club that considers the women’s team an integral part, I know not all clubs in our league or at our level nationwide have the same support. Unfortunately, money talks and if there was a greater incentive for men’s teams to afford a greater importance to their female teams the situation would likely improve. It’s also great that we have a club connection with Bure Valley FC and had the opportunity to meet some of the girls last season, looking forward to see lots of them playing for Wroxham Women in the future.

Above: Wroxham Women goalkeeper Cyan Fullbrook. Photo: Rebecca Burton.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. Who for you are the greatest female role models in terms of those who have in the past, or are presently challenging the status quo?

KP: I would have to say Alex Scott. I got into football a similar kind of time that she was at Arsenal and the career she had there and for England was incredible. Now I turn on the football and see her face on TV every weekend, which I think is so inspirational to young girls playing football right now. Last year I saw she said ‘I want boys and girls to know its normal for women to talk about football’, and I think she’ll be a driving force for that in years to come.

CF: For me, despite not being a fan of Tennis, I’m a fan of Serena Williams. How she’s risen to become one of the greatest athletes ever, pushing through discrimination of gender, race and body shaming has been really empowering as a woman. Winning a Grand Slam while pregnant? Wow. An incredible role model.

I’m also really proud to have Bex Burton as our manager and coach – one of the only women in our league. I’ve been coached by her since joining Acle United and followed on to Wroxham and I have witnessed and heard many derogatory comments towards her over the years from opposition male dominated benches and supporters and I’m always impressed how she handles herself. Not that she should need to! These types of comments hurt not only her, but us women as a whole. I hope she has inspired some women and girls to think about taking up coaching roles and management.

I’m reminded of the Nike advert a few years back ‘Dream crazier’ featuring Serena Williams “When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.”

“So if they want to call you crazy? Fine, Show them what crazy can do.”

RB: The female scientists of the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Rosalind Franklin, Dorothy Hodgekin and Marie Curie. These women succeeded against the odds in a field that was so prohibitively dominated by men of the noble classes. If we can encourage girls and young women to look up to women who have overcome the challenge of their gender to such a degree, then they will no doubt have better aspirations in all aspects of their lives. I hope that one day overcoming gender bias is not a challenge to succeed in but unfortunately in some areas this is still the case.

In terms of encouraging further change and open minded attitudes, high profile female personalities (in sport) are hugely important. As a child, who did you look up to?

KP: I would have to say Kelly Holmes. I loved watching athletics when I was younger and remember watching the Athens Olympics and thinking she was so driven and determined to reach her goal. When she then opened up about her mental health, this was a time people didn’t raise enough awareness for this and I think she’ll have helped a lot of young athlete’s by doing so, and is still continuing to now.

CF: I grew up pre-internet, social media and with only four TV channels, so the only occasions I’d see women in sport were either Wimbledon or the Olympics – neither of which I was really interested in. I was more of a pop culture consumer and the women I looked up to at the time were characters like She-Ra and comedians who wrote, produced and starred in their own work like French & Saunders and Victoria Wood. Also in film seeing women in normally male dominated roles – Like Judi Dench’s M, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and Jodie Foster’s Clarice. These all had a big impact on me at the time and I felt I could achieve high and be respected as a woman.

As a junior Gunner one of my idols was David Seaman and it never occurred to me that my gender would stop me being as successful and good as he was. Both my parents encouraged me to try all the things I wanted and was never discouraged because I was a girl, so I really thought I could achieve anything with the right support which I still believe today.

RB: I don’t recall having any particular female sportswomen to look up to, but I do remember feeling inspired by the England Women’s football team and Team GB Olympians. Any female sportsperson who had the exposure on television was of interest to me and at one point I did think that I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer one day, turns out I did not fancy the early wake up calls ha-ha!

Above: Rhianne Brister at Wroxham Women’s Trafford Park ground. Photo: Rebecca Burton.

As a footballer at the present time with Wroxham are you aware of the fact that young girls are watching you as a potential role model and hero? What importance do you attach to that?

KP: I think it’s extremely important. Women’s football has grown so much since I first started playing, and I didn’t really have a local women’s team to watch and players to look up to. We all really value our partnership with Bure Valley and want to go along to their training sessions and have them at our games as soon as possible!

CF: I consider this as hugely important especially with our partnership with Bure Valley Youth FC as a pathway to women’s football. I always try and make sure my behaviour on the pitch is as professional as I can be, and where I can, offer support to younger players which I hope can go on to achieve greater things than I have.

I’m really proud we can engage with the younger community and offer our time when needed. I’m not sure I’d be considered anyone’s hero, but if I can inspire and encourage any young girls to take on the goalkeeper role then I’d be really honoured.

RB: I am aware that we can be seen as role models, I am looking to be more conscious of this when football resumes as many of the girls will agree, I can have quite the foul mouth. While becoming a teacher I have become more aware of the impact you can have on a young person and how important it is to aim for that to be positive in all situations. Of course, the heat of the game and the passion I have for this team, my teammates and our club can boil over on occasion, and I am sure some unsavoury language might crop up time and again, but “every day is a school day” and we are constantly working on ourselves as the finished article will never be obtained. 

Wroxham Women play in the Eastern Region Women’s Football League Premier Division (tier five) and it was a pleasure to speak to defender Kate Pasque, goalkeeper Cyan Fullbrook and striker Rhianne Brister.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Wroxham Women Podcast

Impetus are very proud of our partnership with Wroxham Women which includes the player sponsorship of defender Harriet Meers (6/3/21).

This week, our founder Ben Gilby joined Harriet and club media officer Darrell Allen in a podcast episode with Stu Barker of Since ’71 – it’s well worth a listen and provides more background on the club and Harriet’s own experiences:

https://since-71.com/since-71-podcast-s03e03-wroxhams-harriet-meers-and-darrell-allen/

Artwork: Graphics by PW

My Footballing Journey So Far…

As part of our partnership with Bure Valley Youth FC, their youngsters are going to be writing regularly for Impetus. Here, Isla from their U9s tells us about her footballing journey so far…(5/3/21).

Above: Isla proudly wearing her Bure Valley Youth FC kit, complete with captain’s armband. Photo via: Bure Valley Youth FC.

I first started my journey in football by kicking a ball around with my Dad at the age of two. My love for the sport started here, running around in my Manchester United kit. Then, the next step was Soccer Stars at three years old. Here, I learnt basic football skills like not picking up the ball and running away with it. 

Next, I moved onto Wildcats at age five, where I learnt more about shooting, passing and teamwork. With the Wildcats, I got the opportunity to watch the Under 23’s play at Norwich City’s Carrow Road stadium. I even got to walk out with the team holding the flag, and one of those players was Todd Cantwell.

I was looking for a proper team, that’s when I found Bure Valley FC. This is the team I’m at today. When I first started, I was so shy and had little confidence, but with the encouragement from the coaches and kind teammates, my confidence has grown loads. Amazingly, I was made team Captain for the Under 9’s Kittens, which has been my proudest moment in football so far.

While playing for Bure Valley FC, I also train with Norwich PC on a Tuesday. These sessions have helped me improve my; footwork, accuracy, endurance and confidence.

My hopes and dreams

I hope to play in every age group at Bure Valley FC, and then play for Manchester United and England, just like my heroes Marcus Rashford and Lauren James.

International Surrey Women’s Football: Offering Opportunities & Breaking Down Barriers

At the weekend, it was announced that Impetus were sponsoring the coaches polo shirts for the International Surrey Women’s Football (ISWF) team. But what is the ISWF? Ben Gilby chats to Danny Clarke, president of International Surrey Football (ISF) about their women’s representative team which they aim to launch later this year to play against other counties and potentially non FIFA teams. We also discuss what their selection process involves and their aims over the medium term future (1/3/21).

The International Surrey Football women’s team is a newly established entity which was launched in order to try and bring more county representative football to Surrey.

Clarke outlined more about the ISF: “The International Surrey Football women’s team is the second team launched by International Surrey Football (ISF), organisers of the only county representative football team for Surrey. I founded the team as a means of promoting Surrey’s local footballers to a new platform and providing them a means of facing new opportunities away from just club football.”

“Historically men and women’s county football was fairly commonplace in the early 20th century, and the Surrey FA organised many teams to play against other county FAs, but as time went on there had been gradually fewer and fewer teams, under the FAs umbrella, less than a dozen of the FA’s fifty-one county FAs organise county women’s teams, a similar number organise Under 18 and Under 16 county teams, and only a handful organise senior men’s teams, with only the three military FAs, Army, Air Force, Navy as well as the Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man organising teams for every category. This has left a large number of counties without representative football opportunities for players once they leave school (where under 18s and below is organised by the English Schools FA). Especially in Surrey’s case, Kent, Essex, Sussex, Middlesex, and the neighbouring Army FA all organise women’s representative teams, meaning we’re virtually surrounded by potential opposition we’re not yet tapping into.”

“International Surrey Football was created as a means to bridge that gap, with an aim of providing these inter-county football opportunities for players. We don’t get involved in club football activities, and we don’t have any plans to organise our own club competitions or offer a club affiliation that might conflict with the work of the Surrey County FA, it’s not in our interest to work against the Surrey County FA, but instead aim to work with them with the hope of being able to eventually reach an agreement with the Surrey County FA to enter teams into the Southern Counties Competition, for senior county women’s teams and the FA County Youth Cup, for county youth teams. However, we also have other ambitions to compete in non-FIFA (international football outside FIFA’s umbrella) competitions in order to provide even greater competitive opportunities for our senior men and women’s teams.”

In terms of which levels of the women’s football pyramid system the ISF would be looking at in terms of potential players, Danny Clarke is keeping their options open: “We don’t restrict players based on level from signing up to be selected, although the manager will get a final say to decide which players are actually selected for each game. Players of any level are welcome to make themselves available for selection by signing up on our website, we’ve had interest from players from AFC Wimbledon, Woking, Whyteleafe, Dorking Wanderers, Millwall, Alton Town, Molesey, the University of Surrey and more.”

In terms of how widely known within Surrey the ISF are, it is very much early days, but awareness is growing: “By this stage most teams in Surrey are at least aware of us and what we’re doing,” Danny said.

Above: Impetus are proud to be able to sponsor the coaching staff’s polo shirts for the International Surrey Women’s Football Team. Graphic via ISF.

“Some teams we have closer relations with than others and we aim to make ourselves as a benefit, not a hindrance, to club football. We encourage players to prioritise club football where necessary and try to limit how often, if at all, we play during the season. We then actively try to promote clubs to a new audience through our growing social media, going to games, sponsoring matches where possible, and working with clubs when organising our games making ourselves a potential new revenue source for teams that host our home games, especially important given the financial situation many teams have found themselves in this past year.”

I asked Danny whether the ISF Women’s team would potentially be limiting itself to fellow county representative sides. His reply suggests that the county could be looking at opposition from near and far: “Surrey’s opposition will likely fall into one of three categories, clubs, our trial game is expected to be against a club side, this is a good starting point for the team as it means we’ll have plenty of potential opportunity in this category without having to travel as far as we would against teams of the other two categories, it can also help us promote our existence to more teams, players and even fans. Another category would be County FAs, our hope is to eventually be playing regularly against other County FAs. Some of the nearest full fixture opposition for us would be county teams, with the Army FA, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Middlesex all on Surrey’s border, as well as the island teams of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man, all theoretically within reach due to existing flight routes from Gatwick and Heathrow. Finally, the third category and perhaps our highest profile opposition, is non-FIFA teams. These are international teams outside FIFA and could be members of the World Unity Football Alliance like us or members of CONIFA (Confederation of Independent Football Associations), although teams that are members of these organisations are more likely to be based overseas currently, with no member of either organisation currently running a women’s team in the UK, we hope the formation of the Surrey women’s team might encourage teams to expand with multiple teams having senior men’s teams based in the UK.”

The coronavirus outbreak has pushed back the first potential game for the Surrey women’s side as Clarke reveals: “At the start of 2020 we partnered with our main sponsors Merrist Wood College, based near Guildford, with the hope of running our first trial game in May 2020, but due to COVID-19, this has been repeatedly pushed back. However, encouraging signs are pointing that an early 2021 trial game is very likely as long as we get the green light of Surrey and Greater London being moved out of Tier 4 into Tier 3 or below. The trial game would see the team play its first game behind closed doors against a club side opposition, we’ll then be aiming to play a game in front of fans in the early summer 2021, details to be confirmed. Our men’s team however which launched in 2018 has played 4 games between 2018 and 2019 against Barawa, the Army FA, and twice against the Chagos Islands.”

The ISF has a coaching staff already in place to start the women’s player selection process, with Danny Clarke identifying them: “The coaching staff is lead by our Director of Women’s Football, John O’Brien, who helped to appoint manager Stephen Statterly and assistant manager Leah Ambridge are responsible for the team. John has a UEFA B license, Futsal Level 2 Goalkeeper Level 2. He has worked with Aldershot Town Youth academy, Arsenal in the Community and spent time coaching in Italy, plus the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire FA Girls Development Centre, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire FA Disability Talent Identification Centre and was Maidenhead United Lead Community Coach and Reading Women’s Reserves Assistant Manager.”

“Stephen has fifteen years of coaching including a UEFA B license. He was Aldershot Town’s Youth Academy coach for three years and was an adult disability coach for three years including two years as the lead disability coach for Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. In addition, he has coached at grassroots level for women’s, men’s and youth football, and 3 years coaching with Bracknell Town youth.”

Above: The International Surrey Women’s Football team shirt. Photo: Ben Gilby.

“Leah has nineteen years of coaching experience, including working with two professional clubs, Watford and QPR boys academy. She managed Hampton and Richmond Borough Ladies for three seasons and has coached at grassroots level for fifteen years and is UEFA B qualified, with work for the FA as a safeguarding tutor.”

In terms of the potential selection and scouting process for women to play for the ISF women’s side, Clarke said: “We operate eligibility criteria similar to what players may expect from international football. Players will need to fall into one of three categories to be eligible for selection, either they were born in Surrey, this can include areas that are considered historical Surrey because they were part of the county of Surrey before 1889 when the county of London was first created using areas of Surrey, Kent, Essex, and Middlesex. Some examples of these historic areas include Southwark, Croydon, Wimbledon, Wandsworth, Lambeth, Clapham, and many more areas which are now part of Greater London. Players with parents or grandparents from these same areas of Surrey are also eligible, and finally, players who may not have been born in Surrey, but now live in Surrey and represented any Surrey-based club at a youth level for at least one season are also eligible.”  

Post coronavirus, I asked Danny what the ISF women’s team schedule would look like. “A full schedule for us would ideally aim to include up to six friendlies, likely spread across the season with some games after the season has finished and followed by a tournament. Typically training would be focused on preparing for tournaments rather than individual friendlies, however, this will be lead more by the players and coaches rather than by the admin side of ISF.”

“There are currently no non-FIFA women’s tournaments, but one of our main ambitions is to participate in a non-FIFA tournament, perhaps even establishing our own to fill the void if other organisations aren’t able to do so, but we’re not aiming to overcrowd a player’s schedule, or that of club football by scheduling a large number of games. We may also look at more ambitious targets including overseas tours involving multiple games as many non-FIFA women’s teams are currently based overseas and not in the UK, but this is something that would need to be looked into before we actively pursued it as we don’t currently have the budget to offer such a great opportunity.”

In terms of the immediate future, I wondered what Danny’s aims were for the ISF women’s team in 2021: “Our main plans in 2021 are to get the team finally together and hit the ground running with some early fixture opportunities with our trial game and our first full debut in front of fans. This would be our minimum target, covering two games, but if we could build on this with additional games we would, but aren’t yet actively arranging any more than these initial games at the moment.”

In terms of the slightly longer term future, “Our primary focus once the team is up and running will be influenced by what the players want us to do,” said Danny.

Above: Putting pride into the shirt – the Surrey International Women’s Football team shirt. Photo: Ben Gilby.

“We doubt we’ll be able to convince the Surrey FA to allow us to participate in the Southern Counties Competition any time soon, but we’d like to see more women’s teams like ours take to the pitch, both expansions of existing men’s teams like Yorkshire, Kernow (Cornwall), or others, and even other independent county teams like us and even look at creating a new regional federation of county teams specifically to help our women’s team to play more games and participate in more localised tournaments, but we’d also like to take the team overseas and play some of the other existing women’s teams not based in the UK like Karen, Darfur, and Matabeleland, based in the US and Africa, but this would be more heavily reliant on sponsors and funding compared to more localised options.”

Danny was delighted to be able to announce the sponsorship deal that sees Impetus branded polo shirts for the International Surrey Women’s Football team’s coaches. He said: “The support of Impetus as part of this sponsorship will help to enhance the work of the Surrey women’s coaching staff with polos that will help them to stand out clearly when working with players and clubs across Surrey. The logo will be seen across Surrey’s website, in our match programmes from our first full home debut and at games, training and more.”

This story looks like having some exciting twists and turns to follow in 2021, and it is one we will be following closely on Impetus.

Olivia Watson – Life In Lockdown

Before Christmas, Impetus and Since ’71 announced joint sponsorship of Olivia Watson, a talented young midfielder with sixth tier Sutton United Women. Ben Gilby recently touched base with Olivia to see how she’s getting on during the difficult times we are facing at present (28/2/21).

Above: Olivia Watson in action for Sutton United earlier in the season. Photo: Paul Loughlin

“I have been doing well, just trying to keep as busy as possible. I have definitely found this lockdown harder than the previous two,” Olivia admitted.

What was particularly frustrating from a footballing perspective was the fact that just before the latest lockdown, Olivia had just established herself in the Sutton United team and scored her first ever goal for them in an important top of the table clash with Clapham United that ended 1-1.

“It has been very hard and frustrating because I feel that I had just started to show what I was capable of and could bring to the team, when the second lockdown started and then we only played one game in between the second and third lockdown, so it has been hard to get on a good run with the stopping and starting.”

That one game between the second and third lockdown saw Olivia score her first goal for Sutton United. She takes us through the historic strike: “I was playing on the left and the ball had been moved from the left to the right quickly, ending with Gabby Howell having the ball on the right wing. I knew that if I made a run into the box, I would potentially have the chance to have a shot, which in the end I did. Gabby played a brilliant ball across goal and I managed to get my foot on it at the back post, which beat the goalkeeper and ended up in the back of the net. I was very happy and excited that I had finally scored my first goal for the first team because personally I felt that I needed to score to prove that I should be in the squad. I was also glad that it meant we had drawn the game, although I wish we could have scored another to get the win.”

Above: Olivia (26) slides in to score her first goal for Sutton United against Clapham United just before lockdown. Photo: Paul Loughlin,

“With the current lockdown, I have tried to stay positive rather than being frustrated by not being able to play, and have been focused on staying fit and practicing my skills. Once it is safe to play football again, I am determined to continue my pre lockdown form and continue to develop and improve my game.”

Olivia’s move to Sutton United came after spending a short period away from the game. She feels that the huge potential at the club and their stated desire to move swiftly up the leagues made it an easy decision to sign for the Gander Green Lane based club.

“When I was looking for a new club, after my year out, it was very important for me to find a team that were, professional, fun and striving to achieve promotion up the leagues. This is exactly why I choose to trial for Sutton United Women because they are all of these things! I feel that the football I had previously played at adult level was more for enjoyment and I really wanted to challenge myself and improve. I remember my first training session at the club was very intense, focused and challenging, which I really enjoyed and the clubs’ aims and ambitions where highlighted throughout the session, from there I knew that Sutton United Women was exactly where I wanted to be. In the future, I would love and aim to be playing for Sutton United Women in the FA Women’s National League and progressing to the highest level of women’s football that I can.”

At the present time, the future of the current season is very much up in the air. The Football Association have recently circulated a survey with regards to how best to end the season – pausing it until safe to play again, points-per-game and cancellation. Olivia feels that points-per-game would be completely unfair.

Above: Olivia gets a shot in for Sutton United against Clapham United in December. Photo: Paul Loughlin.

“Personally, I want the season to be paused until it is safe to play again, with the season being extended into June/July but I think this option appeals to me most because I am eager to play some matches and it would be good to finish what we have started. If this weren’t to happen, I would prefer the season to be cancelled because we have only played four games out of twelve, so points-per-game doesn’t seem fair to me.”

With training and matches suspended, the players and coaches have found creative ways of staying in touch with each other. “We have been taking part in bi-weekly quizzes, which are really fun but competitive. We are split up into teams, which is good as I would be useless on my own! Originally, they were organised and run by Duncan (Muller – head of women’s football at the club) but now each team have a round and decide on the questions. Unfortunately, the team I am in are yet to win but hopefully next time we will!”

As the current lockdown continues, I wondered what Olivia has done to fill the time: “Apart from working, I have been going on a lot of lockdown walks and cooking, as I am trying to eat healthier and try new things. I have also been watching a lot of sport on TV too. I love watching the women’s game on telly, especially as it wasn’t really televised when I was younger, I really enjoy watching it now. I don’t back a team but I do love watching both Manchester United and Chelsea. I have always been into sport and enjoy watching most other sports on the TV, particularly netball and rugby.”

In terms of fitness, I have been making sure I either do two short runs or one long run a week and I try to work out if I can find the motivation but I am not very good at home workouts – I really miss the gym. I have also recently started doing 1:1 football sessions, to keep up my skills and fitness. Once football returns, I aim to get back to match fitness as quickly as possible, solidify my place in the first team and if matches are resumed this season I am determined to add more goals to my one!”

Above: Olivia Watson with Ben Gilby to unveil our sponsorship. Photo: Paul Loughlin.
ArtworkAngelo Tirotto.

Laura Montgomery: Inspirational Founder and Leader of Glasgow City

Ben Gilby caught up with Glasgow City’s co-founder and Chief Executive Laura Montgomery to hear about a phenomenal 2019 at the club, their Champions League run in 2020 and why re-starting the Scottish Women’s Premier League is vital for the credibility of the women’s game in Scotland (26/2/21).

Laura Montgomery is one of the most important names in British women’s football. She co-founded Glasgow City in 1998 with Carol Anne Stewart. When we spoke previously in October 2019, Laura recalled how: “Carol played senior league women’s football having played at university. I wasn’t able to play football at primary school because I was a girl. I started a girls’ team when I was at high school, but we had very few other teams to play against. We only had about six games in all my time at high school. I played at university and was asked to come to Maryhill and play for them, as was Carol Anne. I tore my ACL, and so the two of us spent time talking about how we could do things better for women’s football. Better facilities, sponsors.”

Above: Laura Montgomery pictured giving a TEDx talk in 2014. Photo: Twitter.

“We were fortunate at that time that the structure in women’s football in Scotland was changing – it was an opportune moment; now or never. At that time, there was a first division and a regional second division with only one team getting promoted. The structure then changed with more regional divisions at the second level. You could go straight into the second level. So, we formed Glasgow City, entered into the league and won that division in our very first year. The next year, our first in the Premier, saw us finish fifth. We’ve never been lower than second since.”

For Montgomery, it’s because Glasgow City place huge emphasis on their passion for “advancing girls and women and their role in society. That runs through everything we do. Players coming to us know that they won’t be coming to a club that suddenly lose funding simply because the men’s side are not doing well, or can’t train or play because a boys’ under twelve team need a pitch.” She points to a TEDx talk she gave in 2014 where she stated: “Quite simply, you can’t be what you can’t see without visible role models. How do girls grow up thinking they can be anything other than sexualised objects, which is how the media currently portray women?” The ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ message was famously displayed on the back of Glasgow City’s away shirt in 2017 – a reference to the lack of coverage of women’s football within the Scottish media.”

“It comes down to everyone involved at the club having high standards. Carol Anne and I are successful businesswomen and that mentality goes into Glasgow City. We pioneered so many things that are now common place in women’s football. We had the first full-time head coach, the first club to insist on our head coach holding a UEFA pro licence, the first to transfer a player for money. We were the first women’s club to use sports science. We want to train as often as a professional club – up to five times a week. We also played a major part in getting some television coverage for women’s football in Scotland. BBC Alba (the BBC’s Scots Gaelic language TV channel) followed us for a year in 2011 for a documentary, and on the back of its popularity, they got involved with covering women’s football.”

Since we last spoke almost eighteen months ago, Glasgow City have made some wonderful new history – which included winning the league for the thirteenth consecutive season and the Scottish Cup. However, their incredible Champions League run topped even those achievements.

I asked Laura what that famous night against Danish side Brøndby in the last sixteen of the UEFA Women’s Champions League in October 2019 was like: “It was one of the best nights ever for the club, if not the best. We had managed to get to the Quarter-Finals before in 2014/15, but Brøndby were far tougher opposition. After making the quarter-finals previously, we never thought we’d do it again given how the women’s game has moved on and with the size of the clubs we were now up against. Winning the away leg in Copenhagen was fantastic. Then, of course in the home leg they got it back to 2-2 on aggregate and it then went to penalties. The crowd that night were amazing. It was such an emotional night for so many reasons. My partner, Kat Lindner had passed away. Kat was such a big part of the club and for that period for us being so successful winning the league for the thirteenth time in a row, getting the Scottish Cup back and then the Champions League run. It was very emotional.”

Above: Glasgow City celebrate their famous penalty shoot out win over Brøndby in the last sixteen of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Photo: @BBCSportScot

Not long after the Quarter-Final draw, which paired Glasgow City with giants of European women’s football VfL Wolfsburg, came the coronavirus pandemic and the end of football for the season. I wondered how tough it has been off the pitch for the club since then.

“It has been hugely challenging,” said Laura, “but it is like that for everyone. We’re not out there on a limb. We have more outgoings than others with a full time head coach and staff. It was also the start of what would have been a new financial year from a season perspective. As we weren’t able to play any games our sponsorships didn’t kick in which was hard – but everyone was in the same position.

The Wolfsburg tie was eventually rescheduled to take place as a one off game as part of the final stages of the competition held in the Basque region of Spain last August. At this point, Glasgow City had not been able to train for months and had to rely on sponsorship to make the journey. It was far from ideal preparation for such a tough tie.

“Physically the preparation was the toughest in our twenty-two years. Players had been off for months. We could only meet together as a squad due to holding Covid testing, at the cost of thousands of pounds for us. It was hugely challenging. Playing Wolfsburg at any time is impossible, but given the Bundesliga had only stopped for a short period, it meant that Wolfsburg were able to play friendlies and hold mountain training camps. We had to accelerate our training. We had to get players at peak physical fitness ahead of time and that causes injury. When it came to the game we only had three fit players for the bench. It wasn’t what we wanted. We had no choice but to get players match fit for a game like that in four weeks. You physically can’t do it.”

From the outside it looked like everything had conspired to make an exceptionally difficult tie virtually impossible for Glasgow City, but despite that, they emerged with credit. Montgomery was exceptionally impressed with their opponents.

“Listen, Wolfsburg are a fantastic team – an absolute joy to watch and it was tremendous to play against them. From a point of view of the experience, it was a single occasion. UEFA did brilliantly in terms of what was put on for us, the preparation, they dressed the stadium magnificently to make it a great experience for the players. Although it was a heavy score line (City lost 9-1) it will rank as one of the highlights of many of our players’ careers.”

Above: Pernille Harder part of a VfL Wolfsburg side who showed no mercy against Glasgow City in the UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarter-Finals. Photo: @guardian_sport

Taking a wider look at the experience of being part of the final stages on the competition all played in one area with teams such as Olympique Lyonnais, Paris St. Germain, Barcelona and Arsenal was particularly memorable. “It was vital for the women’s game that the tournament did get played and completed. I ended up quite enjoying the fact that everyone was in the same place. There was a real tournament feel. It was potentially a one off which we were part of. It was fantastic. The stadium in San Sebastian was fantastic as were all the facilities.”

That run of success in 2019 and 2020 was overseen by Scott Booth as head coach. I asked Laura what his major qualities are as a coach and as a person: “He’s a UEFA pro licence coach. On paper he has the qualifications we needed when we hired him in 2015. We had a number of top candidates for the job of which Scott was one. He interviewed well and we get on well. It works really well. We have similar thoughts on players and football. He knows his stuff. He is a good coach, a good person, not remotely egotistical at all. He is so unassuming and is fully immersed in the women’s game.”

A recent development at the club is Laura’s appointment as full time Chief Executive – a role that is not new for her – but she is now able to devote her full attention to the position: “I’ve always done the role in my spare time on top of another job. Selflessly, I’ve always wanted to do it for free and not taken money out of the club. The board have asked me to do it and think about how we progress the club further. I do player negotiations, working with Scott (Booth) on new players and have recently appointed a full time head of academy.

Glasgow City are known for the phenomenal work that they do in supporting the all-round development of young girls – and obviously this is going to become even more important once we are in a position to get football going again. The club have been preparing for the post-lockdown return of their young players with some exciting new developments ready for them.

“The number one priority is to get all our girls back. We have twelve teams. Right now it’s so important. Boys in Scotland can still watch men’s football on TV as they are still allowed to play. Girls in Scotland can’t watch the women’s game here as its been halted, so they can’t see their role models play as well as not being allowed to play themselves. We’ve made a major investment in our academy. We’ve worked with a company called Athlete Focused for sports psychology and nutrition with our first team and they now are working with the academy which means that every team in the club now has access to sports science experts too.”

As Laura alluded to, the Scottish league has been very stop-start with no matches at all for over two months. Glasgow City’s chief executive is absolutely clear that getting the game going again, at the top level at the very least is of utmost importance.

“For the credibility of women’s football in Scotland, it would be catastrophic if we can’t finish the season as we have two Champions League places to play for and if the league doesn’t get completed by a certain time, we cannot take those places. Getting back to train on 1st March would mean games could start on 28th March. If we can’t get back on 1st March it means it’s going to be tough to complete the league. Even if we do get back then, it could mean having to play three games a week. The league has attracted lots of top players back to Scotland and credibility is at stake when it comes to re-starting.”

One thing that has been clear in the short period that the top flight was able to be played in 2020/21 was the number of new signings that both Rangers and Celtic have made in a bid to end Glasgow City’s run of thirteen straight championship wins.

“They’ve always had more money than us although it must be said they have increased the amount they have put in even more recently. Rangers have five of the players that finished last season with us. But the money that Celtic and Rangers have put in actually just puts more pressure on them. I always believe in our values at Glasgow City, what makes us special, the fact that we are the most important team at the club. There isn’t a men’s team here. If you have a men’s team, they will always come first. We believe in our club and our players and we will always be competitive.”

Beth Churchill: Home Town Hero

As part of our partnership with Penryn Athletic, Ben Gilby caught up with the club’s Beth Churchill about her footballing experience and how she is making the best of the present difficulties caused by the pandemic (25/2/21).

Beth is a child of the early 90’s, born and raised in Penryn, Cornwall. She recalls spending hours in her childhood “spent outdoors playing with the other children on the estate I lived on, playing games like ‘manhunt’ in between kicking a football about. This was great for me as it meant that I was getting regular exercise and plenty of running- I can thank those games of manhunt for my (rapidly dwindling) speed!”

Above: Beth Churchill of Penryn Athletic Ladies. Photo: Amie Andersen.

These early days kicking a ball around the estate in Penryn was the start of Beth’s footballing experience – but it took a while for her to be able to take things further: “I was always up for a kick about with the rest of the children on the estate, but it wasn’t until secondary school that I really started to play ‘competitively’. My friend’s dad set up an after-school club for girls. At a similar time, another local dad was establishing a girls team as part of the Falmouth United set up, so a few of us from the school club ended up going along to the Falmouth United training too and hence playing in a formal league.”

In terms of other key people in those formative years in Beth’s footballing career, her PE teacher played a central role.

“Mrs Mingo would always let me know about any opportunities and organised for me to attend Cornwall trials, so I managed to obtain some higher-level training opportunities through that set up. Just having someone who shows an interest and has a bit of belief in you is hugely important and I found that motivational.”

From here, Beth became involved at Penryn Athletic. “My first experiences of ladies’ football were playing for Penryn ladies at age fourteen. Competing against and learning from the more experienced players at such a young age I feel helped with my development. More recently I have been involved in re-establishing a team in Penryn and have even had opportunities within the league as secretary and vice chair for a short stint (when I had more free time!)”

“I understand I am not the most technically gifted player, but I think I compensate for that in passion and commitment. I’ve played in almost every position on the pitch; I am probably most confident as a centre back but this season I have been pushed up to striker which is interesting and providing a new challenge for me to meet!

Football for me has always been an opportunity for escapism. Regardless of what else I have going on, having those 90 minutes where my whole focus is just on playing and being a part of a team, enables me to forget about everything else. I think team sport is somewhat magical in that respect and I would encourage all who are able to have a go at a team sport!”

Above: Beth Churchill driving forward for Penryn. Photo: Amie Andersen.

Like every player, Beth has had to overcome a significant number of challenges in her career.

“I think as a young player the biggest challenges were financial and travel based. Having to rely on other people for transport did make things more difficult and I often felt like a bit of a burden. I think that often I felt a bit out of place almost. I rarely had a parent there cheering me on and once when my mum did come along- I wasn’t played, which as a 13-year-old was pretty gut wrenching. I felt like I had wasted her time.”

“I think a significant part of my self-doubt stems from a couple of events like that. I feel like that has however shaped a lot of my views on what team sport at grassroots level should be about. I think that we should nurture and offer opportunity to all who want to play, those who turn up week In and week out, are crucial parts of a team and deserve to feel like they are just that. I would hate for anyone to feel like I did as that 13-year-old. I think eventually when I am too old or injured to play I would like to do some coaching/management and really have a team where inclusivity is central.”  

“More generally, I think as a female player there is often a sense of judgement from men (primarily) who feel it is acceptable to pass comments on your ability and often sexuality too, because you’re playing sport. I do feel that these judgements are becoming a lesser narrative now, but historically there has been a real issue with sexism in the sport and a desire to directly compare the men’s game with the women’s which has always frustrated me!”

“In addition, I feel that attracting good quality and reliable coaches/ managers to the grassroots female game is an ongoing challenge. We are fortunate at Penryn to have great support from the club which has helped to raise the profile of the women’s team and in turn enabled us to attract some positive coaches/managers but historically this has been the most challenging aspect.”

Beth also identified several of her key role models in football and sport in general: “Megan Rapinoe is not only an outstanding player but someone who uses their platform to speak on issues like Black Lives Matter and LGBT rights.”

Above: Beth going for goal. Photo: Amie Andersen.

“I have huge admiration for Marcus Rashford’s recent work for free school meals and great to see someone from a low-income background make it to the top level of their sport. A real role model in my opinion for many young people in the country today.”

“Then there’s Michael Jordan. I don’t have much of an interest in basketball but having watched the documentary ‘The Last Dance’ I was just amazed to learn that much of his success has centred on just never giving up. Having that growth mindset and really not stopping until he had achieved a level of basketball that led to him being considered the best in the world.”

Also, I need to give a big shout out to all the amazing people who I have played football with and against in Cornwall in the last twenty years or so of playing – you are all heroes!”

Away from football, Beth is a teacher. “This takes up the majority of my time at present! I also have a young son and a husband who I can usually be found out walking with. I think the social element of football has been hugely important to me too, and that is something I have really missed and appreciated more during the pandemic.”

“I can’t wait for this lockdown to be over so that I can see the girls again and get back to playing matches! We all worked so hard during pre-season and it would be such a shame not to complete the season this year.”

Like Beth we also can’t wait for Penryn Athletic to be playing matches again and following their progress on the site.

Impetus Partnership with Bure Valley Youth Delivers New Equipment

Bure Valley Youth FC chairman Ted McCarter shows how working with Impetus has helped to bring valued new training equipment for the girls and youths teams once restrictions are lifted (23/2/21).

Last week we were so excited to announce that we had partnered with Norfolk based girls and youth football club Bure Valley. Connected with this, we were only too happy to donate a small amount of money in order to help the club buy new training equipment to help support the club once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

Via Wroxham Women player Kate Pasque, who works for Lowestoft based Harrod Sports (who have provided equipment to many major sporting events such as the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the UEFA Champions League Final), the club were able to use Impetus‘ donation to purchase this incredible range of equipment:

Above: Bure Valley Youth FC’s new equipment. Photo: Ted McCarter.

Speaking about the arrival of the fantastic new resources, Bure Valley Youth chairman Ted McCarter said: “Today we’ve taken delivery of some fantastic new training equipment financed by a kind donation from our friends at Impetus. A new relationship has been forged with Harrod Sport and Wroxham Women’s Kate Pasque, they have provided us with the new Finesse range. Our amazing children can’t wait to get back to training and improving their fitness and skills. A massive thank you to Impetus for their support of the female game at grassroots level, it’s absolutely amazing.”

We are so happy to have been able to help and can’t wait to hear how the children get on when they are back in training!

Artwork: Graphics by PW

The Impact of the Summer Transfer Window at Reading Women

Impetus welcomes new contributor Abi Ticehurst and her first piece is a detailed look at Barclays FA Women’s Super League side Reading’s new summer signings and the influence that they have had at The Madejski Stadium this season (18/2/21).

Above: Reading line up against Chelsea. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

As a consistently mid-table team, in the last few years at least, clubs like Reading tend to be forgotten because they’re not ‘Top 4’ or in a ‘relegation scrap’. Nonetheless, the departure of players from Reading at the end of a somewhat controversial 2019/20 Women’s Super League season will have had those watching the women’s game concerned and undoubtedly sent any fan into a flurry of panic, as the Royals found themselves in a slightly disappointing 5th place. With the development of the pandemic, Reading were quick to furlough all their staff and players, further adding to the concern that they were going to get left behind when the transfer window opened on the 19th of June.

Radio silence for almost a month…

Then with no hints or clue whatsoever, Reading announced the signing of Arsenal legend Danielle Carter and a sigh of relief was no doubt felt amongst followers as the ball, pun intended, was set rolling. And Reading did not disappoint, Carter was swiftly followed by fellow Gunner and Scotland international Emma Mitchell, whilst Deanna Cooper made the switch from midnight to royal blue. Second choice keeper Rachael Laws departed and she was quickly superseded by New Zealand international Erin Nayler from French club Bordeaux, whilst Jess Fishlock’s arrival from OL Reign was both unexpected but not a total surprise. Fishlock was back from injury after almost 18 months out, but was now faced with a ‘play or retire’ predicament with the NWSL season cancelled and as such gravitated somewhat organically to Reading as a home from home set-up, with four fellow Welsh players, Tash Harding, Rachel Rowe, Angharad James and Lily Woodham, already in the squad. A final surprise signing in the shape of Jeon Ga-eul from Bristol City, who had initially joined ‘The Robins’ just as the country went into its first lockdown, the South Korean is a decorated player with 38 goals and 101 appearances, she’s the country’s fifth most capped player and their second-highest goal scorer. Also worth noting is the six academy players who made the step up to first team duties this season in the shape of Lily Woodham, Emma Harries, Kiera Skeels, Bethan Roberts and Sophie Quirk.

So, what kind of impact have the six summer arrivals had at Reading? Impact is obviously a fairly subjective word, do we look solely to statistics, consider game time, goals scored, assists given or do we delve a little more qualitatively to team efforts or off the pitch contributions? The answer is both.

Above: Danielle Carter against Arsenal in September 2020. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

Danielle Carter ticks all the boxes when it comes to on pitch impact, for Arsenal and England that is at least, with 101 appearances and 28 goals for the club and 50 caps, 19 goals, a hat trick on her senior debut and a GB gold medal for country. Plagued by two ACL injuries in as little as 14 months, Carter found herself on the sidelines for her final two years at Arsenal so a move to a club like Reading, who typically favour experience over youth in their squad, seemed like a natural transition. Facing off against Arsenal in the opening game of the season, the less said about that game the better, Carter was able to scrap home a single goal on her debut for the Royals when Zinsberger fumbled the ball in the box. Carter has become somewhat of an ‘impact sub’, fresh legs with a bit of pace still in her, she’s able to latch on to a tricky ball in the box. She made the most of a Mitchell free-kick against Manchester United to head home a winning ball and take her goal tally to two. Off the pitch, she recently launched a campaign on her social media to send out the spare boots she’s been gifted to those less fortunate and was able to reach girls in the UK, as well as in India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Above: Emma Mitchell battles against former team-mate and fellow Scot, Lisa Evans. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

Emma Mitchell was out of sorts struggling to get game time at Arsenal before a loan move to Tottenham in January of 2020, but the pandemic hit shortly after so once again she found herself without football. Then the chance to move to Reading came about in the summer and she was keen to head south of London. Mitchell has settled effortlessly into the backline of Reading and has been vital in denying opponents efforts. Not a one trick pony either, she is the set piece queen, pinpoint corners and soaring free-kicks, Reading really have capitalised on her abilities, most recently against Arsenal and Manchester United. Outside of football, she’s talked candidly about her mental health struggles and how important it is to be an advocate and encourage people to discuss how they’re feeling, whether it’s good or bad.

Deanna Cooper had much of her Chelsea success when she first joined in 2017 when the one-off competition FA WSL Spring Series ran. Similarly to Carter, she was hit with an ACL the following season, despite this she still signed a two year contract extension in March 2018. Cooper then made the move to Reading as a spot in the starting Chelsea squad became increasingly competitive. Cooper often goes under the radar in terms of recognition, but she’s already established herself well in defense and made some crucial blocks in front of goal, in particular the 1-1 draw against Bristol City. She slots in effectively alongside Emma Mitchell and Molly Bartrip.

Perhaps unfortunately for Erin Nayler, Grace Moloney is well established as first choice keeper and as a result has made just one appearance for Reading so far this season. A 3-0 defeat to West Ham in the group stage of the Continental Cup. Nayler is suitably impressive on the international stage, having been the Ferns goalkeeper in three World Cups and holding England to an historic 1-0 win in June. She seems content at Reading so no doubt there is plenty of time for her to get minutes on the clock and showcase that international talent.

Above:Jess Fishlock battles with  Manchester United’s Leah Galton and Hayley Ladd. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

Jess Fishlock has had arguably the biggest impact both on and off the pitch for Reading. With potentially more to prove than any of the other signings having been out of the English game since 2013 and back from an injury that stopped her from playing for the 18 months prior to signing with the Royals. Fishlock is a playmaker, she’s the midfield missing link and despite being one of the older players in the squad, she shows no signs of slowing down as she runs box-to-box week in, week out. She’s got the hunger to strike too and has 3 league goals to her name so far this season. I suspect much of the reason she fits in this team so well is having her well compatriots on the team as they are able to utilise the previous playing years together. She’s often brutally honest when talking about individual and team performances which can be really refreshing in a time when women’s football is becoming more professional and possibly more ‘sanitised’ as a consequence. When she’s not commanding the field, she’s highlighting social injustices in the game including racism and homophobia. As well as giving a voice to charity initiatives such as the regeneration of Llanrumney Hall who provided free meals at Christmas for the local community.

Jeon Ga-eul comes with real credentials as the first South Korean player in the NWSL and the W-League. An unfortunate time to make her Bristol City debut it seems as the pandemic hit, she eventually made the switch to Reading during the summer. She made her starting debut on October 7th in Reading’s 4-0 home win over Charlton in the Continental Cup and made the starting line-up in the following league games against Birmingham City and West Ham. She hasn’t made an appearance since having not been part of the subs bench either with the physio team at Reading conforming on the club website that she suffered a hip injury during training in November and has undergone surgery as a result. She is currently undergoing rehabilitation and they hope to reintegrate back into individual and team training.

Above: Emma Harries Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

The January window closed on the 28th of the month so it’s worth noting that it was relatively quiet for the Royals, they did however very casually announce the signing of Silvana Flores, former Arsenal and Chelsea player, just 18 and already impressing on the international stage for Mexico. Emma Harries did however sign her first professional contract having been at the club since the age of 8 and proving her worth in recent weeks by causing problems for opposing defenders. A debut goal is without a doubt pending for the Reading born and bred striker. A proper academy product if we do say so ourselves! Meanwhile, Sophie Quirk is out on loan to Championship side London Bees, whilst Kiera Skeels has made a loan move to FAWSL relegation candidates, Bristol City with it difficult for the defender to find a first team spot having the more experienced Mitchell and Cooper in the starting line-ups.

To find out more about Abi and Impetus’ other contributors, visit: Contact (wordpress.com)

Impetus Announces Support Of Girls’ Football with Bure Valley Youth FC

Impetus are exceptionally proud to announce a content partnership with Bure Valley Youth Football Club which has seen us provide some funds in order to provide some all-important new equipment for the club. In this piece to launch the partnership, Ben Gilby spoke to Bure Valley YFC chairman Ted McCarter about the club’s history and fantastic story so far (15/2/21).

Artwork: Graphics by PW. Photos supplied by Ted McCarter of Bure Valley Youth FC.

Ted began our chat by outlining the club’s history: “Bure Valley was formed in 2015 in Coltishall with two girls’ teams. The facilities in Coltishall had been left empty following the demise of Colt Jags a few years previous. I’d used the pitches for training at a previous club and had them earmarked for when I set up my own club. So having approached Coltishall Sports and Recreation Ground Trust we entered into a partnership. Since then the growth has been far quicker than I ever imagined, with the help of a grant from the Football Foundation we made a real effort to grow the female game locally. We’ve also opened a Wildcats centre supported by The FA which has been a fantastic success, bringing girls from 5 to 11 into the game. We’ve made a commitment to give these girls teams to play in and it’s worked.”

The development of girls’ football took another positive step when Bure Valley entered into a player pathway relationship with Wroxham Women. Ted outlined how that came about: “It all developed through conversations with Lee Robson at Wroxham FC and Rebecca Burton at Wroxham Women. We don’t have an adult section whilst Wroxham didn’t have a female youth section. With us being such close neighbours it made total sense for us to create a complete female pathway from three years old to adult.”

“When our teams reach U16 level, they will start to be coached in partnership with Wroxham in the hope that the girls progress to Wroxham’s development team that will play in Norfolk Women’s and Girls’ Football League (NWGFL), with the most talented players having the opportunity to progress to Wroxham’s first team squad. Wroxham’s coaches will work together with ours to ensure a smooth transition.”

The present pandemic has had a massive impact on Bure Valley.

Above: One of Bure Valley’s younger girls’ teams. Photo via: Ted McCarter of Bure Valley Youth FC.

“We couldn’t complete last season due to lockdown with a similar stop/start season in progress now,” said Ted. “It’s very frustrating for our kids that really miss their football.”

“We’ve had to adapt to FA guidelines with our protocols being probably the most robust. We take it very seriously and have gone above and beyond what is needed to keep everyone as safe as possible. Investments in all cleaning equipment etc have ensured we are ready to go again. Financially it’s been difficult, we lost one or two sponsors but gained others, we have new kits that we can’t use currently which is frustrating. To keep safe and clean it costs money. Money we hadn’t budgeted for. However, we’ve coped and will continue to put safety first.”

Similarly to many other clubs, apart from coronavirus, Bure Valley’s biggest challenges are financial ones: “We need to update and supply new equipment, new kit, update facilities and maintain our pitches,” Ted highlights. “Storage is also an issue, we’ve invested in this but more will be needed to keep up. Also as new teams are formed we need coaches and pitches to play on, we’re lucky in Coltishall to have access to two more pitches that we’ll be looking to use in 2021/22.”

I asked Ted to outline the number of teams that the club has at present and how they are performing: “We have two teams for U9s, U10s, U11s, 2 for U12s, U13s, U14s and U15s all playing League football. We also have a mini kittens group of girls aged four, five and six. Our Wildcats centre also runs throughout the summer. Whilst our focus and ethos isn’t about winning matches and trophies we have had some success, U9s Cup Winners, U15s Cup runners up, U16s league runners up and Cup runners up twice.”

The most important thing at the club right in the near future is “getting our kids back out onto the pitches playing football in a safe environment. If that means just training while tier restrictions exist that’s what we’ll do. As soon as we can play games again we’ll be out there ready to go. The kids are frustrated sat at home as are we but pretty powerless with Covid so dangerous currently.”

Above: Having fun and playing football is what it’s all about at Bure Valley Youth FC. Photo via: Ted McCarter of Bure Valley Youth FC.

In terms of the day to day existence of the club, Ted recognises that: “Obviously we are reliant on our growing coaching team and volunteers, without them we’d be nothing. We try to create a welcoming and family feel to the club which seems to attract parents and players. My wife Emma and I set the club up and take on the day to day running of the club fulfilling many different roles. We dedicate a lot of our time to it but love it.”

“Our aims are to continue to grow. We want to attract more girls from a young age and get them involved in football here at Bure Valley. Our partnership with Wroxham gives any player joining us the opportunity to go all the way.”

“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved so far. Hopefully as our reputation grows we’ll continue to provide a fantastic club for the football journey to start at.”

Ted has high hopes that our partnership will only help that reputation to grow: “On the back of the Wroxham Women’s team partnership I’m absolutely delighted to come on board with Impetus. They have a real passion for the female game not only in the UK but across the world. This fits perfectly with Bure Valley’s efforts to promote the female game within Norfolk and increase girls’ participation. Our partnership with our neighbours Wroxham creates the total female pathway, hopefully Impetus can help us continue the growth with top quality coverage of the female game in our area and spread the word not only locally but across the UK and beyond.”

From Impetus‘ own perspective, we feel it is more important than ever to support girls’ football at the present time. This fantastic partnership allows us to assist a club with equipment and help to spread the word about what they are up to. It also ensures that the club’s youngsters have a platform to discuss their own footballing tales and an opportunity to report on games they play on or the women’s games they watch on TV. Once this pandemic is over, girls will need clubs like Bure Valley YFC and the thousands of other grassroots teams nationwide in order to help connect with their friends again and play the game they love once more.

We will be having monthly catch-ups with Bure Valley YFC and connected to the partnership is the opportunity for the club’s young players to write articles about their club and the matches that they play in with their work being published on Impetus to a worldwide audience.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

To find out more about Impetus‘ sponsorships and partnerships with women’s football clubs, visit https://impetus885775742.wordpress.com/partnerships/

Five Star Chelsea Sweep Vixens Aside

Bristol City 0-5 Chelsea (14/2/21).

by Ben Gilby

Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table with a comfortable 5-0 win over bottom side Bristol City at a wet Twerton Park in Bath.

The defending champions were absolutely rampant in the first half, forcing the Vixens to feed on such meagre scraps that you could count the number times that the home side got out of their own half on one hand.

With just over thirty seconds played, Sophie Baggaley was forced into an excellent one handed save and before the two minute mark, Magda Eriksson was allowed to run through the middle unchecked and fire in a shot which went just wide of the right hand post.

Four minutes in Baggaley saved City again. Pernille Harder’s exquisite back heel to Fran Kirby saw the Lioness play a one-two with Sam Kerr and then found Eriksson who Baggaley denied.

Just two minutes later, Ji sent in a cross which was headed narrowly wide of the left hand post by Kerr.

Above: Ji creating more mayhem for Chelsea at Bristol City this afternoon. Photo: @BristolCityWFC

The Vixens responded when Ebony Salmon, rightly called up to the England squad, played the ball through Ji’s legs and ran onto it to escape into the visitors box and got an early shot away which Ann-Katrin Berger held.

Chelsea’s dominance finally resulted in a goal just before the quarter of an hour mark. A corner came in from the left and Kirby got the slightest of touches to direct it past Baggaley for her tenth league goal of the season.

In the period after the goal, Emma Hayes’ side sought to maximise possession and pulled City around whilst waiting patiently for the right moment to release the final ball. Harder was noticeably popping up all over the place behind the front pair. The influence of Jonna Andersson was also worth emphasising. The Swede is someone who doesn’t get the same sort of headlines that the offensive Chelsea stars do, but she was so influential down the left and tormented Flo Allen and Charlie Wellings non-stop.

With half an hour gone, Ji danced down the left and played a ball in for Beth England who half-volleyed an effort just wide of the post.

Eight minutes before the break, Chelsea doubled their lead. Sophie Ingle won the ball on the right thanks to a great tackle and found Harder. The Dane played in England before receiving the ball back and slamming home a superb shot on the right hand side of the area.

Four minutes later it was three. Kerr was found down the left and found Kirby who had ghosted in on the right hand side of the box to sweep it into the net.

Deep into first half stoppage time, Chelsea almost got another when Andersson came in from the left and lofted an effort which bounced off of the top of the bar and over.

Despite being 3-0 up at the break, with seventy four per-cent of possession and twelve shots on target, Chelsea should arguably have been much further ahead.

The second half opened in heavy rain which would only make the sticky pitch tougher as the game progressed.

Chelsea remained firmly in control. It did though take them a further ten minutes to increase their advantage. Pernille Harder found Beth England down the left and the Lioness’ cross was met by a trademark thumping header from Sam Kerr for her eleventh league goal of the season.

To their credit, the Vixens responded by creating a rare opportunity as Ebony Salmon was found on the left and played in a superb ball – one you felt her team would have wished she could have got on the end of herself – but Ann-Katrin Berger was alive to the danger.

The consequences of that were clear for all to see just four minutes later when Harder popped up and played in a teasing low cross which was prodded into the net by Beth England sliding through the mud.

Back came City and again, it was Salmon who cut in from the left and fired a shot over the bar.

Chelsea continued to create and England came in off the left once more and found Fran Kirby who hit a powerful curling shot which Sophie Baggaley did well to push away for a corner. The resulting flag kick was met by the head of Sam Kerr, but the Australian’s effort flew over.

As the game entered its closing stages, Bristol City created their final half chance when Molly Pike played a beautiful ball across to Charlie Wellings. Her attempt to find Abi Harrison was foiled by the diving Berger.

The visitors had four further opportunities to increase their lead, all of which were dealt with by solid Bristol City defence. First, Erin Cuthbert, on as a sub, got passed Gemma Evans thanks to an outrageous show and go before putting in a dangerous cross which was cleared.

Above: Plenty for Chelsea to celebrate at Twerton Park this afternoon against Bristol City. Photo: @ChelseaFCW

Evans was the victim again shortly afterwards when her slip allowed Sam Kerr to run onto a great long ball from Millie Bright. Kerr fed Guro Reiten, but the Norwegian’s effort was deflected for a corner.

Reiten again created the danger with two minutes to play when her high pass found Kerr. She passed to England, but great work from Kiera Skeels saw the ball out for a corner.

Finally, it was Evans who produced a quite magnificent tackle on Kerr just as the Matildas hot-shot was about to pull the trigger.

Chelsea are now five points clear at the top of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League having played a game more than second placed Manchester City.

This match may well have served as a dress rehearsal for next month’s Continental Cup Final between the two sides at Vicarage Road and ultimately that rather than today’s one is the game against Chelsea that matters for Bristol City. Their FA Women’s Super League future will be decided by games against the teams around them in the table and whilst they remain within touching distance of West Ham United, those survival hopes remain strong.

Teams: BRISTOL CITY: Baggaley, Allen, Skeels, Evans, Purfield, Matthews, Wellings, Pike, Humphrey, Daniels, Salmon. Substitutes: Bryson, Rafferty, Haaland (GK), Palmer, Bissell, Collis, Harrison, Mastrantonio, Jones.

CHELSEA: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Ingle, Kirby, Harder, Ji, Kerr, England. Substitutes: Blundell, Carter, Reiten, Fleming, Cuthbert, Spence, Telford (GK),

Scorers: Kirby 14, 40. Harder 36. Kerr 55. England 60.

Referee: Emily Heaslip.

Lisa Topping: Life In Lockdown

Ben Gilby caught up with Chorley Women’s Lisa Topping, who Impetus are proud to sponsor, for our second monthly chat. Here, we catch up with what Lisa has been up to since the New Year Lockdown. (11/2/21).

Lisa began by explaining how she’s been doing and keeping active in the continuing difficult times: “I’m doing well despite the circumstances we are still facing. I have a really close family who work really hard to stay in touch virtually despite lockdowns and social distancing so I have family quizzes and such to look forward to. I’m also able to keep busy with little house projects and walking the dogs.”

Above: Lisa in action for Chorley previously. Photo via: Lisa Topping

In terms of how Chorley’s team are keeping in touch, it seems like there’s been plenty of creative activities going on: “We have weekly fitness sessions over Zoom led by one of our senior players, Betti Worth, who is fantastic at pulling together fun and engaging, football specific workouts. She is a really great fitness coach who has massively stepped up during this time to support the team. We also have a team WhatsApp group so there is always banter in there as well as little weekly challenges, such as keep-ups or a football skill. We also have club meetings where we all check in and keep up to date with where we need to be. Ben Gooden and the rest of the management staff are really great at keeping everyone connected.”

In terms of how Lisa is passing her time personally, “Apart from working, I’m passing my time during lockdown by doing plenty of dog walking, watching Netflix, and picking up some house DIY projects. I do like to watch football on TV. I regularly link up the FA Player onto the TV from my laptop or phone and binge back-to-back games. I enjoy watching sport in general – I grew up with it constantly being on the TV at the weekend where my Dad would point out tactical play in the football games. We also commonly watched tennis tournaments, F1 racing, rugby and horse racing. I’ve never really developed allegiance for a football team – I just enjoy watching a good game. I particularly enjoy watching big name games or rivalry clashes such as Liverpool v Everton or Manchester United v Manchester City.”

“On a more active note, now that we have slightly longer, lighter days I’m looking forward to getting back on my road bike on top of the running I currently do to try and stay fit in preparation for the season. I’ve joined Strava Clubs and challenges to keep motivated and maintain my running whilst training is on pause and then I grab my boots and a ball and head to the local park on my own on the weekend.”

Of course, all the home fitness work cannot make up for the loss of game playing sharpness. This is something that Lisa is already keeping in mind: “Once football is back and up and running, one of my short-term targets is to get back to game speed as quickly possible. Despite all the running and fitness during this time, the sharpness and mental focus will be something that needs to be quickly recovered.”

Whether or not there will be any football to be played before the summer is still in question. The Football Association recently circulated a survey to clubs with regards on how best to end the season – pausing until it is safe to play again or end the season now and rank clubs by a points-per-game basis. In Lisa’s opinion, “the FA are in a really tough position on this. Whichever decision they make, someone isn’t going to agree with it. I feel it’s a big weigh up of maintaining safety of those involved, taking into account club finances and being realistic with expectations. There are pros and cons with each approach that has been suggested and I’m glad it isn’t me having to make the decision!

Above: Lisa Topping (far right back row with thumb up) with a group of Euxton Girls players. Photo via: Michael Taylor.

We recently ran a feature on the site about Euxton Girls, one of your Lisa’s old clubs (see https://impetus885775742.wordpress.com/2021/01/25/euxton-girls-doing-great-work-in-lancashire/)  so I asked Lisa if she could share a bit more about her experience there as a younger player and the role you have there at the present time.

“Euxton Girls is a fantastic local club who were integral in my football career. They really grew my love for the game and gave me a place to play football with other girls. Before that I only had options to play in the boy’s teams or train alone with my Dad. I remember feeling so happy when I got to train and play in an environment with other girls who had a love for the game and compete in a girls’ league. It was at that point that I felt I fitted in for being a girl who liked football.”

“We had a fantastic team including Holly Bradshaw, who is now the British Record Holder for the Pole Vault, Danielle Gibbons, who went on to be a goalkeeper for Liverpool FC and of course Nicola Barker who is still central in the Euxton Girls set up and develops young players coming through. The coaching staff there were, and still are, passionate, committed and put player development first. For example, I remember loving sessions delivered by Diane Moss when I was only fourteen and she is still there now driving the club forward.”

At the present time, myself and club captain, Laura Walker, would go and attend some of the Wildcat Sessions hosted by Euxton Girls and Diane on a Friday evening. Laura is a brilliant role model and really supports the local community whilst representing Chorley Women FC. When my time playing is up, I’d love to give back more to the club and get further involved in the coaching side with them.”

We look forward to catching up with Lisa again in March.

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Sasha Sparkes: Goal Scorer Extraordinaire

Ben Gilby speaks to Helston Athletic’s Sasha Sparkes, who is quite probably the greatest woman goal scorer that you may not have heard of (8/2/21).

Sasha Sparkes is a player with a quite phenomenal scoring record for Helston Athletic. A tally of 135 goals in 42 games of which this season 32 goals have been scored in just 12 games. Sasha is one player that is worthy of huge respect.

We started our conversation with the Cornish hotshot telling me about her background: “I come from a big happy family! I was born June 24th 1991 in Truro. We lived in Penryn and then moved to Falmouth when I was four. I’ve lived in Falmouth ever since. Falmouth for me is more than just a base, it’s the definition of home. It really is a beautiful place to live. I consider myself very lucky that I am only a two minute drive away from the beaches.” 
 
Sasha moved on to fill us in on her footballing story: “I’ve been playing football since I was about 10 years old. I have my Dad to thank for that. He has always been very passionate about Smara (my twin sister) and myself playing the sport. We have always been quite sporty since we were little. We lived across the road from a field and any chance my dad wasn’t working he would take us over to the field and practice our basics. Kicking, dribbling, all of the stuff needed that I use today. It was in that field where we got spotted from a manager from Falmouth Town Girls U12’s.”

“We weren’t long with Falmouth Town U12’s as our friends played for Falmouth United U12’s, inevitably being young we wanted to play with our friends. Our manager Steve Oliver was a fantastic coach. It was there that we won the league four seasons on the trot. We were unstoppable. After that, for a couple of seasons, football kind of just halted. Back then there wasn’t really much of a transition from U14’s to U16’s. My friends and I played for the school team but not many games were organised so we found ourselves back in the field where it all started playing BUTT slaps or World Cup.”

 “I finally turned 16 and I was introduced to the ladies game. What a difference! Seven a side to eleven a side. Thirty minute halves to forty-five minute halves. It was a huge transition but one that I welcomed. I played for Penryn Ladies for a couple of seasons and we did well, but like most ladies teams after a while the team folded. It was there that I had a phone call from Neil Phillips, a manager that played a massive role in the player I am today. He asked me to join Falmouth Town Ladies as he had a good set up with lots of decent players signing on. I signed on, worked hard and that team was one of the best teams I have ever played for. Neil worked us hard at training, hours and hours of hill sprints, bleep tests and two touch football. At the time I hated the training but the team he created and the fitness, skill and stamina of all on the pitch was truly noticeable against other teams. It was here I was partnered with Katy Barker up the top and what a truly awesome partnership we had. It was either one or the other for league top goal scorer through the seasons, we didn’t mind who got it as long as it was someone from our team.”

 “I can’t remember which way around it was, but between Falmouth Town Ladies and Truro City Ladies we became 1st and 2nd in the league and were promoted to Premier Division. With players going off to university and other reasons, Neil took the chance to merge the two clubs together at Truro City. It was very hard putting the two together as we all played differently. It didn’t take long though before we started gelling as a team and our first season in the Premier Division we became league runners up. What a great finish after being promoted. It was then where players decided the travel wasn’t worth the next division. Being all the way down in Cornwall and being hundreds of miles away from top teams its hard finding committed players to travel on a Sunday.”

 “I had a season out after that and that’s when Helston Ladies was formed by Stu Massey and with the help of Charlotte Sparkes-Bond. Helston had great facilities and a great pitch. Steve Massey was always helping to run the line for us and supporting us in any way that he could. Stu drove us to success and we became League Cup Winners and League runners-up. For whatever reasons, Helston then decided to fold and I had a season out. As any player would say I hung up my boots, everyone knows it’s never for very long.”

Above: Sasha Sparkes – a Cornish footballing hero. Photo: Harry Price.

“My sister signed for Illogan Ladies and I would go to support them. It didn’t take very long for myself to miss football and I signed for a few games. My heart was still with Helston and its set up, so when I got a message from Paul Parfitt that he was setting the women’s team back up, we had a chat over coffee and I liked the plans he had for the team. I signed for the team and that brings us up to present day.”
 
We then moved onto Sasha’s incredible goal scoring record. For her, part of the story is down to circumstances: “Helston lost the battle to enter a higher league when the club was first set up. The appeal caught attention from Richard and Warren from Cornwall FA who supported Helston with their case, but unfortunately it was unsuccessful. This then meant we had to enter the Cornwall Women’s Football League (CWFL) at the bottom of the football tier.  I’m an experienced player and have been playing for 18 years and found my experience within that league beneficial to these statistics. My role as a striker is to put the ball in the back of the net, regardless of the team and the ability in front of me. That being said, I score against everyone I’ve played against regardless of their perceived level, teams such as Illogan, FXU, Saltash and Marine Academy Plymouth in the FA Cup. I have the ability to score at all levels.” 
 
Like any good striker though, Sasha recognises that she is only as good as the structure of the club she is part of and the players who surround her: “The set up I have at Helston is like no other team I have played for. It’s honestly incredible the facilities and coaching that is offered at Helston. Firstly the manager Paul Parfitt puts the women first in everything he does. He makes sure the morale in the team is up, organises all the matches, the training, all of the social media posts, picks the team every week and liaising with our coach Martyn Pennington who is also a massive part of Helston. Paul and Martyn are a great team who work so well together. They make the smooth running of the club look very easy and behind the scenes I see how much effort they both put in and it reflects on the team. They personally give me constructive criticism after every match which I look forward to in order to improve my game, without it I wouldn’t learn to be a better player.”

“On the pitch, I’m only as good as the service I receive, which is bloody brilliant. I honestly play with the nicest bunch of women who know exactly how I play. Without my team mates I wouldn’t be able to get to the stats I have today.”

The obvious next question to ask though is, with such an incredible goal scoring record and goals-to-game ratio, does Sparkes have any desire to play at a higher level? 

“I’m very happy with where I am at with Helston Women,” Sasha replies, “Our goals are to win this league and get promoted and then win the league after that. This plan is near enough in the distant future but not so far we can’t reach it.  I believe a back to back promotion is a sufficient challenge for myself and Helston Women as a club as a starting point. This season we did very well in the FA Cup and we played FA Women’s National League side Southampton FC Women at home – what a tie that was – I hope next season we can go through the rounds and at least make the First Proper Round of the FA Cup.” 

Above: Sasha in action for Helston against FA Women’s National League side Southampton in the FA Cup this season. Photo: Matt Friday.

Earlier in our conversation, Sasha mentioned playing football with her twin sister Smara as a child. The pair are still going strong together today at Helston: “I absolutely love playing with my twin. All of my success with football I have shared with her. We have quite the trophy hoard! Smara is quite modest and doesn’t actually know how much of a good player she is, I think that’s a great quality to have, she doesn’t need to boast as her football does the talking.”

“She’s played sweeper for many years and I trust her back there with any challenges she faces! Smara is one of the most technically gifted players in the team and her main strength is her faultless ability when she has a ball at her feet. She is one of the best sweepers I have ever come across along with Tyler Mathews from Callington Ladies. When they played together at Truro City they were a force to be reckoned with.” 
 
With Sasha well into her eighteenth year playing the game, I wondered what was the greatest challenge she has faced in that time? “My biggest challenge I would say for myself would be the transition from U16’s to Ladies football. It was a massive thing to do and adapt to the adult game. Luckily U16’s in this day don’t have to worry too much about it. I think there is now a great stepping stone for the girls especially at Helston Women where next season we look to set up a development squad to introduce the adult game to them.” 
 
So far we have heard what an impressive and ambitions club Helston Athletic are, but I wondered what specifically makes them so forward looking and what they are aiming for in the next few seasons. 
 
“Our club ambition of the team is to win the Cornwall League, then take promotion and win the South-West Women’s Football League (SWWFL), progress further in the FA Cup next season and win a County Cup in the next few seasons. This we hope will then create a platform for the best local players to come to us, meaning they will not have to travel to other clubs to meet the expectations. I would love to play alongside Keri-Ann Moxom again, but she felt the need to travel to fulfil her ambitions of playing in the SWWFL. I believe when Helston gets promoted this season in to the SWWFL we will have the very best infrastructure that meets the needs of the very best local players as well as retaining the current players by matching their personal desires and pushing them to their targets. The ambition of Paul Parfitt and Paul Hendy is to turn Helston in to a powerhouse for women’s football in Cornwall. It is extremely exciting and inspiring to be part of, let alone captain the team!”

Whilst Cornwall has not quite suffered as badly as some other areas in the coronavirus pandemic, there have still been a number of restrictions imposed in the area. Sasha explains how it has impacted on the club: “It has had a massive impact on grassroots sports, but apart from the most recent lockdowns we still managed play some matches previous to that. All of the rules and regulations were adhered too and it wasn’t the same as what I’m used to but I was just glad that we could be together as a team and still play football. Lockdown 2.0 was hard as we just came together as a team and really gelled together and then we were told there would be a four week lockdown and grassroots football would be suspended. But our manager Paul Parfitt set us the ‘Lockdown Challenge’. Paul challenged us all to run at least 1km a day and with that he would donate to the Helston and Lizard Foodbank for every player that completed the challenge. Paul Hendy our chairman and Sandra Bell personally matched this also by donating a Christmas hamper to the foodbank for every player who completed it. We ended up running 400km which is a great effort by all.”

We ended the conversation by exploring what makes Sasha tick as a person. In terms of her own sporting heroes, despite having been an unashamed Red, her real hero can be found in Cornwall.

“To be honest with you, I used to be a glorified Liverpool fan and used to follow players back in 2010 when the likes of Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso played (world great players). But for me my footballing hero is a bit closer to home. My dad, as cliché as that sounds. He was a great player when he was younger. I hear many of stories about how good of a player he was. He’s taught me everything I know and has always been there for me and Smara, the cold Sunday mornings, the summer football tournaments, the football night’s out and presentations, Cornwall trials and the training sessions. He hasn’t missed one of our games, and believe me that is a lot of games! I owe a lot of my football success to him.”  

Off the pitch, life for Sasha revolves around her job and partner Ellie: “I’ve worked in the cash office for Tesco’s for just over 10 years and I love my job. I have the perfect work hours and having the weekends off means I can still play football without having to get it covered. When I’m not at work or playing football I’m normally in the gym or out running. I’ve always liked to take care of myself. Having a partner who also likes to do them things is a bonus also. Our cheat days are Saturdays so we always like to find a new restaurant that we haven’t been to around Cornwall and get ourselves a well-deserved coffee and cake.”

The conversation concluded by looking at the goals that Sasha is setting herself for on and off the pitch over the coming few years.

“Well in five years’ time I shall be 34, and not sure I will be as agile as I am now. My plan in the future personally is to start a family with my partner Ellie. There will be a time that I hang up my boots and stop playing the sport. Before I do, there are a lot of achievements left that I would like to contribute too. Ellie also plays for the team and is a great centre back. I’m worried for her little head with how many headers she connects too. We will absolutely be there on the side line cheering on Helston Women and supporting them in any way that we can.” 

Time To Talk Mental Health Support with Zoe Cossey

As part of Time To Talk Day, Wroxham Women’s Zoe Cossey gave an extremely powerful and personal interview to Ben Gilby about mental health, the importance of support networks and how it’s more than OK to ask for help when things are tough. (4/2/21).

The impact of mental health is taking on ever more importance at the present time due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people who are forced to remain at home and face all sorts of concerns about their families and employment.

As someone who has suffered myself with mental health difficulties in the past and came out the other end because of the excellent support of the NHS, it is hugely important to try and help other people. It’s all very well for people to say “Oh, I imagine it must be awful” – but unless you’ve been there, you can’t imagine how awful it is.

This is something that Zoe Cossey, who plays for fifth tier Wroxham Women in the Eastern Region Premier Division can certainly identify with.

“I’ve struggled with my mental health for about three years now however I’m very lucky to have a great support network. I am now very open and honest with the fact I struggle with mental health, which I never used to be. I’ve had an incredible journey and I’m so happy with how far I’ve come, I’m very proud of myself for that.”

Zoe herself has extensive experience in women’s football despite being just 22 years-old. “I have spent the last sixteen years of my life playing football for teams like Waveney, Bohemians, Lowestoft Town, Ipswich Town and currently Wroxham Woman. I live with my boyfriend, my two step sons and we will be welcoming another little boy in June.”

She highlighted the importance of Time To Talk Day for helping others: “It is a fantastic initiative. It helps bring awareness, develops understanding and challenges ignorance. It encourages people to talk and listen about mental health. Talking is unbelievably important in the journey to battle mental health. 

“This year has been unbelievably difficult for everyone, but it can be significantly amplified for people who struggle with mental health. Not being able to do our ‘usual’ things and so many restrictions to our days, it takes its toll on all of us. For me, I’m a very family orientated person. I can only describe seeing them like a comfort blanket and not being able to see my family has really had an effect on my mental health. That’s why it’s been so important to open up and talk. Learning new ways and becoming more adaptable. We learn through others, other people’s experience and that’s another reason I feel it is so important to talk.”

Above: Zoe Cossey of Wroxham Women. Photo: Rebecca Burton.

I mentioned to Zoe that through my own previous struggle with mental health, I was fortunate to have great support from my family and the NHS to come through the other end. However, I’m more than aware than this is something that not everyone else may be lucky enough to have. I wondered what advice Zoe would you give to people who may not have people immediately close by to touch base with.

“There is always someone to listen,” she highlighted. “In the moment you may feel like there’s not. But there’s always someone. Even if it’s not immediate family or friends. There are so many fantastic support lines if you don’t have someone immediately close. There is nothing at all to be embarrassed or worried about, I’ve used them and they were so caring and understanding. It’s hard to take that first step but It’s what they are there for. Use them to help you. It really can make the biggest difference to your mental health and perspective on all situations.”

With Zoe having played for several different clubs in her time in women’s football, I wanted to ask her from her experience what she found mental health support to be like in our sport.

“Personally it’s very different in a variety of places. It all comes down to management, teammates and the club. I cannot express the amount of love and support I’ve had from everyone at Wroxham. I’ve never felt ashamed or had to hide my worries. I’ve been able to be open and honest about my struggles and have been supported throughout them.”

However positive things are at Wroxham, there are always things that can be done to improve the situation further. Zoe was clear on how things can get even better: “I feel like the more support given to people, as well as the more informed people are, the less stigma there is around mental health. It’s a really hard matter to understand what it’s like until you’ve gone through it in some form. So never judge a person who struggles, because that judgement is the problem and a big reason people don’t open up. If you don’t know how to help just be kind. That’s it. Be nice. That one bit of kindness could change a person’s day drastically.”

“The provisions and support in place for mental health is improving every day. I wouldn’t say its spot on yet, but it’s absolutely heading in the right direction. That’s why initiatives like Time To Talk and additional government funding will make a significant difference.” 

With children missing a lot of school at the present time and being denied sporting opportunities as well, I wanted to ask Zoe what she feels are the key priorities in developing mental health support for them.

Above: Zoe has had a hugely positive experience with Wroxham Women. Photo: Rebecca Burton.

“Mental health is talked about much more now than it ever has and whilst growing up children go through so much. So it’s essential all children feel supported and are fully aware of positive outlets for their thoughts and feelings. It’s important they know where they can go for support and who they are able to speak to. As well as this, children must be educated on techniques of how to cope with their feelings and emotions. Growing up can be difficult so it’s important they are educated on positive ways to deal with their emotions.”

“Children must know they are supported through everything also. They must know their thoughts, feelings and emotions will not be dismissed. There are so many people around to support and help them even if they don’t feel like they have with immediate family and/or friends. Ensuring children are aware of these support networks is absolutely vital in supporting the mental health of young people.” 

“In regards to sports, playing competitively can be quite stressful and can cause anxiety for some people. It’s essential that children are supported and understood to allow them to grow and be successful playing sports. Sport and physical activity is proven to significantly improve a person’s mental health, providing it is in a caring, supportive environment. Always remember, player before the sport.” 

We concluded our chat by finding out what Zoe’s plans were for Time To Talk Day: “I have completed a mental health first aid qualification and support some of my students at work.”

“I try to use my social media to share good ideas and personal experiences to support and talk about my mental health. I hope this helps just at least one person cope a little bit better or makes them smile in some way.”

It was an absolute pleasure to hear Zoe’s thoughts, she comes across as a true example of someone who is a fine role model for young women and girls both within and outside of football.

If you take one thing from this article, remember this piece of advice Zoe gave us when reacting to others: “Just be kind. That’s it. Be nice. That one bit of kindness could change a person’s day drastically.”

Impetus are hugely proud to have an official partnership with Wroxham Women, which includes the player sponsorship of Harriet Meers. Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Matthew Aumeeruddy: A Coach To Be Proud Of

This piece was originally published on the British Football Coaches website and can be accessed here: 1st Team, Academy & Community – Matthew Aumeeruddy (britishfootballcoaches.com) (1/2/21).

Above: Matthew Aumeeruddy. Photo via: British Football Coaches.

How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?

I’ve always had a passion for football for as long as I can remember. Although I enjoyed playing football, being autistic I struggled with the social side of football which meant I stopped playing football altogether around 13 years old. Nevertheless, I was still obsessed by football with an interest in football tactics and understanding why certain actions happened such as patterns of play. The more I watched and studied football the more I wanted to work within the industry, particularly at that elite level with an emphasis on the technical/tactical side of the game.

My first real taste of working within football was a work experience placement at Brentford FC Community Sports Trust when I was 15 years old. I continued to volunteer with trust and as well as well as starting my coaching qualification at the earliest possible age (16 years old). I then progressed to a paid role within the organisation while completing further coaching qualifications.

My next major step was to university and studying an undergraduate course in Sports Coaching Science (BSc) at St Mary’s University. This was an important course in gaining an understanding of the complexity of coaching, including the various disciplines that feed into it e.g. analysis, psychology, pedagogy for example. During my third year I completed my UEFA B Licence. I continued to coach at various places most notably with Staines Town college programme and with a newly formed women’s side called Ashford Town (Middlesex) FC with whom I still coach today with. My role at Ashford Town was is first team assistant head coach in which I deliver training session and devise playing strategies along with head coach Will Boye.

Most recently I returned to St Mary’s University for their newly launched postgraduate course performance football coaching (MSc). This was a great opportunity to improve my theoretically and practically knowledge. I wanted to do this alongside gaining an experience within a performance environment which I managed to gain as an intern at Barnet FC’s academy. Within this I managed to gain practical experiences observing and delivering alongside excellent coaches within different age groups as well as delivering on the 16-18 elite development programme. This was a great opportunity to learn and to put theory into practice.

After a season in the intern role, I then progressed to become a part time age group coach within the foundation phase of the academy, primarily working with the Under 11s. Unfortunately, the role ended when the academy closed in the summer of 2020.

Today, I have just finished completing the master’s in performance football coaching as well as still working as assistant head coach with the women’s team Ashford Town (Middlesex) which will be my 5th season with the team.

Any memorable experiences you would like to mention?

Above: Matthew working at Ashford Town (Middx) Photo via: British Football Coaches.

In terms of team achievements, the main ones that I always refer to are with Ashford Town. To have achieved four promotions in four years as well as winning various county and league cups is quite remarkable. We feel there is still much more to achieve as we believe we can progress even further up the women’s football pyramid.

From a personal perspective, I think my achievements have also been by recognizing certain milestones and landmarks for example completing degrees and coaching badges aswell as obtaining new coaching positions such as getting my first paid role at Brentford Community Trust through to become an Academy Coach at Barnet FC.

You mentioned that you were autistic, what does that mean and how do you feel it influences your ability to coach?

I specifically have what is formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome (this now falls under the Autism Spectrum Disorder). It is very difficult to explain as it affects people in so many ways and each case is different from another. A generic understanding of autism is that it is a condition which social functioning and development. But I would encourage anyone who is interested to visit http://www.autism.org.uk in order to get a further understanding on it.

In my case, the main thing is reading the social dynamics and interpersonal interactions can be difficult to navigate. Nevertheless, I feel I have developed positively over the time and can read situations better the more experience I get. Another thing that I would also I would also point out that is that autistic people can have intense interests. I think in my case it is definitely football, in terms of it being that driven and detailed in my approach to the sport. I even leave a pen and paper beside my bed and sometimes wake up and write down ideas!

Do you see your autism as a potential barrier in realizing your ambitions of working within the elite game?

That is something I am keen to avoid! I think there comes a time where everyone has barriers to overcome in order to realize ambitions. I suppose the main reservations to people with autism working within the professional football industry are the ability have effective communication and build relationships with players and staff. In my case, I have recognized these as key areas that I need to be strong in and have made a conscious effort to develop these skills.

Especially when I was in the academy office at Barnet FC, I felt I have positively developed my ability to “read the room” and gauge what interactions are appropriate with the different stakeholders considering their characteristics. All in all, I believe the experiences I have gained so far within different environments (senior men’s, women’s football, youth football across different ages and abilities) and personal qualities such as dedication, respectfulness and loyal nature have served me well so far and I will continue to further develop these in the future.

How would you describe your approach to coaching including skills sets you possess?

I am very detailed in my approach, using evidence-based methodology and looking to utilize all resources available to achieve objectives. This means I have needed to develop a side in which I can confidently adapt to the context in which I am working in.

I very much have the players at the forefront of my mind and try to develop positive communication with them in order to understand how best to facilitate their development. I would say my strongest skills sets lie within the technical/tactical details of the game. I have a very analytical mind and enjoy identifying technical/tactical patterns and problems and then devising practices to deliver based on what was identified.

What’s been best for your career development so far and what do you do to keep upskilled?

I would say the undergraduate and postgraduate courses have had a large impact on my development as they went beyond the standard courses run by the FA in terms of knowledge around coaching practice. Most importantly, during the latter part of my undergraduate and throughout my postgraduate, it helped me develop critical thinking skills in order to analyze different approaches to coaching and player development.

In terms of developing football knowledge, I would have to point towards the informal learning such as observing other coaches working within different contexts. One example that still resonates was watching sessions at Brentford FC academy, before it was closed, and seeing the environment that was created and standards at which coaches operated. This provided a template for me to inspire to. I continually look to discover and opportunities new ideas. For me every day is an opportunity to learn!

How’s the future looking for yourself?

I still have the ambition of working fulltime within the elite game at senior or youth level whether that being as a head coach, assistant head coach, specialist coach or in recruitment.

I am currently looking for my next role within an elite setting such as an academy where I can positively contribute as well as continue developing my skills set within that context.

From an education perspective, my next steps are to go onto the UEFA A Licence and Advanced Youth Award. As well as continuously engaging in informal learning activities such as observational study visits to continuing to upskill myself.

Above: Matthew pointing the way to success. Photo via: British Football Coaches.

Name, age, where are you based?

Matthew Aumeeruddy, 25 years old, London, England

Current and past Roles:

First Team Assistant Head Coach – Ashford Town (Middlesex) Women’s Football Club.

Academy Coach – Barnet Football Club.

Community Sports Coach – Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Qualifications:

UEFA B Licence.

FA Youth Award.

Sports Coaching Science (BSc) with First Class Honours.

Performance Football Coaching (MSc).

Chelsea’s Class Too Much For Spurs

Chelsea 4–0 Tottenham Hotspur (31/1/21)

by Ben Gilby

Chelsea maintained their position at the summit of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League after overcoming an uncomfortable opening twenty minutes to eventually dispatch Tottenham Hotspur with ease at Kingsmeadow.

Above: Sam Kerr heads home Chelsea’s third goal against Tottenham Hotspur at Kingsmeadow this afternoon. Photo: @BarclaysFAWSL.

In the team news before the game, Chelsea lost Erin Cuthbert from the squad and kept Academy players Jorja Fox and Aggie Beever-Jones on the bench for the second time in a week.

Tottenham Hotspur boss Rehanne Skinner handed Abbie McManus her debut following her move from Manchester United with Aurora Mikalsen also making her first start in goal.

Spurs were noticeably targeting their early attacks down the left hand side but the first main opportunity fell in the home side’s favour. Fran Kirby played in Guro Reiten down left and the Norwegian cut in and played in a high bouncing ball which Sam Kerr lifted over the bar.

Spurs created two great opportunities in quick succession after the ten minute mark. First Jessica Naz was fouled on the left wing. Kit Graham’s free kick was played in and was met with a header by Ria Percival which fell to Alana Kennedy whose shot was blocked and deflected out to Shelina Zadorsky. Her great curling effort which just went over.

Graham came close seconds later after being played in by Percival and the Chatham born player hit a shot which off the right hand post with Ann-Katrin Berger beaten.

With nineteen minutes played, Graham was unlucky once more as she was played in by Kerys Harrop turned and her effort forced a great save from Berger.

Chelsea responded with Fran Kirby after a move down the right involving Mjelde and Kerr. The Lionesses’ star, in great recent form hit the side netting on the right hand side.

Spurs conceded a free kick which Reiten played short to Ji. Spurs thought they had cleared the danger, but Ji took possession near the centre circle and found Melanie Leupolz in space. The German ran the ball forward before unleashing a sensational effort into the net from over 25 yards.

Less than ten minutes later, Spurs were further punished for not taking one of their early opportunities when Pernille Harder doubled Chelsea’s lead. Aurora Mikalsen’s loose clearance was gobbled up by Kirby who took the ball down the right, cut in and played a low ball into the feet of Harder who was in space. Abbie McManus tried to head Harder’s shot clear but only succeeded in wrong-footing her own goalkeeper and the ball ended up in the net.

Above: Abbie McManus (right) had a mixed debut for Spurs.Here she is seen accelerating away from Pernille Harder. Photo: @SpursWomen

Spurs were now finding it extremely hard to maintain possession. This plus a worrying habit of continually giving Chelsea’s stars far too much space directly led to Chelsea’s third goal seven minutes before the break.

Harder was free yet again down the left and played in an inch perfect cross to Sam Kerr who came in to the far post unmarked to nod home the sort of goal that is her trademark for The Matildas.

Chelsea were absolutely rampant at this stage with their wide players causing Spurs major headaches down both flanks. The North Londoners were grateful to hear the half-time whistle before the score line could get worse.

Spurs lined up at the second half with four at the back and five in midfield and it ensured that Chelsea’s momentum was halted in the early exchanges at least.

Seven minutes into the second period, Chelsea earned a corner. Guro Reiten’s ball in was met first time on the volley by Pernille Harder with her rocket headed off of the line by Ria Percival.

Harder had another chance when found by Fran Kirby, but Spurs managed to ensure that the hosts lead was not extended.

Within seconds of coming on to replace Sam Kerr, Beth England won a penalty after her cross in hit the elbow of Kerys Harrop. Up stepped Melanie Leupolz on sixty-three minutes and the German comfortably sent Mikalsen the wrong way as she dispatched the ball right into the bottom left corner.

Above: Guro Reiten gets a cross in despite the close attention of Tottenham’s Ashleigh Neville. Photo: @SpursWomen.

With just over twenty minutes left, Ji was allowed to dance through the midfield and played a ball out to Hannah Blundell who earned a corner from Harrop which Spurs cleared at the second attempt.

Jessie Fleming had a great chance shortly after when Harder found her on the right hand side of the box. The Canadian fired in a great effort which Aurora Mikalsen pushed away for a corner. Reiten’s ball in was met again by Harder, this time on the half-volley and it went just over the bar.

Chelsea were now once more extremely comfortable on the ball and could have extended their lead further before the end.

With ten minutes left, Sophie Ingle hit a long ball which England nodded down to Reiten who stretched out to get a toe on to ball which Mikalsen did well to hold.

Ji then came close after being played through and toe poked a weak effort against a Spurs defender for a corner which the visitors dealt with comfortably.

Chelsea had two further chances just before the final whistle. First, Leupolz combined with Reiten on the left hand side. The Norway international back heeled a pass to Drew Spence who drove an effort wide. Then, England laid off to Ji who was once more in acres of space. The South Korean sorcerer hit a super effort which narrowly failed to hit the target.

Chelsea’s win was routine in the end, condemning Tottenham to their first defeat under Rehanne Skinner. Their new head coach will no doubt emphasise the importance of taking chances against the very best sides when they come your way.

Teams: CHELSEA: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Leupolz, Ji, Reiten, Kirby, Harder, Kerr. Substitutes: Blundell, Ingle England, Fleming, Spence, Telford (GK), Fox, Beever-Jones.

Scorers: Leupolz 27, pen 63. Harder 29. Kerr 38.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Mikalsen, Percival, Harrop, Zadorsky, Neville, Kennedy, McManus, Davison, Graham, Addison, Naz. Substitutes: Green, Filbey, Dean, Cho, Quinn, Ayane, Martin, Morgan.

Referee: Sarah Garratt.

Anthony Murray: Latest Addition To Sutton United’s Talented Coaching Staff

As part of our sponsorship and partnership with sixth tier Sutton United Women, Impetus founder Ben Gilby spoke to Anthony Murray who will take over the club’s new U21 side for the 2021/22 season. In the piece Anthony discusses his aims for the brand new side he will be putting together over the coming weeks and months. (29/1/21).

Above: Anthony Murray – the latest addition to Sutton United Women’s hugely talented coaching staff. Photo: Michael Brownie.

Anthony has a strong background in London football as he explained: “I’ve had a great career playing youth football for various academies such as Queen’s Park Rangers, Leyton Orient and Charlton Athletic, I played professional football abroad for a season as well as various semi-professional clubs between step one and five. My coaching career started pretty young. While playing academy football, lots of kids on my housing estate around 2004 begged for me to coach them as they wanted to prepare for a tournament and because we went quite far they then went and spoke to the council about getting me onto my FA Level One Coaching Badge. This then saw me coaching at London Tigers FC with their youth development programme and with Westminster Sports Unit.” 

This led to Anthony applying for the role of Under 21s manager at Sutton United Women, a club who are making rapid strides up the league system with a record already in their short history of developing a number of hugely talented young players who have come through their ranks into the first team. Not surprisingly, this made the club an attractive proposition for Anthony: “Throughout my playing career, I’ve come across Sutton United many times at Gander Green Lane and it’s always has been a pleasant place to be. Sutton United are a great family and community oriented club and this is what attracted me to be part of the setup. Sutton are all about developing players in house and progressing them up the ranks and that’s what I’m about developing players and giving them opportunities.”

“From the first team down to the youth section the coaches and players are massive on development and giving player opportunities. We aren’t a club with a budget which allows us to go and bring players in so we know we have to go out onto the field to find players and advertise through word of mouth. Sutton United have big ambitions to progress up the tiers and this doesn’t happen unless you have a player pathway from the youth section upwards and putting a RTC and post 16 section in place.”

The club’s current U21s, who will be moving up to U23 level next season with their existing manager Courtney Bartlett and coaching staff have had an exceptionally strong season when they have been allowed to take to the field due to the pandemic – something which Anthony hopes to build on with his own squad when he takes over next season: “Yes, the present U21s have had a great season to date and it would have been amazing to see them continue into the second half of the season to see if they could’ve gone the full distance in winning the league title. Clearly they are a competitive side which can score goals, defend and compete when things get tough games.”

Above: Anthony is full of positivity about Sutton United’s new U21 side for 2021/22. Photo: Michael Brownie.

“With bringing a new U21 team together next season, you never know what you’ll get, so it’s about seeing what happens at the trials and then work on the team cohesion. The plan is to develop a team that will continue to enjoy playing football but also develop as people, want to compete and become problem solvers in games ready for the first team.”

We briefly alluded to the impact of the pandemic on the season, so I asked Anthony to talk a bit more about how he is trying to maintain contact with his players: “It’s massively difficult at this moment in time as football up and down the country is suspended in the non-elite game, as well as it being difficult for many families and business being hit by the financial side of lockdown and people’s mental health.”

“With the current crop of players I’m working with, we try to keep in touch with them as much as possible via Zoom and discussing various topics around football especially analysing previous matches, providing training programmes they can do at home and also giving them the opportunity to communicate with the staff one to one whether that be football related or things going on at home.”

Anthony is also desperate for the sport to re-start, but he is using the time constructively at present: “ I’m itching to get started. In the background I’m putting many things in place so we can get firing as quickly as possible. The main priority once the government and the FA give us the green light will be to organise trials as well as travelling to matches within and around the Sutton area to see players in action.” 

Above: Anthony at work at Charlton Athletic Women. Photo: Michael Brownie.

In terms of Anthony’s aims for himself and the women’s game in the short to medium term, he is extremely optimistic: “I’ve been blessed to be inspired by some great female players growing up such as Eartha Pond, Rachel Yankee and Lois Roche and to see where the women’s game is now is amazing. We’ve had England v USA in the World Cup being the most viewed female international game, various winners in the FAWSL, a massive pool of young talent coming through at every level. To think the women’s game was banned for fifty years and look how far it’s progressed organically with not much of a budget to work with and games being televised. I feel the women’s game will be showing FAWSL games on terrestrial television, increase in funding at grassroots to professional level and both the FA Women’s Championship and tier three clubs being able to have professional status.”

Sutton United are a club well worth keeping a close eye on – and that is something we at Impetus will be doing over the coming months and seasons. 

Euxton Girls: Doing Great Work in Lancashire

Impetus recently announced a player sponsorship deal with Chorley Women’s Lisa Topping. One of Lisa’s early clubs was Euxton GirlsBen Gilby talks to the club’s Michael Taylor about Euxton Girls’ development, Lisa’s time there and how things are going at the present time. (25/1/21)

Above: Euxton Girls enjoyed success in the pre-lockdown period. Photo via: Michael Taylor.

We began our discussion with Michael telling us all about the history of the club: “Euxton Girls FC was formed in July 2002 by our Chairman Dennis Winn, when his granddaughter told him she wanted to play football. That granddaughter was Nicola Barker, who is still involved in coaching at the club. This grassroots, girls only club was established to encourage and help give girls, from the age of five to eighteen, the opportunity to discover the game. Originally with twenty-three girls signing on to U10s and U12s teams, and playing in the Lancashire FA Girls League. We now have over 250 girls across seventeen teams playing in six leagues and have an established FA Wildcats centre, recognised by the FA.

Impetus recently announced sponsorship of Chorley Women’s Lisa Topping who played for Euxton Girls in her early days as a footballer. I asked Michael how Lisa is remembered at the club: “Lisa is remembered as a hardworking and technical player. She had an excellent left foot, in which she often curled in goals straight from the corner.”

“Lisa was the first to make it at a professional senior level and was followed shortly by Danielle Gibbons (who also played for Liverpool FC). We also had Jasmine Elliot who represented England at Youth Level. Lisa was also the first to accept an American scholarship and many have followed her since, around 5% of our players over the years have made it into a higher grade of football. With rising numbers of players at the club and improvement within the women’s football pyramid, we hope to see plenty more of our girls progress into senior football, both at professional and grassroots level.”

Above: Euxton Girls in action – something which everyone hopes will be able again to happen before too long. Photo via: Michael Taylor.

Coronavirus has had a massive impact on life in the country and Euxton Girls have had to work their way through it too: “It’s been tough for everyone, Football was missed by everyone, especially the players, but we were very much on the front foot to get back and stay back safely, there is extra work but it’s worth it to get that hour in the week and a game on a Saturday or a Sunday to enjoy and see their teammates and a sense of normality on the pitch.”

“Lockdown was tough to start with but I think we did well all things considered, All the coaches were constantly in touch with their teams and each other, at least every week with quizzes, online training sessions and meetups etc. The club also did weekly online quizzes across social media with different themes such as Blockbusters and A Question of Sport, and amazingly we managed to get our club sticker book launched, online, which went down a real storm with all the girls.”

Apart from coronavirus, there are other challenges at the club as Michael highlights: “The biggest challenge now is the lack of facilities, pitches, and winter training especially as the club grows and less are available due to various reasons, we lost one of our pitches earlier in the year to housing development for example.”

That growth is incredible and the achievements of these ever growing number of Euxton Girls teams is phenomenal: “We started into lockdown with fourteen teams, we now have seventeen, with the addition of two new U9s and an Open age team during lockdown. Our last season’s u12s West team just won the Lancashire FA Cup in October, delayed from May, which is the highest achievement since our then U15s beat Manchester City to the league title back in the day. We’ve had tournament wins at Flamingo Land, Blackpool, Bispham and Skelmersdale national tournament as well as League wins in recent years in the West Lancs league. We currently have six of our older teams in contention for League honours.”

Above: Lisa Topping, sponsored by Impetus (back row in tracksuit) with a group of Euxton Girls players. Photo via: Michael Taylor.

Like every club, Euxton Girls have a wonderful group of volunteers, without whom they could not function. Michael highlights some the club’s real stalwarts: “Antonia, our U10’s West team coach especially stands out, she works with a few of the teams from the U9’s to the open age, she is fantastic at what she does and has been a real asset with the our newer female coaches to bring them up to speed with their teams and training and mentor them without the FA courses being available as yet. She’s due to go to America coaching later on this year and will be sorely missed. We wish her every success on her journey.”

“Maisie is another standout from our 16s team. She also plays for our U18s and helps to coach one of our U13s as well as leading our youth council which was cut short, both these girls are great role models to all the girls and fantastic examples of what the club is about.”

We ended our conversation by examining what the club’s aims are over the next few years: “The immediate aim is stability and recover lost ground, we’re in a good position and have some good things going on later this year all being well. The main aim is to get the conveyor belt going from the Wildcats upwards, we would like to see girls progress through the ranks to open age, if not via a player pathway with a club such as Chorley Women, to a higher level. It would be good to see more of our former players coming back into coaching their own teams as well and get more female coaches onto the books. If we can get to twenty teams by our 20th birthday next year, that would be a fantastic achievement, facilities and coaches pending of course.”

Above: Lisa Topping of Chorley Women and formerly of Euxton Girls – proudly sponsored by ImpetusArtwork: Graphics by PW.

Harriet Meers: Lots To Look Forward To In 2021

Just before Christmas, Impetus announced it was sponsoring Wroxham Women defender Harriet Meers. In the first of our regular catch-ups with Harriet, she talks to Ben Gilby about her footballing journey so far. (21/1/21)

Harriet began our conversation by introducing herself briefly to us:“I was born in 2000 (I am 20 years old) and was brought up in Ipswich and haven’t moved far until university where I study Biomedicine in Norwich at the University of East Anglia. I will also look to complete a Masters as a Physicians Associate when I qualify. Alongside my studies I have two part time jobs to keep me busy, especially during the pandemic! Although, I have to say, most of my life seems to revolve around football, that’s where my friendship groups are too!”

Above: Harriet in action for the University of East Anglia. Photo via: Harriet Meers.

In terms of her introduction to football, Harriet admits that she was a late starter: “I was quite late to football, considering most of the players I play with started as soon as they could walk, and I first joined a team at the age of fifteen. In my area and school as a child there never seemed to be the opportunity for girls unless you wanted to play alongside the boys, and even that opportunity wasn’t there unless you started as a little one! I helped on match days with my brother’s team and started attending a girls weekly turn up and play and that’s when the club Kesgrave started their first female football team. I played for fun in midfield roles and was captain of the team until the team parted due to various commitments three seasons later.”

“This was a pivotal point for me as I could have stopped playing but under the encouragement of my Dad, I started training with a new team, East Bergholt at ladies open age. In my first season with East Bergholt I found myself in the new position of right back and as a team, we went on to win the Suffolk Cup and League double. I then went to university but carried on playing matches with East Bergholt and we managed to get the double titles for a second season running! At this point the team mutually decided to take promotion into the Eastern Region League but due to becoming captain for the university team and travel problems I decided to focus on university BUCS football and take a season out from Sunday league. I took on the role of captain as the team got promoted so it was a challenging year ensuring we kept our position in the league, of which was success!”

Above: Harriet early in her footballing career with East Bergholt. Photo via: Harriet Meers.

“Due to the coronavirus restrictions the 20/21 season looked like it would have a BUCS sized gap in and I may not get to play much football. With this in mind I joined a local team Kesgrave Kestrels for game time to improve my fitness and to get into Sunday league mode again and found myself playing a centre back role which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Having started off the season at university training, I met Bex (Rebecca Burton, Wroxham Women head coach) and after a conversation I got an amazing opportunity to come be part of the Wroxham team just before Christmas. I knew as soon as I was offered to sign I had to take the opportunity as the next step in my football journey into the Eastern Region Premier division.”

Harriet has mentioned the influence of Rebecca Burton, but I wondered who the other key influences on her footballing career have been so far: “As I will say over and over again my Dad has been my biggest supporter and always will be. He started my journey and has kept pushing me when I doubted myself.”

“In high school, I will always remember my PE teacher at the time and football coach, Mr Finch. I didn’t think I was even good enough to use football as one of my GCSE sports but he quite literally forced me to join in with the boys, gave me encouragement and would without a doubt say he played a huge part in my journey so far, I ended up with full marks somehow so guess it wasn’t all bad!”

“There are so many people I could mention here, but the last people I want to mention are Bex and Harry Diggens. At University of East Anglia (UEA) they have given me a fab opportunity and have seen something, albeit God knows what, that’s worth working with. I am really looking forward to a fab season when things can return slightly more to normal!”

Above: Harriet is very excited by the opportunity to play for Wroxham. Photo via: Rebecca Burton.

In terms of the sponsorship from Impetus, I asked Harriet what difference it will make both personally and professionally to her: “When Bex announced I had received sponsorship I was over the moon, I didn’t expect it to happen, let alone so quickly! As soon as I heard about Impetus and their founder Ben, I was so excited to get on board and have someone who not only can support me financially but to have that one person believe in you makes such a difference. I instantly felt overwhelmed with this sponsorship opportunity and I am super excited to see where this journey takes us! Sponsors support clubs in so many ways, but the support to an individual is priceless and I am so grateful for Impetus and Ben, it definitely makes things easier!”

Life itself at the moment is full of challenges, I wondered what Harriet’s biggest challenge as a footballer has been so far: “My personal biggest challenge as a football has to be my confidence. My Dad has always believed in me, and I have one friend at university, who has always said I was better than I think I was but I have never been able to see it. My Dad even had to ‘persuade’ me to trial for the university team with the offer of new football boots as I was too afraid to go! Without those two I probably wouldn’t be here where I am now. I never would have had the confidence to trial for Wroxham without them! Sometimes you want to impress someone and that’s what inspired me to keep up running and everything over lockdown, when one person tells you they believe in you, when you don’t believe in yourself – that’s priceless and exactly what happened. Bex has helped massively with my confidence and this opportunity is one I will always be grateful for!”

Wroxham have been pushing for a place in the FA Women’s National League for several years now and are known as a well organised and supported club both on and off the pitch. This is something that Harriet agrees with: “Life at Wroxham is so different to anywhere I have been before! The training sessions are super intense, structured and thoroughly enjoyable. I knew Bex was an incredible coach before I started, but the team ambitions and goals are second to none. The club is such a big family and from the moment I came to my first session I felt so welcomed by everyone. Sometimes trialling at a club can be daunting and you can feel isolated but it was far from the case. The girls welcomed me over and got me involved and it didn’t stop at that training session. Right up to the point I signed I had the girls encouraging me.”

Just days after Harriet signed for Wroxham, football was cancelled again due to the coronavirus outbreak. I wondered how disruptive this time has been for her: “Corona virus has really disrupted football, but it has definitely still helped me in some ways. It has been tough not having guaranteed training sessions followed by weekly matches. University football is one of the most important things for me, it’s a great way to socialise, work release and offers a completely different type of football to Sunday league. Coronavirus has meant there has been no BUCS football and we have only had a few training sessions at the beginning of the year. Although with new coaching staff when it resumes its set to be a positive fresh start!”

Above: With the national lockdown starting soon after Harriet signed for Wroxham, it’s been a frustrating few weeks, but there’s much to look forward to. Photo via: Rebecca Burton.

“Sunday league football has been slightly less affected; however, this new lockdown has put a stop to that. It’s hard not being able to have that kick about, see your mates and have a good training session. After the first lockdown I once again started coaching U14 girl’s football which had its challenges due to the new corona virus guidelines; however, it was so rewarding to see how much the girls enjoyed the return to football. Most importantly for me, the lockdowns have been my personal challenge to improve my fitness and strive for new goals. Although I miss playing football, it has been great to get into running and massively change my fitness goals.”

In terms of footballers that Harriet admires, she’s pretty clear: “It probably sounds a cliché as everyone goes with Lucy Bronze but I think she is an exceptional footballer who has inspired so many, so it is no wonder she has won so many awards, not only for her ability but her personality – it might help she is a fab defender too! It is so important of female pro-footballers to use their platform like Bronze to inspire young girls into the sport!

Whilst Harriet is still in the early stages of her footballing career, I wondered what her aims are over the next few seasons: ”I would like to have solidified my place in the team with Wroxham and look to push for promotion into the FA Women’s National League. On a personal level, I would love to gain more confidence and improve myself as an overall player whilst having a good time! I also look to continue coaching in the girls football pyramid.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Yaina Andrew – Looking For Progress At Penryn Athletic

In the latest piece linked to our content sponsorship with seventh tier Penryn Athletic, Ben Gilby spoke player-manager Yaina Andrew about her footballing journey and what’s been going on at the club since we last touched base in December. 19/1/21

Above: Penryn Athletic player-manager Yaina Andrew. Photo via: Yaina Andrew.

Yaina began our catch up by discussing her own footballing journey: “I was born in Treliske Hospital, Truro in June 1989 and raised in Penryn with my Mum and my Nan.”

“I started playing football with my neighbours when I moved house at the age of 6, I then played in Primary school and secondary school. I joined a local youth team called Falmouth United and then played for Penryn Ladies AFC when I was 14 years old. I then went on to play for Falmouth Ladies, Trevenson Ladies, Mullion Ladies, Mabe Ladies and then back to Penryn Ladies. The reason I had left Penryn originally was because the team folded and no one was available to take it over, Mullion were struggling for players and it was such a long drive that is when I decided to set up Penryn Ladies AFC.”

Above: Penryn Athletic’s Yaina Andrew in training. Photo via: Yaina Andrew.

“I have so many great memories from football and I can’t imagine my life without it! I have had so many good coaches over the years and was gutted to see them leave because of work commitments or family. My mum has always been my biggest supporter and she still is now. She loves coming to watch, even now she still comes to every home game.”

Above: Yaina plays in a corner for Penryn Athletic. Photo via: Yaina Andrew.

Off the pitch, I am a PE teacher at Threemilestone Primary School which I absolutely love, I have been there for six years now and the children are absolute super stars. I love spending time with my friends, family and girlfriend, this may involve us shopping, movie nights, partying, pier jumping, snorkelling and walking our two amazing dogs Mya and Rio.”

“My footballing heroes are Ruud Van Nistelrooy and David Beckham and my sporting heroes are Jessica Ennis-Hill, Kelly Holmes and Mo Farah. The reason why these are my sporting heroes are all for the same reason which is great sportsmanship and determination but with a positive attitude and friendly nature.”

We then turned to focus of Yaina’s biggest challenge in the game – interpretation of the rules! “For some reason Woman’s football seems to have different rules according to the referees. We want to be treated as equals, therefore we want the referee to call for a foul throw, a yellow card, a red card and a penalty. It rarely happens at our level of the game. Instead, the referee just plays on!”

Above: Yaina is longing to be back training again with her Penryn Athletic squad. Photo via: Yaina Andrew.

The last time we spoke to Yaina, Penryn Athletic were looking forward to continuing their strong start to the season in the Earthbound Electric Cornwall Women’s League. However, with a new national lockdown, that has been frustrated. “Nothing much has changed since we last spoke,” Yaina reveals, “We managed to start training again every Sunday for a couple of weeks but Covid has stopped that again, so yeah we’ve been without a match for months now which is absolutely gutting for us because we started the season really well.”

“We also may lose some players after this season because of it being their last year at university here in Cornwall, not the ideal way to go out with a bang. I definitely expected great things with more wins and more goals from myself but that may have to wait until next season now, who knows.”

Fine Margins The Difference

Chelsea 2–1 Manchester United

by Ben Gilby

Chelsea won the battle of the top two in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League as they condemned Manchester United to their first defeat of the season at Kingsmeadow and went top of the table in the process.

The two teams went into the match as the only unbeaten FAWSL sides this season, but in the end the difference was a defensive error which allowed the in-form Fran Kirby to settle matters.

United started impressively on the front foot, clearly settling into a pressing game from the start.

Despite this, it was Chelsea who came closest after three minutes. Ji found Fran Kirby who released Sam Kerr. The Australian star drove into the box, took the ball away from Millie Turner and fired in an effort which Mary Earps did well to get a foot to.

Shortly afterwards, Kirby and Kerr combined again with the Matildas star set free into the box, but she fired wide.

A breathless opening period continued as USNWT star Christen Press was played through for United but just ruled offside after the Chelsea defence quickly stepped up.

Kirby and Kerr combined brilliantly twice more in quick succession. First, the Lioness found Kerr again after a run down the left. Kerr got ahead of Millie Turner and hit a shot which looked to be deflected wide but no corner was awarded.

Almost immediately afterwards, the pair combined again to produce a glorious opportunity for Kerr, but as Earps advanced she hit it wide. So many great chances before the twenty minute mark for Chelsea and all went begging. Would the champions ultimately rue these missed opportunities?

Above: Sam Kerr looking to get free from Millie Turner. Photo: @ChelseaFCW

United hit back well when Kirsty Hanson got clear down the right and put in a great cross. Millie Bright’s attempted clearance only succeeded in allowing Christen Press to get a shot away which rolled narrowly wide of the post.

Chelsea finally took one of their chances when Kirby’s run into the box saw her get a shot away that Earps blocked at the expense of a corner. Erin Cuthbert’s flag kick came in. Millie Bright’s header was cleared off the line by the head of Amy Turner, Kirby’s follow up effort came back off the post into the path of Pernille Harder who couldn’t miss and Chelsea had the lead.

United responded creditably and Galton played a lovely ball wide to Hanson who now popped up on the left hand flank. She glided past Maren Mjelde and played in Ella Toone whose effort deflected into the path of Press but Berger blocked the effort before the offside flag went up.

Above: Christen Press’ effort is blocked by Ann-Katrin Berger. Photo: @ManUtdWomen

Galton once more created for the visitors. This time down the right, earning a corner with five minutes of the half left, but Magda Eriksson headed clear.

United continued to build as Press found Toone who played a lovely ball behind to Hanson who slid an effort round Ann-Katrin Berger into the net, but assistant referee Sian Massey Ellis had her flag up once more.

With a minute to go before the break, Harder drove through the midfield and got a fierce shot away which swirled and Earps grabbed at the second attempt.

The second half opened in a slightly more cagey fashion and was slightly moving in United’s favour. Casey Stoney had clearly taken an opportunity to tighten up and reduce the creativity of Chelsea’s attacks.

Above: Kirsty Hanson of Manchester United looks to hold off Jonna Andersson. Photo: @ManUtdWomen

Stoney also brought on Lauren James and her injection of skill earned her side a leveller. Maren Mjelde’s headed clearance fell to Kirsty Smith who found Leah Galton and then Ella Toone. Smith took charge again and played in James who turned and curled a magnificent effort into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

Chelsea were nudged out of their second half slumber and formulated an instant reply when Sam Kerr turned Ona Batlle and hit a shot which Mary Earps pushed away with a one handed diving save.

Seconds later a defensive lapse saw the centre back pairing of Amy Turner and Millie Turner fail to deal with a long ball through which they allowed to run on to Fran Kirby. The Chelsea hot-shot ruthlessly punished United by hitting a shot across Earps into the far corner and just four minutes after being pegged back, the champions were back in front.

With eighteen minutes to go, the hugely impressive James conjured up another opportunity for United. She danced her way into the box and fired a left footed effort just past the far post.

Towards the end, an unnecessary foul from Leupolz in the centre of the pitch allowed James to scamper away down the left again but United frustratingly conceded possession with Toone adjudged to have put in a high boot.

Above: Fran Kirby’s goal separated the two sides in the final reckoning. Photo: @ChelseaFCW

Chelsea comfortably saw out the remainder of the match and now they have hit the top of the table with a game still in hand, they will be very hard to shift. This win sees them now equal Manchester City’s record of going thirty-one games unbeaten.

Despite the defeat, Manchester United can take a lot of positives from the game. They came desperately close to getting a point at least from the game and caused the champions enough problems in defence to suggest that their challenge is far from over.

Teams: CHELSEA: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Leupolz, Ji Kirby, Harder, Cuthbert, Kerr. Substitutes: Blundell, Ingle England, Reiten, Fleming, Charles, Spence, Telford (GK).

Scorers: Harder 30, Kirby 65.

MANCHESTER UNITED: Earps, Batlle, A. Turner, M. Turner, Smith, Ladd, Groenen, Hanson, Toone, Galton, Press. Substitutes: Harris, McManus, Sigsworth, Zelem, Fuso, James, Ross, Bentley (GK), Heath.

Scorers: James 61.

Referee: Rebecca Welch.

Four-midable from Super Fran

Reading 0-5 Chelsea (10/1/21)

by Ben Gilby

Above: Fran Kirby celebrates one of her four strikes at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon. Photo: @BarclaysFAWSL

Chelsea took advantage of all other FA Women’s Super League teams being on the side-lines to close the gap on Manchester United at the top of the table to three points in addition to holding a game in hand and having superior goal difference over United after a comfortable win over Reading at the Madejski Stadium.

Emma Hayes’ side went into the game with Guro Reiten back in her influential midfield spot with Beth England, Ji and Pernille Harder forming part of an astonishingly strong bench with, perhaps an eye on next Sunday’s showdown with Manchester United.

Reading had plenty of possession in the earliest of the initial exchanges before Fran Kirby began to spark the visitors into attack.

With five minutes played, Melanie Leupolz stole possession from Angharad James and played in Kirby who in turn fed Sam Kerr. The Matildas superstar could have had a shot, but laid a ball off for Kirby which the hosts cleared for a corner.

Four minutes later, Kirby showed her influence again down the left and once more found Kerr, but the Australian’s shot was not powerful enough and easily blocked.

There was a glimmer of hope for Reading just before the quarter hour mark after Reiten gave away a free kick centrally outside the box, but Fara Williams’ weak effort went well wide.

Shortly afterwards, Reading were punished after a superb solo finish from Fran Kirby. A long ball through was flicked on beautifully by Kerr into the path of Kirby who was in acres of space. The former Royal rounded Grace Moloney and hit the ball into the net with ease. It was a deserved goal for a player in dominant form.

Kirby’s magic start to the game almost led to a second goal on twenty-two minutes. Jonna Andersson charged down the left and found Kirby in acres of space but the effort came back off of the woodwork.

Seconds later there was no stopping the Chelsea hot shot. She easily won a battle against Emma Mitchell and held off the former Arsenal defender to hit a shot across Moloney for her second of the afternoon.

Just before the half-hour mark, Reading came close when James played in Tash Harding who saw Ann-Katrin Berger off her line and lofted a great effort only to see it bounce narrowly wide.

The Royals did a good job in taking the sting out of Chelsea by trying to maintain a patient passing game around the half hour mark, but the home side’s downfall was an inability to maintain that possession in an attacking sense.

An example of poor control of the ball in an attacking position by Reading almost let in Chelsea for a third goal on thirty-six minutes as Kerr broke free and looked to be in a great position to shoot, but squared for Kirby which allowed the Royals to clear.

Above: Niamh Charles had an impressive afternoon for Chelsea. Photo: @ReadingFCWomen

As the half entered its closing stages, Chelsea pressed. Andersson was found by Reiten on the left and played in a glorious curling cross towards Niamh Charles which Moloney dealt with.

Then, a glorious inch perfect ball from Sophie Ingle found Charles on the right. The former Liverpool player beat Lily Woodham and laid a pass back for Kirby in the box, but Jess Fishlock cleared.

Right on the half-time whistle, Kirby grabbed her hat-trick goal which she so richly deserved for an outstanding performance.

Fara Williams gave away a free-kick and received a yellow card for her pains. Erin Cuthbert floated the resulting set-piece to the back post to Kerr. The East Fremantle born striker lofted the ball back to Kirby who was unmarked in the six yard box and she nodded home with ease. Reading keeper Grace Moloney protested that the ball was out of play when Kerr played the cross in and received a yellow card as a result.

Fran Kirby was in on goal within three minutes of the re-start and was denied by a sensational tackle from Jess Fishlock. Moments later, Sam Kerr was agonisingly close when Erin Cuthbert found Kirby who played a lovely ball in but the Australian put her header just wide of the left hand post.

Chelsea earned a corner on fifty-two minutes after a quick counter attack. Originally, a poor clearance from Ann-Katrin Berger fell straight to Lauren Bruton, but the visitors regained possession and drove up the left wing. Kerr got in behind and earned a corner. The flag kick was met with another thumping header from Kirby for hers and Chelsea’s fourth with questionable marking once more from Reading.

Just past the hour mark, there was a flurry of danger from Reading when Angharad James pulled a decent ball back into the box but Millie Bright was able to clear. Shortly afterwards, Bruton found Tash Harding who raced through and was just denied by Berger before the assistant lifted an offside flag.

Chelsea rang the changes and two of the new arrivals were involved in their next chance with ten minutes left. Ji played in Pernille Harder who raced in but was denied by Moloney.

With six minutes to go, the visitors earned a free kick when Beth England was fouled by Deanna Cooper centrally just outside the box. Ji fired in a free-kick which Moloney seemed happy to let go wide – but it was far closer than she may have thought.

Less than a minute later, Ji had better luck with a glorious finish. Blundell played in a high ball which Jessie Fleming played towards the South Korean who let it bounce before unleashing a great shot into the far corner of the net.

Fran Kirby will quite rightly take all the headlines from a sensational individual performance. There does need to be major questions asked of Reading’s defensive structure which allowed their former star so much space amid some catastrophic marking. Chelsea will also point to a really positive performance from 21 year-old midfielder Niamh Charles who hasn’t started many games this season, but put in a great shift this afternoon.

It makes their showdown with Manchester United at Kingsmeadow next weekend even more mouth-watering. If Chelsea were to win that, it would mark a potentially decisive shift in the championship race.

Teams: READING: Moloney, Leine, Cooper, Mitchell, Woodham, Eikeland, Fishlock, James, Williams, Harries, Harding. Substitutes: Bartrip, Bruton, Naylor (GK), Carter, Rowe, Skeels, Roberts.

CHELSEA: Berger, Blundell, Bright, Cuthbert, Andersson, Leupolz, Ingle, Kirby, Reiten, Charles, Kerr. Substitutes: Mjelde, England, Ji, Eriksson, Fleming, Harder, Telford (GK).

Scorers: Kirby 16, 23, 45+2, 53. Ji 86.

Referee: Abigail Byrne.

Impetus speaks to Bristol City Vixencast

Impetus‘ Ben Gilby spoke to D-M Withers (D-M), Shahan Miah (SM) and Nat Brown (NB) from Bristol City Vixencast – the weekly podcast featuring all things Bristol City Women. (7/1/21)

How did the podcast get started?

D-M: Last season (2019/20) I decided I wanted to try and make a podcast about Bristol City Women. This was back in the day when we could go to matches. Initially the podcast was called Oxtoby Revolution. For many years the atmosphere at Stoke Gifford Stadium was a bit unfriendly. I went to matches but never spoke to anyone. I thought if I had an audio recorder with me, I’d have an excuse to talk to people (in my professional life I am a life historian, and love listening to people’s stories). I was also curious about who the fans of Bristol City Women were—on some level I thought it might be helpful for the club to have a better understanding of who their audience was. So the first iteration of the podcast was composed of pitch side interviews with fans and documents our singing, and things like that. I made my partner Nat [Brown] join in and talk about football because she sounds authoritative and clever when talking about tactics (I also think she likes doing it). I am actually really pleased I captured the material, for obvious reasons: it turned out to be our last season at SGS; it also records that moment just before the pandemic disrupted life as we had known it. Football historians of the future – I accept your advance thanks (assuming these podcasts find themselves into an archive!) Through doing the podcast and general Bristol City fandom I met Shahan [Miah], who has become a dear friend and excellent collaborator. So when I decided to rebrand the podcast for the new season, he became more involved—indeed, he suggested the new name! So that’s the story of the podcast so far. My friend listened to it and said that it was a bit like a fanzine—that podcasts are like the fanzines of the present. I like that idea, as it captures that sense of making your own media, especially if you feel like your interests are not being properly represented by what’s on offer.

SM: Also, it turned out that I live relatively near D-M & Nat, so for this season, I was able to go to their house & record with them there, while maintaining social distancing. However with subsequent restrictions put in place, we now record remotely over Zoom.

Tell us a bit about all of yourselves in terms of your backgrounds – how did you all get into women’s football?

D-M: I’ve been a football fan since quite a young age, initially supporting men’s teams. I actually support Norwich City FC, the same as my Grandad. I have fond memories of going to Carrow Road with him, and to away games in and around London. I grew up near Reading and regularly went to Elm Park in my teens. I loved going to Elm Park but didn’t follow Reading when they moved to the Madejski. I started to support Bristol Academy in the first season of the Women’s Super League in 2011. It was a total revelation watching women’s football live and I’ve been hooked ever since.

NB: I’d always been a football fan, but I never had any particular club allegiance. My route into women’s football was through playing. I actually played in goal for Bristol City under 15s, 16s and a brief spell in the first team! I also started watching Bristol Academy in the first season of the Women’s Super League – I was excited to have a women’s football team I could support. I am now trying to get my coaching badges, working with a youth team in the local area.

SM: I grew up in Long Ashton, right near Ashton Gate Stadium, so I couldn’t get more local than that! I’ve been an occasional attendee for the better part of the last 15 years. My first ever women’s football match was at Ashton Gate; I saw Bristol Academy’s first UEFA Women’s Champions League game there in 2011, as me & my then-housemate were curious. Club legends Anne Heatherson & Jess Fishlock played in that game, however it was not until many years later I realised the significance that I got to see them play.

My second ever women’s football match was also at Ashton Gate, when in 2015, England played Bosnia & Herzegovina in a UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 qualifier. There were so many Lionesses past & present in that squad that I did not know of at the time. I had started to get aware of the team after hearing of how well they did in that summer’s Women’s World Cup.

It was in 2017 when I started to gain casual interest. A friend & I checked out the WSL Spring Series in 2017, where Bristol City Women (as they had become) lost all their home games. I watched all of Women’s Euro 2017 & the Women’s World Cup in 2019, and it was on the last game of the 2018/2019 WSL season that I was free to attend. Bristol City lost 2-1 to West Ham, however I had such a great time with the supporters singing & a welcoming atmosphere, that I felt encouraged to attend many more games in the subsequent season.

How do you feel links are between the men’s and women’s teams?

D-M: In Bristol? Tenuous at best. Sometimes they appear in the same marketing campaigns. More could certainly be done to foster a ‘one club’ ethos. I’m thinking shared training facilities and better investment.

Above: Ebony Salmon – another impressive set of performances for Bristol City this season. Photo: @bristolcitywfc

NB: Well, Bristol City Women is still a relatively new thing. It was Bristol Academy and maybe the connection between them is not yet as strong as could be.


SM: The team has been known as Bristol City Women for almost five years now, and owned by Bristol Sport (who run Bristol City men & Bristol Bears rugby teams), compared to Bristol Academy which for many years was independent.

I feel the links have improved, but there’s still plenty more to do. It’s great to see the women in the same media/photoshoots as the men’s team. The women have played at Ashton Gate several times, however in those games I felt the atmosphere wasn’t quite the same as it could be at Stoke Gifford, for example.

How would you sum up the podcast in terms of what an average episode is like – style, humour, regular features/catchphrases etc?

D-M: We try to keep the episodes to around thirty minutes and hopefully it’s fairly fast moving while having time for discussion. I think between us we create a nice balance between detail, humour and analysis. Occasionally there is singing, a sprinkle of surreal humour. I think the main point is we are making space to talk about Bristol City as we do get a bit overlooked in the mainstream women’s football media.

NB: Since Shahan has got on board, we’ve got a nice balance of detail and chat. He’s great at the research. D-M does an awesome job at the editing and I just say things about the football – easy!

SM: I’m inspired by other fan-based podcasts for the Bristol City men’s team, most notably One Stream in Bristol, who can combine analysis & humour. As games are still behind closed doors (at time of writing) I’m glad to have helped build the podcast, in terms of building audiences nationally (& internationally). One catchphrase we tend to use is the clip from manager Tanya Oxtoby, recorded in a training session from last season, filmed for Australia’s Optus Sport, where she yells to her team “Do you want to f*****g win on Sunday or not?”

Results wise, it’s been a tough start to the season. How have you all assessed things so far?

D-M: Oooooooooooh. There were positive signs. I am not feeling so positive now, writing after our 4-0 defeats to both Aston Villa and West Ham. Pass!

NB: I’m a positive wizard. I say something good and I see it! Gemma Evans has been doing her job fantastically. Baggers (Sophie Baggaley) is back on legendary form- I think it’s that rainbow/My Little Pony kit she now wears. We can score goals. Yana Daniels gets fouled for fun. We have a midfield this year. We get to wear the purple and lime. I could continue…

Above: Sophie Baggaley in the famous ‘My Little Pony’ goalkeeping kit. Photo: @bristolcitywfc

SM: Not gone according to plan! I was quite surprised when Tottenham & West Ham; teams above Bristol City in the table; have changed managers already this season, and yet the same set-up is still present at our club. I get the “We go again” & “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” comments made in media interviews, but there’s so many times they can be used as what feels like excuses before the club gets in real trouble.

What do you think about the move to Twerton Park – albeit not being able to have attended games there in person?

D-M: I felt really good about the move to Twerton Park when it was first announced. We have been to a few matches there, as we had media passes for the games against London Bees and Birmingham City. I really like it, as a stadium, and would be tempted to watch Bath City FC play too when it becomes possible to go to matches again. I look forward to the day when fans get to be there and get behind the team. Only then, I think, will we be able to assess whether the Twerton Park move is a success. SGS (the old Bristol stadium) was not a great place to watch football. It is out of the way and hard to get to. Twerton Park is nestled in a residential area; I feel very nostalgic about stadiums like that—it reminds me of Elm Park – Reading FC men’s old home ground I suppose. I hope the team will be able to pick up fans who live close by. Twerton Park is also near to the Bristol-Bath cycle path and, if you are so inclined, you could take in the Bath skyline walk before a match. Lovely.

NB: I’m really happy about it. The old stadium was our home, but it’s great to have the stands. Looking forward to filling the place and created some atmosphere when we can. As D-M said, we attended a couple of games- one of which was under the floodlights and a great win!

SM: I was surprised with the announcement, firstly because there was no obvious supporter consultation, and also because it would mean I’d have to travel to another city. Fans of other clubs may be used to that, but I always loved the fact that Bristol City actually played in a Bristol postcode! However, having attended with D-M & Nat with our media passes, Twerton Park feels like a nice ground, and I can’t wait to see it with fans! At time of writing, Bath is in Tier 2, however Bristol is in Tier 3, so this is why we couldn’t attend games.

Sophie Baggaley and Ebony Salmon get most of the headlines at the Vixens, but who else has been catching your eye and why?

D-M: Jemma Purfield had a really strong start to the season, offering the team much needed dynamism from the left wing-back. It’s been amazing to see Naomi Layzell break through into the first team, especially given that she’s only 16. Wow. I’ve enjoyed Emma Bissell’s performances and thought she took the goal at Reading superbly. Charlie Wellings seems to be enjoying her football this season. Yana Daniels always fights for the team. It’s great to have our Australian contingent too. The results have been disappointing, for sure, but the effort is there from all the players. Behind them all the way.

NB: Careful, or I might start on our Christmas anthem ‘The 12 days of Vixens’! The funny thing is, everyone’s been playing pretty well. I love Ella Mastrantonio and was really excited about her and Aimee Palmer playing in midfield together bringing a bit of class and muscle. Hopefully Palmer’s injury will get sorted and she can start playing again. Gemma Evans has been great, especially in the last few games. Bissell has been brilliant, as has Purfield.

SM: I’ve been really impressed with Emma Bissell since she joined over the summer. Not sure if it’s to prove what she could have done at her former club Manchester City, but I’m loving it! Nice to see more of Chloe Logarzo, as she only played a couple of games last season before last season abruptly ended. She seems to be the first choice penalty taker now, and she’s successful at it!

Above: Emma Bissell in action for Bristol City. Photo: @bristolcitywfc

Bristol have had a really strong presence in the top tier of the women’s game for a number of years – over the short-term what are the Vixens’ aims on and off the pitch do you think?

D-M: To be honest, I really don’t know what the strategy is for the team, in the short or the long term. I’d love to know. I think we all felt encouraged by the appointment of [head of women’s football] Lee Billiard in the summer and we had hoped it could be the start of a bit more dialogue and exchange between the club and its fans—we haven’t had that for a long time. That hasn’t exactly happened, but there are reasons for that, not least a global pandemic! I am confident we can build some good relations in the future. I am weary of the refrain that “we don’t have as much as other clubs, we’re run on a developmental basis, etc etc” even if that’s true. What this means is practice is we will lose, or it’s always an uphill struggle, with the incline getting fiercer all the time. In the past few years it’s obvious that we are being left behind when compared with the business strategies pursued by most teams at the top level of the women’s game (big up to Lewes FC for doing things differently!) It would help if the Lansdown family [owners of Bristol Sport] could spread their risk a bit more in our direction. We might then be able to make a short – or even, gasp—a long term plan.

NB: Surely we need to thinking more than ‘let’s not get relegated’

SM: To invest more in the right quality of players & coaching, have all our injured players come back when ready, and to get on a winning run. Come on you Vixens!

We recommend giving Bristol City Vixencast a listen. All the links you need are below:

Podcast website: @bcvixencast | Linktree

Podcast Twitter: Bristol City Vixencast (@BCVixenCast) / Twitter

D-M Withers Twitter: D-M Withers (@DMWithers_) / Twitter

Shahan Miah Twitter: Shahan Miah (@shahanshahan) / Twitter

Shahan Miah Instagram: Shahan Miah (@shahanxshahan) • Instagram photos and videos

Impetus Launches Partnership with Chorley Women & Lisa Topping Sponsorship

1/1/21

Impetus is delighted to announce the latest of our player sponsorships and club partnership relationships with FA Women’s National League Division One North side Chorley Women. The deal sees Impetus sponsor Chorley’s Lisa Topping, who played top flight women’s football for Liverpool at the age of sixteen. In addition, we will run regular features on both Lisa and the wider club to give our readers a taste of what it’s like to be a club and player at a National League level. To launch the sponsorship, Lisa spoke to Ben Gilby about her footballing journey, her influences and what life is like at Chorley.

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Speaking about the announcement of our sponsorship with her, Lisa said: “Receiving sponsorship to play football is fantastic. The financial benefits it brings to myself and the club is something so important to the women’s game and Chorley Women, who rely on sponsors to successfully function. This year has been tough financially for people and receiving sponsorship makes things that bit easier. Knowing that someone has faith in you or supports you is a great feeling. I really appreciate Impetus Women’s Football Site sponsoring me!”

Lisa then introduced herself to our readers: “I’m 29 years old and was born in Preston, Lancashire. I grew up five miles down the road in Leyland where I attended Worden High School and Preston College before heading out to Texas, USA for University on a full-ride soccer scholarship. I returned to my home town in December 2016 and continue to live in Lancashire now with my partner and rescue beagle. I have an amazing nuclear family of my sister, mum and dad who are and always have been extremely supportive of me throughout my life and endeavours.”   

“Away from football, I work in research, monitoring and evaluation, which I really enjoy. I love statistics and data so it’s a very fitting job. I do like to keep fit away from football training so I do spend some evenings running or doing my own ball workouts in the local park. I have a passion for dogs and animals and have a Lemon Beagle who I rescued from a dog pound in Texas and flew back to the UK. I spend a lot of my weekends and evenings taking her for walks or hikes with my partner and family. Like most people, I’m also a fan of binging Netflix movies and overindulging on chocolate!”

Above: Lisa Topping in action for Chorley against Brighouse Town this season. Photo: John Shirras.

Lisa’s love of playing the game started from an early age: “It all started when I was eight years old during P.E class in primary school. I was the only girl to join in as football was offered to the boys and netball to the girls. I had a brilliant primary school headteacher, Mr D, who always supported my love of football, including allowing us to wear astro-turf trainers to school so that we could play properly at break time!”

Like many players, Lisa’s family played a key part in her development: “My Dad has been central to my football career from giving me extra training and advice to encouraging me to make the step up and take the opportunities that came my way. He encouraged me to go down and join a girls’ team.”

Joining a girls’ team meant that Lisa began to be exposed to the work of coaches: “When I was ten, I had a spell at Penwortham Girls before moving on to play for Euxton Girls FC for a few years. I had great coaches here including Steve Barker who really propelled my love of the game. His daughter, Nicola Barker, also played on my team, and now does an excellent job in coaching at the club. At the same time, I was involved in Blackburn Rovers’ Centre of Excellence at U14 and U16s age levels. These required trials to get in. My Dad told me to wear something that made me stand out, so I rocked up with a bright yellow Cameroon National Team football shirt which obviously caught their eye as I was successful in getting selected for the sixteen person squad. At fifteen, I left Euxton Girls and signed for the first Blackburn Rovers Ladies U16s team.”

Above: Lisa battles for possession for Chorley against Newcastle United this season. Photo: John Shirras.

Lisa had some memorable moments when she moved on to Liverpool. “At sixteen years of age, I played for their first team in the FA Women’s Premier League, which was the top-flight football league at the time. We travelled to play the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, which was a great experience. Here I played with some really experienced players, such as Jo Traynor and Gayle Formston, who had national team experience. They were really welcoming, and although I was much younger, they made me feel part of the team. I still remember Gayle saying me to me before a game against Chelsea “your lungs will burn, that’s normal – run through it. It will go away.” I now actually use this line with some of our younger players!”

After two years at Liverpool, Lisa moved further afield: “I moved to Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, USA on a soccer scholarship to play and study for my degree. Here, Dewi Hardman was my coach who really helped me to develop my game from left wing to centre midfield. He was a tough coach and demanded quality – but looking back this has only helped me to get better. After playing for four years, I then spent four years coaching in the States whilst studying for my post graduate degree and working.”

Lisa returned to England in December 2016.  “I had a short spell at AFC Fylde Women for the second half of the season. I had lost some desire to play but my Dad said to give another team a go and see if that passion returned. So, for the 2017-2018 season I signed for Chorley Women and four years later I’m still here! There are so many influential people at Chorley, one being Janet Mitchell our previous captain and current Chair. The passion she and her family have for the sport and the club is second to none and this really cascades down to the management and players involved in the club.”   

Above: Firing in an effort for Chorley: Photo via: Lisa Topping.

I asked Lisa to tell us more about why she feels Chorley Women are such a special club: “It is a great club to be part of, as a player, as a coach, as a supporter. There is a special vibe at this club that makes it a fantastic and supportive place to be. The team always get on so well on and off the pitch, which is so important, and there is a real focus on family. We have annual social and fundraising events that really build that sense of community and teamwork.”

“Playing at Chorley is fun yet focused where development of players is key. The coaching is fantastic where there is a real emphasis on learning and improvement. I feel that I learn something and improve every training session, which is so important. We have the ethos of ‘one club’ where a clear progression pathway is in place. This is vital for the longevity of the club. In terms of team-mates, Chorley Women have the best group of girls. There is never a dull moment on the training pitch or in the changing rooms and everyone is extremely welcoming, supportive and positive. Although small, in relation to other clubs, Chorley Women have big ambitions. We want to be a force to be reckoned with in the FA Women’s National League as well as producing quality and successful players along the way. The pathway we have in place gives us the opportunity to really help young players move through the footballing system in a positive and well-coached environment.”

We then touched on some of the challenges that Lisa has faced on and off the pitch throughout her career: “The biggest challenge I faced as a footballer was juggling working, studying and training. When I was a student-athlete in the States, the demand across all of these domains was extremely intense. Plus, doing this whilst being alone at eighteen years of age, in a different country, without your family was tremendously hard. I remember being awake at 5.15am for two hours of morning training before a full class schedule, ending with mandatory study hall, volunteering and coaching children. It was hard, but looking back I gained some valuable life lessons and built a ton of resiliency.”

Above: Lisa going for goal for Chorley. Photo via: Lisa Topping.

Coronavirus restrictions have brought their own unique difficulties: “It’s been tough both on and off the pitch. Personally, off the pitch it has been a real struggle not seeing family as often as usual, as we are really close. But, football has always been my outlet in stressful situations so getting to be part of Chorley Women, with supportive managers and amazing teammates, makes Covid frustrations a little easier. Off the pitch, there has been struggles with long gaps with no training or playing games. It’s really hard to get on a good run when this happens as just as you think things are starting to get going it suddenly stops again. Our management team at Chorley have been really good about organising fitness competitions and virtual sessions to keep team moral and fitness high, which has been really beneficial.”

The conversation then moved on to matters off of the pitch – Lisa’s own footballing heroes: “They not world-famous. They are my Dad and Grandad – Steve and Derek Topping, who both had successful careers in the sport as well as supporting me fully with mine. Without them, I would never have had such a successful and exciting career in football. Since I was five years old I would spend my Saturdays stood with my Grandad on the side line watching my Dad play. When my passion for football exploded, my Dad gave up playing to allow me to pursue my career. He also spent endless evenings and weekends kicking the ball around with me on the local park, helping me get better. Both my Dad and Grandad still ring me up before a game to give me advice and motivate me and they are both on the side lines twenty years later.”

We concluded our chat by looking to the future and Lisa’s aspirations for the next few years of her career: “I want to play and enjoy the game for as long as I can. I’ve seen players have the game they love snatched away from them too soon due to injury. I want to continue to be a driving force for Chorley Women and support the young talent that we have coming through. In five years time I’d love to still be playing with Chorley Women and competing in the FA Women’s National League. When my playing time is up, I want to remain involved in the game possibly in a coaching capacity where I can continue to support the positive progression of the women’s game.”

Impetus will be catching up with Lisa each month to find out how things are going on. We will also be carrying features on the wider club at Chorley. To find out more about the Lancashire side, we published an interview with Chorley Chairwoman Janet Mitchell in October. It can be viewed here.

To find out more about our club partnership and player sponsorship deals with various grassroots women’s football clubs, click here.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Maidenhead United Women: Progress Being Made At A Historic Ground

Ben Gilby spoke to Maidenhead United Women’s Media Officer Neil Maskell about the incredible history of women’s football at York Road and how progress is being made at this FA Women’s National League Division One South-West side. (30/12/20)

Neil began our chat by outlining the history of the club: “Maidenhead United Women were formed in 2008, comprising mainly players from Burnham FC and Maidenhead Boys & Girls FC.  The club were promoted from Southern Regional Women’s Division One in their first season and one subsequent promotion later we are in the fourth tier, FA Women’s National League Division One South West and this is our fourth season at that level.  Women’s football has been played at our York Road ground as far back as since 1895 when British Ladies Football Club played an exhibition match at our home ground and there’s some incredible newspaper reports from that period of 125 years ago in our archives:

Above: Archive cuttings showing that women’s football was played at Maidenhead United’s York Road ground as long ago as 1895. Photos via: Neil Maskell.

Maidenhead United’s historic York Road ground may have seen many things in the past, but it had never experienced a year like 2020 due to the challenges of coronavirus. Maskell highlights how the club have attempted to mitigate the risks: “The players are of course not professional so – as unfortunate as lockdown is – the club is able to shut down during such periods.  The players have been given strict fitness plans by coach Nev Saroya in the meantime and the players seem to enjoy these fitness schedules in lieu of actual football believe it or not!”

Other than coronavirus, the club’s media officer highlights finances as the other major challenge that the club face, in common with many other sides below the top tier: “The players effectively have to pay to play for the club.  There is not a huge amount of capital floating around tier four women’s football so we are indebted to our fantastic sponsors Kensington Mortgages for their support in keeping the team going.”

Allied to this is the relatively loose ties between United’s Women team and the men’s Maidenhead United club, who play one division below the Football League: “In reality we just share a name with the men’s club,” Maskell admitted.  “We do share the same ground but our finances are independent.  The men’s club do try to involve the women’s team in events such as our annual Christmas event in the local shopping centre and the men’s players and staff have been known to attend Women’s matches on a Sunday.”

Above: Maidenhead United celebrating a goal at York Road where they have been tough to beat. Photo: Darren Woolley.

Maidenhead United are competing in National League Division One South-West, and for Neil, the league is better than ever. “The standard of the clubs in the division seems closer than before.  Southampton FC have an attachment to a Premier League club and are clearly ambitious, but otherwise you look at the early season results and everyone seems capable of beating anyone else.  Promotion-chasing Chesham United only won at York Road in September by an injury time goal.  The matches largely seem to be close and competitive so far which is good for the integrity of the league. In terms of what we’re looking at achieving for this season, coach Nev Saroya simply wants the team to improve on last season.  We were tenth out of twelve clubs when 2019/20 finished prematurely due to the pandemic.”

In terms of the future, I was keen to get Neil’s assessment on whether the club have plans on making the jump into the third tier of the game. “We have some fine players who I am sure would be keen to play at a higher level.  Some have youth on their side and may even have ambitions of going pro.  Maidenhead United FC are planning to move to a brand new ground in the next couple of years so improved facilities can only help Maidenhead United WFC too.”

Maskell highlighted how the pathway from girls football to the senior women’s team is growing, but remains one of the areas that the club are keen to develop: “Since the start of 2019/20, the club has a Juniors section attached to Maidenhead United men with thirty-five teams.  Girls and Boys can play mixed until their late teens now, but we also have an Under 14 and Under 18 team exclusively for girls.  We want more and more non-mixed teams to give local girls a chance to play in whichever format they are comfortable with.”

Above: Maidenhead United celebrate. Photo: Darren Woolley.

As with all clubs at grassroots level, Maidenhead United Women have some incredible volunteers giving so much of their spare time to help the teams to grow and thrive whilst still holding down a full-time job. “The likes of coach Nev Saroya and kit man Sega Makiza put in so much work in for the love of the team.  Otherwise, the likes of Amy Saunders, Alex Dover and Tina Brett have been with the club since Maidenhead United Women first kicked a ball in 2008.  They are wonderful ambassadors for women’s football and for Maidenhead in footballing terms too.

As ever, we finished our conversation by looking ahead to the future, and Neil Maskell revealed where he’d like to see the sport in general be in five years’ time. “For me, there is still a great disparity in terms of coverage of women’s football outside of the top level, but as social media becomes more sophisticated so do our methods of communication!  I hope that in five years’ time, the respect for women playing football has continued to grow.  As a man who volunteers to try and help out as best I can promote our brilliant and dedicated players and our club I still get disparaging comments – “why would you want to watch women’s football?  It is rubbish”.  We are winning the battle though!”

2020: The Year On Impetus

2020 has been a year like no other. Here, site founder Ben Gilby looks back on our content through a year when Impetus went from having a small but loyal UK audience to breaking through to a large readership across the globe. (30/12/20)

This has been the first full year of Impetus’ existence after the site was founded in September 2019. This review of the year is an opportunity to re-share some great content that you may not have previously read or indeed a chance to rediscover it by clicking on the various hyperlinks. Here’s the first part of a month-by-month review of Impetus’ 2020.

JANUARY 2020:

Our first piece this year was a match report. Nothing to get too excited about there you may think – just regular fayre. Except, this report charted the debut in English women’s football of global superstar (and, yes, Impetus’ total hero), Sam Kerr. A crowd of over 2,800 at Kingsmeadow also contained a big contingent of ex-pat Australians all keen to see their star in action. It would be an article on Kerr that brought Impetus to a huge number of new readers – the vast majority of whom we are delighted to have retained – but that story comes in October. The report of Sam’s debut can be seen here: Chelsea Women v Reading Report 6th January 2020

Above: Sam Kerr in action for Chelsea on her FAWSL debut against Reading. The huge growth of Impetus can be directly linked to an article on the Australian star in October. Photo: Ben Gilby

As well as our regular W League round-up, we also featured a two part feature on Burnley Women – Burnley Part I and Part II – where the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier side revealed how they have been moving up the league system after sealing a close link with the male FA Premier League counterparts.

We ended the month with features on two sides outside of England. First, a wonderful story from Northern Ireland where we spoke to Tony McGinley, manager of Sion Swifts. The Strabane based side have been going for ten years, with a player pathway from the age of six. Incredible success has now seen the team pushing for a place in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. It’s a great story and can be read here: Sion Swifts.

Finally in January, we chatted to Cardiff City Ladies media officer Lewis Rogers about the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier side about their challenges and how the Welsh women’s football scene is in a really exciting place. Check it out here: Cardiff City Ladies.

Above: Sion Swifts – an incredible story of a club from Strabane. Photo via: Tony McGinlay

FEBRUARY 2020:

A month mainly taken up on the site with international action. First, full reports of The Matildas three group games in Olympic Games Qualifying against Chinese TaipeiThailand and then the highly dramatic final group game against China when a late rocket from Emily van Egmond guaranteed top spot and a place in the final qualifying play-off.

We ended the month with a piece examining how Middlesbrough Women had been building on the Lionesses’ home game with Brazil at the Riverside Stadium to develop interest in their talented FA Women’s National League Northern Premier side. It can be read here: Middlesbrough Women Feature.

Above: Middlesbrough Women’s Tyler Dodds during the 2019/20 season. Photo: Colin Lock.

MARCH 2020:

The last few weeks of “normal” non-Covid life and we had a thorough round-up of a big month of international football, starting with the She Believes CupAlgarve Cup and Pinatar Cup before the play-off for the Olympic Games plus Euro 2021 Qualifying News.

The month continued with a really interesting feature on Ashford Town (Middlesex) Women. Founder and chairman Will Boye told us about how his club have rocketed up four divisions and won several cups in their short period of existence. It can be read here.

Coronavirus’ grip was highlighted by the fact that the 2020 W League Grand Final was played behind closed doors. It was a real shame as the match was a really enjoyable affair. Our report on the game appears here: 2020 W League Grand Final Report.

Above: We heard all about Ashford Town (Middlesex) Women during March. Photo via: Will Boye.

APRIL 2020:

With all football now cancelled due to the pandemic, we kept things going on the site with two club features. We spoke to Ewan Greenhill, head of Women’s Performance at Yeovil Town about the club’s incredible history and how they are rebuilding after leaving the FA Women’s Super League. It can be read here: Yeovil Town Women

In difficult times, we ended the month with a really heart-warming story and one which provided undoubtedly my most memorable club feature so far on the site. FA People’s Cup winners Plymouth Warriors Women are a phenomenal club who provide football for players with conditions as wide ranging as Anxiety, Depression, BPD, PTSD, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Autism, ADHD and Crohn’s. Our chat with Melissa Curtis, the club’s head coach was nothing short of inspirational. It is well worth another read: Plymouth Warriors.

Above: The fantastic Plymouth Warriors with the FA People’s Cup. Photo via: Melissa Curtis.

MAY, JUNE AND JULY 2020:

With all regular football still side-lined and people trying to make the best of a difficult situation, the site took a break over these three months.

AUGUST 2020:

The women’s football scene came back with a bang, albeit still behind closed doors, as the delayed final stages of the UEFA Women’s Champions League took place. Due to the ongoing pandemic, home and away legs were not possible, so the Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and Final all took place over a week in the Basque country cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian. We provided detailed reports of the Glasgow City v VfL Wolfsburg and Paris St. Germain v Arsenal quarter-final ties. This was followed up with full reports of the hugely enjoyable semi-finals which saw VfL Wolfsburg edge past Barcelona and Olympique Lyonnais defeat Paris St. Germain. We also reported on Olympique Lyonnais’ record breaking victory in the final over VfL Wolfsburg – which can be read here.

Meanwhile, at Wembley, a new season of English women’s football got underway with the resurrected FA Women’s Community Shield – a big occasion which saw Chelsea comfortably defeat Manchester City. Our view on the game can be read here.

Photo: Another UEFA Women’s Champions League title for Olympique Lyonnais. Photo: Damien LG via @OLfeminin

SEPTEMBER 2020:

With women’s football just brushing off the cobwebs after five months away, with one exception, our coverage this month surrounded match reports from the big return. Among those appearing on our pages were Manchester United’s opening day draw with Chelsea, Arsenal’s FA Cup win over Tottenham Hotspur and Everton’s win over Chelsea at Goodison Park.

There was also the first sign of Impetus’ breaking through to a larger audience. Our interview with Dulwich Hamlet Women’s first team manager Ryan Dempsey and media officer Hugo Greenhalgh became, at the time, by far our most viewed article ever – and as we will see in the second part of this review of Impetus‘ year – those larger numbers of regular readers were about to become a regular occurrence.

Above: Our piece on Dulwich Hamlet Women was the early indicator that Impetus was starting to break through to a bigger audience. Photo: Ollie Jarman.

The second part of this review will appear on Impetus tomorrow morning (31st December 2020).

2020 – The Year The Impetus Increased

In this second part of his review of the year on Impetus, site founder Ben Gilby focuses on October to December, months when the influence of one article on an Australian international transformed the site from one with a small but loyal UK based readership to one with a large global one. It was a period which led to a total site redesign and allowed us to form sponsorship and partnership deals with grassroots women’s football clubs and attract new contributors from across the world. (31/12/20)

OCTOBER 2020:

The new month opened with a feature on Helston Athletic a club who thanks to some incredibly creative social media content, hugely talented players and coaches and a great relationship with the club’s men’s team are achieving great things. Our piece on the Cornish side who had a great run in the Women’s FA Cup this season can be read here.

Above: Chorley Women – a great story. Photo: John Shirras.

This was rapidly followed up by sharing the fantastic story of Chorley Women. A club who can boast a victory over Manchester City in their past and continue to overcome the odds in the National League Division One North. If you missed it the first time, be sure to catch up here: Chorley Women: Still Defying The Odds.

Then came the moment that Impetus was transformed from a women’s football site with a small UK based audience to one which is now read worldwide in ever increasing numbers. Over the weekend of 10th and 11th October, Australian superstar Sam Kerr came off of social media as a direct result in the ever growing amount of abuse she had received from some “fans” due to them believing she had not scored the number of goals that were expected of her.

This prompted us to write the piece Enough is Enough: In Defence of Sam Kerr and the response was phenomenal. Over a thousand views in the first 24 hours alone – which, within three days had ballooned to over 3,500 views – had seen the piece read in huge numbers in Australia as well as in the UK and Kerr’s previous club playing location of the USA. It was shared widely and we received private messages from a number of prominent players and coaches from women’s football which completely took us by surprise. If this was incredible, what was even more surprising was the fact that we have retailed a big number of these readers. Impetus now gets over 25% of its readership from Australia and large numbers of regular readers from the USA, Scandinavia and France.

Above: An article defending the social media abuse of Sam Kerr transformed Impetus from a site with a small UK based readership to one with a large number of readers around the world. Photo: Ben Gilby

As a result of these statistics, the site has thought carefully about how to cover the game more widely in the countries that our new readers are based in as well as maintaining our support for the grassroots of the women’s game in the UK.

We began an occasional series on the women’s game in Australia, starting with a two part interview with the Matildas Active Support group – whose members do so much to make Australia’s women’s football such a vibrant scene. Part One of the piece can be read here with Part Two available here.

NOVEMBER 2020:

November saw us welcome new contributor Jean-Pierre Thiesset. His weekly articles which review all the action in the French top flight of women’s football, D1 Arkema, have provided a new frontier for our coverage. In addition to this, Jean-Pierre’s in-depth feature articles which unpicked the challenging situation within the French women’s national team were enjoyed by a large number of readers: Sarah Bouhaddi’s interview with OLTV and Amandine Henry’s incendiary interview on Canal + being just two of them. He also gave us a wonderful insight into what a normal, pre-Covid matchday from a fan’s perspective at Olympique Lyonnais was like.

Above: Matchday at Olympique Lyonnais Feminin – new contributor Jean-Pierre Thiesset brought new colour to our coverage of women’s football. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

Also on the site in November was a feature on Sutton United Women – a club who we were to form an exciting relationship with in the near future. We also had a chat with Coventry United General Manager Jay Bradford about her FA Women’s Championship club who are about to enter an exciting full-time future.

The second part of our occasional series on Australian women’s football saw a feature on newly appointed Matildas Head Coach Tony Gustavsson.

With the huge increase in traffic to the site, it was now apparent that the original Impetus website and design was now not the sort of look that we should be showing and so things changed. But before they did, we re-visited the first feature article that appeared on the site, on the Swedish then third tier outfit Älvsjö AIK FF Dam. They have a staggering story to tell and had also achieved some amazing things over the past twelve months which was worthy of sharing: Exceptional Alvsjo – A Year On.

NEW LOOK – LATE NOVEMBER 2020:

Back in August, the site had run a piece on Paige Walder and her Graphics by PW company – check it out here. Paige had secured a partnership deal with Lionesses and Chelsea star Fran Kirby and was producing some incredible women’s football artwork. We got in touch with Paige who not only agreed to re-design our logo, but would also provide the site with all future artwork in an official partnership deal – something which has enhanced the look of Impetus in a way we never thought possible.

With our new look arranged, the site’s growing audience enabled it to secure an exclusive interview with Hedvig Lindahl’s The One Goal charity as it was in the middle of its #ShirtsForGirls campaign, where fans could donate for the chance to win one of over twenty match worn shirts from some of women’s football’s biggest names. All proceeds would go to the girl’s academy of El Cambio Academy in Uganda. Our interview with The One Goal’s co-founder Daniela Porcelli can be read here.

Above: An exclusive interview with Hedvig Lindahl’s The One Goal charity kicked off the new look of ImpetusPhoto: @hedvig_lindahl.

DECEMBER 2020:

The month started with an announcement of the first of a raft of partnership and sponsorship with grassroots women’s football clubs. Our first deal was arranged with Penryn Athletic Ladies FC, who play in the seventh tier Earthbound Electric Cornwall Women’s Football League. The partnership allows for monthly features on the club with various players and officials which will give readers a true behind the scenes picture on the reality of women’s football at the grassroots. The partnership was launched with an exclusive interview with Penryn Athletic’s Player-Manager Yaina Andrew.

Above: The first in a series of sponsorship and partnership agreements was announced at the start of December with Tier Seven side Penryn Athletic Ladies. Artwork: Graphics by PW.

With crowds allowed back into FA Women’s Super League grounds for the first time in almost ten months, we celebrated with our first ever interview with an international footballer. Sweden and Chelsea’s Jonna Andersson did a great piece with us about her footballing journey and is well worth checking out here – Jonna Andersson interview.

I was very fortunate that weekend to be one of only several hundred people allowed into Kingsmeadow Stadium for Chelsea v West Ham United in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. It was a very different experience and one which prompted this article: Watching FAWSL Action in the Covid age.

Above: Jonna Andersson – the first international player to be interviewed by ImpetusPhoto: Mia Eriksson.

A feature on tier seven club Brentford Women, who celebrated their thirtieth birthday in 2020 was followed by the welcome return of original contributor Daisy Wildsmith. Daisy’s piece entitled Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Some Wear Waistcoats was a thought provoking article designed to be a counter balance to the negative press that Lionesses boss Phil Neville had been racking up.

As we neared Christmas and the inevitable lockdown of much of the country, we needed some good news stories, and plenty were unveiled on the site over a two week period.

First there was an interview with Huddersfield Town Women manager Jordan Wimpenny about a club pushing for a place in the FA Women’s Championship next season with a superb player development pathway for girls as young as six.

Then, a flurry of announcements of extremely exciting sponsorships and partnerships with more forward looking and ambitious grassroots women’s football clubs.

First, with Wroxham Women of the fifth tier Eastern Region Women’s Football League Premier with whom we announced a Player Sponsorship deal with Harriet Meers and club Content Partnership. The arrangement means that, as well as monthly updates from Harriet Meers, a 20 year-old defender at the start of her senior football career, we will be catching up with other members of the squad, coaching staff and those responsible for the club’s girls development programme at Bury Valley Wildcats YFC. It will be a great chance for readers to find out what life is like at this level of the women’s game. The first feature article, introducing the club appeared on 23rd December – Wroxham Women Partnership.

Above: The second sponsorship deal saw Impetus become the sponsor of Wroxham Women’s Harriet Meers. Artwork by: Graphics by PW.

Christmas Eve brought about another major announcement – in partnership with the hugely respected women’s football site Since ’71, a Player Sponsorship deal with Sutton United Women’s Olivia Watson. Ever since our chat with the club’s founder Duncan Muller (see November), we had developed an increasing awareness of and respect for the great work going on at Gander Green Lane and had witnessed several matches that this club’s hugely promising young squad had played in the sixth tier London & South-East Regional Women’s Football League Division One North. The sponsorship of Olivia Watson, a 22 year-old attacking midfielder with huge potential will see us catch up with Olivia regularly to find out how things are going with her career and events round the club. The relationship is likely to grow to offer further content which will be of great interest to our readers.

Our overseas audience has also been catered for with the launch of a new weekly round-up of all the news from Swedish Women’s Football through new contributor @DandalBs and we are about to begin the most comprehensive coverage of Australia’s Westfield W League by any UK based women’s football website. This has been made possible by the introduction of new contributors Kieran Yap (who will report exclusively for us on at least one game per round) and Kris Goman (who will be sending us exclusive match photography from W League games). More detail can be read here. We will also be running the same weekly round-up of action from games that was so popular last season.

Above: A third Impetus sponsorship deal saw us team up with Since ’71 to sponsor Sutton United Women’s Olivia Watson. Artwork by: Angelo Tirotto.

As we enter 2021, we have many exciting features up our sleeve – from more grassroots club features and sponsorship deals to interviews with women’s club fan groups and an interview with another international woman footballer!

Our huge thanks for being part of the ever growing family of Impetus readers, contributors and sponsorship/partnership clubs.

The Impetus has grown rapidly – and it is thanks to YOU!

Connor Wroe Reviews 2020

An original writer for Impetus, Connor Wroe begins a two part in depth review of the year 2020 in women’s football. This first part covers the FA Women’s Super League, UEFA Women’s Champions League, FA Women’s Championship and FA Women’s National League Southern & Northern Premier. His reviews of the four regional FA Women’s National League Division One divisions follow tomorrow. (28/12/20)

What a year this has been for everyone, my heartfelt condolences to those who have suffered in this pandemic. But today we try and look at the positives to arrive this year in the women’s game and what to look forward to in the New Year.

We shall start off with the top of the women’s pyramid and the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. Going into 2021, last season’s champions and league cup winners Chelsea currently sit third, six points behind Manchester United albeit with two games in hand. Both teams are undefeated so far in the WSL and playing exciting football.

Above: Sam Kerr – back to her imperious best with Chelsea. Photo: @ChelseaFCW

Sam Kerr is looking to help Chelsea out with their title defence. It has been an interesting season with some teams performing better than expected and others not so much. Manchester United, still relatively new having reinstated their women’s team are seriously challenging for the WSL title in only their second season of being in it. They strengthened up in all areas of the pitch in the summer and the results are showing. It looks like the WSL title could possibly be decided in the reverse fixture between Chelsea and United at Kingsmeadow in January. Neither side looks like slowing down.

At the other end of the table, Bristol City will be hoping they can turn their fortunes around sitting bottom with only two points, failing to register a win so far this season. Their lack of clinical finishing in front of goal is a big issue only registering six goals in ten games. This is giving newly promoted Aston Villa hope of staying in the WSL despite having only scored eight goals in eight games. Yet they have managed to get two wins. If Bristol City fail to find their shooting boots Aston Villa, West Ham, Brighton, Tottenham, and Birmingham do not need to worry about having a relegation battle.

A quick look into the UEFA Women’s Champions League where Manchester City and Chelsea have managed to get through to the round of sixteen after brushing aside their first opponents, Kopparbergs/Göteborg and Benfica respectively. Both sides are hoping that they can lift this year’s trophy, but as always, Olympique Lyonnais are the side to look out for. The seven time winners are the most successful women’s team in the Champions League and are looking to make it six Champions League wins in a row this season.

Above: Olympique Lyonnais Feminin lifted the UEFA Champions League again in 2020. Photo: Damien LG via @OLFeminin

We now will turn our eye to the FA Women’s Championship where last season’s relegated WSL side Liverpool are looking to bounce back, but they are in a very difficult battle for the sole promotion spot. Leicester City are currently sitting top five points clear of Liverpool who are third, but only one point clear of unbeaten Durham. Durham’s 2-0 over Liverpool before Christmas could dampen Liverpool’s hope of returning to the WSL this season. Sheffield United, despite sitting six points off Durham have conceded the same number of goals and could potentially mount a serious late push for promotion if they can start converting more of their chances they are creating. 

Above: Durham celebrate their outstanding 2-0 pre-Christmas win over Liverpool – a win that put them second in the Championship. Photo: @DurhamWFC

Down at the other end of the table, struggling Charlton Athletic have started this season off how they ended last, struggling to find the net. Charlton are an interesting team as they are not letting many goals in considering their position in the league, which is the same story of last season – conceding 1.7 goals a game and scoring only 0.7 goals a game. Charlton’s losses have all been by one goal, bar a 2-0 defeat to Leicester City. The Addicks’ defence is good, but when a side faces a struggle to score and keep conceding chances eventually one will go in. All is far from lost for Charlton though as they are only two points adrift and have two games in hand over fellow strugglers London Bees and Coventry United.

Looking into the third tier and starting off with the National League Southern Premier, where we have a tail of two ends. Hounslow and Plymouth Argyle are yet to get off the mark this season and have major defensive issues. Hounslow have conceded forty-two goals and are yet to convert a chance of their own eight games in. A lot could be put down to the fact only three games have been played at home, but when you average conceding 5.25 goals a game it does not bode well for the rest of the season. They are amid a rebrand with only recently this month getting a new set of kits, on top of that they are hunting for a new goalkeeper.

Fellow strugglers Plymouth Argyle have at least managed to find the net twice. Looking into their games played this season, they just lack the clinical finishing needed to stay in the division. They have been unlucky at times with results not truly reflecting how they have played; they will be one side whose fortunes will be hoping to change come the New Year. Despite how their season is going on the pitch, off the pitch their social media is interactive, constantly promoting local photographers who snap their games and releasing articles on their players and the club itself. They are a team who you want to succeed due to their ethos.

Above: Sarah Wiltshire of Watford – looking for promotion to the Championship. Photo: @WatfordFCWomen

On the flip side at the top of the table four points divide first and fifth, with Crawley Wasps (fifth on fifteen points) having a game in hand over Watford (first with nineteen points) leading to an exciting New Year with all the sides in the top half having strong defences and attacks. This will be another division to keep an eye on as the season draws to a close with a battle for top spot potentially going the all the way to the final week.

Looking into the National League Northern Premier, Huddersfield Town sit on top with 25 points having played two games more than AFC Fylde who currently are the only side that could threaten to dismantle the Terriers. This is a division where every game is a great watch as goals are always on the table with excellent attacking prowess. Strugglers Loughborough Foxes have managed to get two points and are only three points adrift of Hull City who are one place above them. The Foxes have leaky defence which has been hampering their results with mistakes at the back resulting in goals. Despite currently being bottom they are not a side I can see being relegated as they do play good football. In the New Year, I can see them climbing the table and avoiding the drop. But it would be a great escape for them as they would initially have to rely on the likes of Hull City and Sheffield to continuing their current slumps. 

Above: Lauren Nicholls in action for Loughborough Foxes (left) – there is still plenty of hope for them to avoid relegation in 2021. Photo: @LboroFoxes.

Tomorrow, we’ll publish Part Two of Connor Wroe‘s review of 2020 which features an in-depth look at the state of play in the FA Women’s National League Division One North, Midlands, South-West and South-East divisions.

Connor Wroe Reviews 2020 – Part Two

In the second part of his in-depth look back over the year in the top four tiers of the women’s football pyramid in England, Connor Wroe focuses in on the four National League Division One regional divisions. (29/12/20)

Starting off in the National League Division One North, where games played range from three to six, Chester-le-Street Town, who have played six, currently sit top and undefeated. But all bar one result (6-1 vs Durham Cestria) has seen them scrape away with all three points and in two cases one point. They will be enjoying their time at the top. It is a hard one looking at this division to say who will finish top as it is a division where anyone can beat anyone, with the level of football across the league consistent and entertaining. Chorley are presently third from bottom, but having played just three games and only having lost one of them, it won’t be long before they move up. It is unfair to review Bolton Wanderers, who are currently bottom at this moment in time having only played three games.

Above: Chester-le-Street Town – top of the National League Division One North. Photo: @CLSTladies1

In the National League Division One Midlands, most teams have played around six or seven games making it a bit more reflective of the team’s abilities as they have faced most teams within the league. Wolverhampton Wanderers currently have a perfect 6/6 record and sit top, much of this can be credited to their defence having only conceded three goals. The fight across the team to win is evident and on their current form playing two games less than Doncaster Rovers Belles in second, Wolves could run off with the league. Towards the bottom of the table, it is a different story with a relegation battle looking likely, Wem Town sit three points above bottom side Leafield Athletic but they will not be worrying about that yet as they have three games in hand over their fellow strugglers. Burton Albion might be worrying as we head into the New Year despite having two points more than Leafield, they have conceded twenty-one more goals. With them conceding forty-seven goals so far this season – the most goals any side has let in across the divisions – it does not bode well for them as their defensive problems might be what sees them finish bottom.

Above: There has been plenty to celebrate for Wolverhampton Wanderers Women this season so far. Photo: @WolvesWomen.

It is exceedingly rare when you look at a table that the top two have equal amounts of points and so does the bottom two. In the National League Division One South West this is the case with Southampton F.C and Chesham United level on twelve points at the top, whilst Poole Town and Brislington are yet to get off the mark, however it is important to point out Brislington have three games in hand and have only played three games. Despite how the top and bottom looks, the chasing pack in mid table is interesting with only five points separating first and sixth and teams across the league conceding goals. Southampton F.C have the best defence in the league, only conceding two goals. It is another hard division to judge due to the huge variation of games played across the division meaning there is still more to happen before the league can truly be judged.

Above: Chesham United (maroon and sky blue) battling for promotion in National League Division One South-West. Photo: @Cheshamutdlfc.

National League Division One South-East in particular received some major media attention at the beginning of April when Spencer Owen and Hashtag United announced on Twitter the merger with AFC Basildon Ladies which saw the Essex side come under the Hashtag United banner. The men’s side of the club were formed in March 2016 by YouTuber Spencer Owen. When the club started it featured his friends and family as the club played exhibition style matches against other YouTuber football teams and playing club staff teams across the country and even some clubs over in America.  Every game is filmed, and highlights uploaded to YouTube for his fans to watch the games. Their following quickly grew, and their online fans asked if they would go into the non-league pyramid. In 2017, Owen began talks with the FA about registering to play in the league system. They started in the Eastern Counties League in the 2018/19 season and won it the first time around.

Above: Whilst Hashtag United got the pre-season headlines, it is Ipswich Town who top the table. Photo: @ITFCWomen

The merger meant that the ladies’ team got exposure from games being posted online. With the Hashtag YouTube channel having 490,000 subscribers, this exposes them to a large following, which in turn can allow for more money to be available for the ladies.

Focusing more widely on the division now, bottom of the table Stevenage have played seven games whilst high flying Ipswich Town have only played four but sit top despite this. Hashtag United are sitting second level on points with Town with their only defeat to the Tractor girls early in the season. The New Year will bring an exciting title challenge as both sides have games in hand over the teams below and both are looking to be crowned champions. A surprise team in the division is Norwich City who are sitting in fifth with only four games played. Last season they struggled to get a win and leaked an alarming number of goals. They seem to have sorted out their defence issues and are now turning their eyes on joining the title challenge. The South East division is one to really keep an eye on with five teams in with a chance of being crowned champions. But with games in hand across the board it is hard to get a proper judgment on who could win it.

Above: Norwich City captain Millie Daviss – enjoying a better season this time round. Photo: @NorwichCityWFC

Let us hope fans will be allowed back soon to watch the quality football which is on offer throughout all of the leagues in the New Year.

Impetus and Since ’71 – proud joint sponsors of Olivia Watson

Impetus is hugely excited to announce that, in partnership with the respected Since ’71 Women’s Football Site, we will jointly be sponsoring Sutton United Women’s Olivia Watson for the 2020/21 season. (24/12/20)

Above: Impetus founder Ben Gilby with Sutton United Women’s Olivia Watson at the club’s Gander Green Lane stadium to launch the sponsorship. Photo: Paul Loughlin.

Olivia is a 22 year-old attacking midfielder, brought up in Epsom, Surrey, who has been playing football since she was 10 years-old. She broke into Sutton United’s first team a few weeks before the second lockdown and has been putting in a string of impressive performances ever since which resulted in her scoring her first goal for the club in only her fourth start on 13th December against Clapham United at Sutton’s Gander Green Lane stadium.

Above: Olivia Watson (number 26) scores her first goal for Sutton United against Clapham United on 13th December. Photo: Paul Loughlin.

Sutton United are currently playing in the sixth tier London & South-East Women’s Football League Division One North and Olivia is part of a hugely talented young squad with an excellent group of coaches behind them who have realistic ambitions to be playing in the FA Women’s National League in the very near future.

Speaking about her sponsorship by Impetus and Since ’71, Olivia said: “I was initially very surprised, as although I know about sponsorship in the women’s game, it is something I have never really contemplated before. I am very happy and excited to receive sponsorship because it has validated my abilities and financially has given me the opportunity to explore other ways to improve and develop my game, for which I am extremely grateful.” 

Off the pitch, Olivia has just graduated from King’s College, London where she studied Psychology and now works in business administration in the charity sector.

She told us how her footballing journey began: “I started playing at school with the boys’ team. From there I joined, Beecholme Belles Girls FC when I was ten, thanks to my coach at the time Jim Hobern, who saw me at a school tournament and encouraged me and supported me to play for the club. He had a huge influence on me, as thanks to his coaching and mentoring, I have developed the skills and abilities I have now. When I was 17, our team at Beecholme folded as most of the girls went off to university. From there, I went to Kingstonian Ladies, who had just achieved promotion into the Greater London Women’s Football League, where I played for three years until the women’s team unfortunately folded. I then took a year out to focus on my final year of university. Now, thanks to my friend Sophia Demetriou, who loves the club, and people and who encouraged me to trial, I am now at Sutton United Women.”  

Above: Olivia in action for Sutton United against Victoire in October. Photo: Paul Loughlin.

We asked Olivia a bit more about life at Sutton United, a club who have come a long way in a short space of time: “Sutton United is a great team to be a part of and play for. As soon as I joined, I was made to feel welcome and part of the team by all. I started playing with the U21s, who are a talented group of footballers and are all very motivated and dedicated to win the league this season, which they definitely will!”

“Recently, I have started playing with the first team, who are all exceptional footballers that are supportive and positive teammates. The past few weeks the morale of the team has been high, which has been seen with recent results and the quality of the football that we have played. The technical and high-intensity football played by both teams at Sutton United Women has been a challenge for me as it is a step up from the football I have played before but I’m really enjoying it.”

“The club has big ambitions this season to win the league, as well as achieve cup success, to follow on from their very successful season last year. Duncan Muller, who has done a huge amount for the women and girls’ side at Sutton, is dedicated to making the club even more of a success than it already is. Along with, Matt, Dave, James, Lydia, Courtney, Nathan and Pedro, who are all very hard-working, committed, fun but fair coaches. Together, the coaching team, the ambitions and goals for success this season and the highly motivated players, have created a driven, professional, and community-based environment at the club, which I am very excited to be a part off.” 

Like all women’s football teams, Sutton United’s campaign has been stop-start due to coronavirus lockdowns. We asked Olivia how she found this difficult period: “Off the pitch, the restrictions have been hard but luckily, I am still able to go to work and still being able to exercise has really helped. On the pitch, the coronavirus restrictions have been odd, especially in June and July when we could only train in groups of six with no contact. However, I was just grateful to be able to play and be with my teammates. The new lockdown restrictions just announced are very frustrating as we have been doing very well recently, playing good quality football, which would have been great to continue. However, hopefully, we will be able to resume soon after lockdown and continue our form.”    


Sport is full of challenges, and Olivia identifies one particular moment in her career that she found the hardest: “The biggest challenge I have faced as a footballer was when I injured my knee during a game against Crystal Palace Ladies when I was younger. I found that not playing was more difficult to come to terms with than the injury itself. It took me a while to recover from but overcoming this and getting back onto the pitch was a great feeling. Although, initially it mentally affected my play as I was more cautious and fearful of reinjuring myself.”  

In terms of her own footballing hero, Olivia identified one particular player: “Rachel Yankey. She was the first female footballer I ever saw play when my team at Beecholme Belles were ball girls for Arsenal Ladies. Watching her athleticism and skill on the wing is something that has always stuck with me.”    

We concluded by asking Olivia what her aims for her footballing career were and where she saw herself in five years’ time: “I want to play at the highest level that I personally can. Five years is a long time from now, but I hope to still be enjoying playing and maybe still be at Sutton United Women, who will have progressed up through the leagues.”  

Above: Olivia Watson crossing into the box for Sutton United against Victoire in October. Photo: Paul Loughlin.


Olivia will be providing us with updates throughout the season as to how things are going for her and Sutton United and we are hugely excited to see her progress throughout this campaign.

There is more information about Olivia on Sutton United Women’s website Olivia Watson – Sutton United Football Club and about Sutton United WFC in an interview we recently carried out with club founder and head of women’s and girl’s football, Duncan Muller https://impetus885775742.wordpress.com/2020/11/05/sutton-united-full-of-talent-and-ambition/

Olivia is now part of an exciting group of sponsorships and partnerships with grassroots women’s football clubs that Impetus have entered into. Click here for more information: Partnerships (wordpress.com)

Artwork: Angelo Tirotto

Impetus – Proud To Be Partnering Wroxham Women

Impetus is proud to have entered into an official partnership with Eastern Region Women’s Football League Premier Division side Wroxham Women. The partnership includes sponsorship of new signing Harriet Meers and monthly behind the scenes features on the club.

To help launch the partnership, Ben Gilby spoke to Wroxham Women’s manager Rebecca Burton and club media officer, Darrell Allen.  (23/12/20)

Above: Wroxham Women have had lots to celebrate in recent times. Photo: Edward Payne.

Despite Wroxham Women being a relatively new name on the circuit – the club only came into being in 2019 – their roots go back a lot further, as manager Rebecca Burton identifies, with the club previously known as Acle United: “The journey began at Acle United, really as a bunch of friends playing football recreationally. Due to playing history, the team attracted more players from the same circle and improved in quality over the course of a few seasons – eventually becoming very competitive in the county of Norfolk. Acle won the Norfolk Women’s Cup, county and regional promotions & The Eastern Region Women’s Football League Cup; and having started to attract players from higher teams and different areas of the region, came extremely close to promotion to the FA Women’s National League on more than one occasion.”

“We were lucky to have our fabulous volunteers such as Richard and Bob behind us during our time at Acle and despite the entire squad and staff changing over the years, these two are still here and with us at Wroxham to date. In short, we knew we needed to be part of a higher level club, with the facilities and backing to enable us to push on – we were always punching above our weight as a village team and by moving across to Wroxham we aligned ourselves with a regional and historically successful club that would give us the springboard to progress.”  

With Wroxham remaining as one of the Eastern Region Women’s Football League Premier Division’s top sides, I asked both Darrell and Rebecca for their opinion on the league.

“It is a fantastic division and is even more competitive than ever before in 2020/2021, with a golden prize at the end of it of playing FA Women’s National League Football, said Darrell.

“We consider ourselves to be one of the best teams in the league but we know better than anyone that it is still a division where anybody can beat anybody on their day. It is the hardest division in women’s football to get out but we will do everything in our power to do so as quickly as we can.”

Rebecca agreed: “Darrell’s right in that it’s a really competitive league, which is great – but it’s so difficult to get out of…  I know from experience! And one thing I’d like to see is more opportunity for teams to push on, maybe via end of season play offs with parallel leagues or something which would give teams something to play for right to the end of the campaign. I’d personally say the league doesn’t get enough credit for the standard of the teams and some of the players playing in it – many who ‘drop down’ suddenly realise that the only difference in some teams in this league compared to the league above is backing and consistency.”

Above: Rebecca Burton – Wroxham Women’s manager. Photo: Edward Payne.

Wroxham clearly have ambitions to rise into the FA Women’s National League and stay there in the not too distant future. The club manager explained: “It’s not just our aim, it’s the club’s ambition for its Senior Women’s Team to be playing National League football sooner rather than later. As I said above, backing and consistency is key and realistically the basic foundation – you need a club that values progression of the women’s game, facilities, and a pull to recruit talent. It’s not a coincidence that some of the competitive names in our league, as well as most of the league above, are linked to at least National League clubs. Then you need the commitment on and off the pitch from the players and staff too.

In terms of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has impacted on the club, it was a period of frustration for the Norfolk side: “Like any club the first lockdown was a massive blow and it was shame we were not able to complete the 2019/20 season,” said Darrell, “but we started our preparations for 2020/2021 early with players doing individual training from early June and squad sessions began as soon as permitted in late July. Rebecca Burton made some wonderful signings to give us the best opportunity to go for promotion this season, and I know she’s on a recruitment drive once again. We are certainly very excited about what lies ahead in 2021.”

Both Rebecca and Darrell agree that last year’s Women’s World Cup produced benefits which were felt in Norfolk too: “One of the biggest benefits of the World Cup is the impact it’s having on the next generation,” Rebecca said.

“Our female youth set up, Bure Valley Wildcats YFC has grown exponentially over the past 18 months, and we really hope that our partnership with them, announced earlier this season, will help to inspire more young girls to take up football. And when it comes to financial support, I can only assume the momentum of the World Cup is still there, as we’ve done well sponsorship wise despite a pandemic hitting over the off season. It’s brilliant that businesses continue to support us and we’re really grateful for their generosity. We always need support though, so if you’d like to sponsor something or someone please get in touch!”

Darrell identified that “the Women’s World Cup has increased the profile of the club in the local media certainly, BBC Radio Norfolk gave us some great coverage last season following the World Cup and this only helps us with regards to exposure. It helps our crowds to the point we are pushing 100 for most home games this season and the interest in women’s football in the county has certainly gone up greatly since the World Cup. It was only a positive for all local clubs not just ourselves.” 

Above: A battle for possession in Wroxham’s recent game at Royston Town. Photo: Edward Payne.

Apart from coronavirus, Rebecca highlights finances as the biggest challenge that the club face at present: “Like with most clubs, finances are always a challenge, the costs incurred especially on away games are large, and it takes us several thousand pounds a season to operate. This was harder in the past, having to hire facilities and not having the presence in the county when it came to gaining sponsorship – however we’re really fortunate to have great backing at Wroxham and a fantastic home ground with a growing fan base. We’ve worked tirelessly to be in a position to offer free football to all of our players, along with providing kit, merchandise and other perks. I’m a big believer in having a strong basis and setting the right standard in order to attract the level of players needed to compete.”

One of the biggest strengths at Wroxham is the relationship between the club’s men’s and women’s sides. “From my point of view, it’s something that I think is quite special and we’re fortunate to have something that a lot of female teams at our level could only wish for, said Rebecca.

“It’s not just about men’s and women’s at Wroxham, we have a club philosophy on and off the pitch, a playing DNA that runs through to the junior teams, a coach education programme accessible across all age groups and levels, a growing regional development phase competing in the Eastern Junior Alliance (EJA), an U18’s team producing the next generation of first teamers, a new female pathway, and central hub in Trafford Park that has such a genuine atmosphere of unity and home. The buzz about the club is real, and it’s contagious, and it truly is brilliant to be a part of.”

Darrell is equally ebullient about the relationship between Wroxham’s men’s and women’s teams: “It is outstanding, both clubs get on superbly well, Wroxham’s volunteers are the best in the county and they spend the whole week making Trafford Park look superb and still give up their Sunday afternoon to watch the women’s team.”

“The fans come to watch both men’s and women’s games and the backing we get is truly special, the club go out of their way to promote us on social media also and we try as best we can to return the same coverage. It is a great partnership that will only grow stronger and that’s thanks to having great people like Rebecca Burton, Lee Robson, Rachel and Louise Cole and Adrian Gowling who really want the best for both clubs.” 

The development route for players at Wroxham Women is not only strong, but it is very clear for girls to potentially be part of the system from the age of five all the way through to the first team, as Rebecca explains:

“We have a partnership with Bure Valley YFC who have girls’ teams from Wildcats (5-11’s) up to the age of U15, and it’s a great system for girls to come through. The club has grown massively over the past eighteen months and it’s still on the lookout for players, so there’s ample opportunity for girls in the area to get involved.

Above: Wroxham on the ball away to Royston Town recently. Photo: Edward Payne

“We recognise the need for youth development and home-grown players coming through, so it’s great to be able to work with one of the fastest growing and most forward thinking girls’ set ups in the county. The partnership aims to provide a fun and inclusive environment for girls to enjoy football, as well as a pathway for development and progression. Next season we hope to increase the amount of youth teams further, as well as launch a Wroxham Women’s Development Squad, which will enable a smoother transition from youth to adult and grassroots to regional football.”

All of the outstanding work being done at Wroxham is down to a band of volunteers and the club feel exceptionally fortunate indeed to have the team that they have working behind the scenes.

“Someone like Richard Giles, our club secretary is a prime example,” Darrell identifies, “This man does everything to make sure the club are compliant with all regulations and guidelines and is a big part of our jigsaw and why we are so good at we do. Without a good support staff team you can’t achieve anything and we are very lucky to have Richard in our camp, he is also an encyclopaedia of knowledge on women’s football. There is nothing he doesn’t know.”

Rebecca Burton also greatly recognises the club’s band of volunteers: “I’d agree with everything Darrell has said, but also add him to that! Since coming in he’s worked tirelessly in supporting our social media presence, has added a new dimension to us as a team and is brilliant at reminding me when I’ve forgotten things! I’d also like to shout out to Rachel and Louise who are just fabulous, and are absolute legends at Wroxham Football Club. They provide the best post-match food in the league including our Christmas dinner the weekend just gone.”

Rebecca identifies “Commitment, passion, support, visibility, and difference makers” as the keys to success at the club. Darrell believes that the togetherness of players and supporters is also a big part of what makes Wroxham who they are: “Success can be down to happy players, a positive vibe and a manager who believes in developing players and getting the best out of them. We certainly have this at Wroxham. The Blue Wave Band are also adding an incredible atmosphere to our games and we are incredibly grateful for their support.”

The club media officer ended our chat by outlining the club’s potential over the next five years: “I believe we can get promoted and stay in the FA Women’s National League and I see absolutely no reason why that won’t be achieved. For the wider women’s game, simply, I believe that the sport will only get stronger over the next five years and you will see greater coverage locally and nationally.”

You can see information about our other sponsorships and partnerships by visiting: https://impetus885775742.wordpress.com/partnerships/

Artwork: Graphics by PW.
Artwork: Graphics by PW

Impetus Enters Into Player Sponsorship and Content Partnership with Wroxham Women FC

Impetus founder Ben Gilby unveils some exciting news… (22/12/20)

We are delighted and hugely proud to announce both a player sponsorship and coverage partnership between Impetus and tier five Eastern Region Women’s Football League Premier Division club Wroxham Women.

It is fantastic to be able to reveal that we will be sponsoring the club’s new signing Harriet Meers.

Artwork: Graphics by PW

Harriet is a 20 year-old centre-back who can also play at full-back and has just joined the club on a duel-registration agreement with Suffolk Women’s Championship side Kesgrave Kestrals where as well as playing, she has helped to coach their younger age group teams.

Off the pitch, Harriet is currently studying Biomedicine at the University of East Anglia, where she also plays for the University’s women’s football team.

Harriet’s move to Wroxham, a team who have been regularly pushing for promotion from the ERWFL to the FA Women’s National League for a number of seasons, marks an important milestone to her career as a young footballer. We are thrilled to be following Harriet’s career over the coming months and hopefully years on Impetus. Our first interview with Harriet will appear on the site in the New Year.

Above: We’re delighted to be sponsoring Harriet Meers, Wroxham Women’s newest signing. Photo via: Rebecca Burton.

Harriet Meers – welcome to the ever growing Impetus Women’s Football Site family!

As well as the player sponsorship deal, Impetus is really excited to announce a coverage partnership agreement with Wroxham. This means that we will be featuring regular pieces on both Harriet Meers’ progress and achievements with Wroxham in addition to occasional catch-ups with other members of Wroxham Women. This will start with tomorrow’s exclusive interview with manager Rebecca Burton and media officer Darrell Allen.

Speaking about the partnership, Darrell Allen said: “I am really delighted that Wroxham Women and Impetus have been able to form a partnership that has so much potential. It makes me really proud that I am able to bring together my friend Ben, who founded and runs the Impetus Women’s Football website and Wroxham Women where I am proud to volunteer.”

“I am also grateful to Impetus for sponsoring our newest signing Harriet Meers and as Media Officer, it makes me really happy that we can promote Impetus. Additionally, it will also mean that Wroxham Women will get fantastic exposure and coverage through their website.”

“Once again, proof that it’s all about bringing your contacts and knowledge together to create the best for everyone. I am looking forward to seeing the partnership unfold in the next weeks and months ahead. Ahoy!”

Artwork by Graphics by PW.

To discover more about our partnerships with different women’s football clubs and other groups, click here: Partnerships (wordpress.com).

Too Close For Comfort For Leicester

Blackburn Rovers 2–3 Leicester City (20/12/20)

by Ben Gilby

Leicester City remain a point clear at the top of the FA Women’s Championship after victory over Blackburn Rovers at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium in Bamber Bridge.

The Foxes were dominant for the vast majority of the game, but their head coach Jonathan Morgan will be hugely frustrated that his team gifted their hosts two goals through individual errors. Georgia Walters capitalised on both of these with stunning strikes for Rovers.

After early exchanges that were generally even, Leicester began to pick up the initiative when Remi Allen careered down the right flank before finding Charlotte Devlin. A further pass saw Paige Bailey-Gayle play in a cross which was put behind for a corner. Sophie Barker’s flag kick was high towards the far post and Rovers struggled to deal with it before eventually clearing.

City developed their hugely impressive patient passing game which saw some eye catching triangle patterns made. Just before the twenty minute mark, Leicester’s possession was rewarded with the lead.

Esmee De Graaf found the impressive Natasha Flint and a great one touch build-up resulted in Remi Allen playing it back to Flint who hit a shot with ease past Alex Brooks in the Rovers goal.

Blackburn responded with a couple of chances of their own, notably Emma Doyle’s effort from outside of the box going just over.

However, the score line began to finally reflect Leicester’s dominance as it became 2-0 after twenty-four minutes. Allen’s cross found Flint who turned and played a cross field effort back towards Allen. She crossed again towards Bailey-Gayle and her header deflected off Blackburn defender Kayleigh McDonald and into the net.

Rovers had an opportunity when Natasha Fenton’s free-kick from outside the box was pushed out for a corner by Kirstie Levell. The danger was cleared.

City were comfortable on the ball and maintained possession patiently until finding the right moment to pull the trigger.

As the half edged towards its conclusion, Flint turned Jade Richards and found Bailey-Gayle who in turn played in Allen. Her effort from outside the area was just over. Flint missed another opportunity on the half-time whistle after a great build-up involving Bailey-Gayle and Charlotte Devlin.

Above: Natasha Flint – celebrating one of her two goals – was hugely impressive for Leicester City at Blackburn Rovers today. Photo: @FAWomensChamp.

Leicester remained patient and on top as the second half opened. Rovers were finding it increasingly hard to get out of their half. Indeed the ball was in the net again for Leicester when Charlotte Devlin played in Remi Allen, but the assistant referee raised a flag to deny City their third.

It did not take much longer for third goal of the afternoon to arrive – but it went against the run of play and came out of nothing. Leicester keeper Kirstie Levell received a back pass, but her first touch was too heavy and went straight to Rovers’ Georgia Walters who finished brilliantly from an acute angle to put the hosts well and truly back in the game.

Leicester responded powerfully and Natasha Flint found Paige Bailey-Gayle on the right of the box but her effort came off of the bar.

The visitors just had a further sixty seconds wait to re-establish their two goal advantage when Devlin played a beautiful inch-perfect slide rule pass into the feet of Flint who found the net.

City had several chances to extend their lead further with Devlin sending two efforts narrowly wide and Sophie Barker using sublime skill to play in Bailey-Gayle, who hit the bar for the second time in fifteen minutes.

Rovers punished Leicester for missing these chances with another sensational strike from a visitor’s error. The ball was needlessly given away and Georgia Walters hit a first time effort from close to forty yards which flew into the net.

City controlled the remainder of the game rather professionally to claim the 3-2 win. However, it must be said that Blackburn deserve real credit for their efforts, particularly in the second half. Whilst both of their goals came from Leicester errors, they both went in as the result of outrageous skill from Georgia Walters.

Teams: BLACKBURN ROVERS: Brooks, Fletcher, McDonald, Richards, Stewart, Dukes, Doyle, Fenton, Hughes, Walters, Jordan. Substitutes: Newsham, Dean, Edwards, Boydell, Johnson, Hodgson.

Scorers: Walters 54, 74.

LEICESTER CITY: Levell, Smith, Tierney, Plumptre, De Graaf, Barker, Allen, Devlin, Bailey-Gayle, Paul, Flint. Substitutes: Cataldo, Riglar, Howard, Thomas, Everett, Blanchard, Fergusson, Farrow, Cain.

Scorers: Flint 18, 58. McDonald (OG) 24.

Ruthless United Out Fox The Vixens

Manchester United 6–1 Bristol City (20/12/20)

by Ben Gilby

Manchester United will end the year four points clear of Arsenal at the top of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League after a comfortable victory over bottom side Bristol City at the Leigh Sports Village.

The Vixens welcomed back Australian international Chloe Logarzo after she sustained a facial injury against Tottenham Hotspur. Logarzo played the game wearing protection.

Above: Chloe Logarzo returned for Bristol City after a facial injury. Photo: @bristolcitywfc

United dominated possession and territory but the Westcountry side were not without chances on the break with Ebony Salmon’s pace a sporadic threat to the home side’s back line. Another Vixens youngster, Sophie Baggaley also pulled off some superb saves which prevented the score line from being even worse for her side.

Indeed, it was the talented Ebony Salmon who had the first real opportunity of the game after three minutes. The former United player was played through by a long ball and got past Amy Turner before lifting a shot over the onrushing Mary Earps, but it was just over the bar.

United responded instantly and lovely build up play between Tobin Heath and Jackie Groenen saw Jemma Purfield forced into conceding a corner. From Heath’s resulting ball in, Millie Turner’s effort was well saved by Baggaley.

Three minutes later, the Red Devils forced another corner and Millie Turner found Groenen who forced Baggaley into making another good save.

Manchester United were comfortable in possession, particularly down the right, with the Vixens seemingly content to soak up pressure and hit out on the break, with Salmon again involved in winning a corner.

With twelve minutes gone, Baggaley was called upon again to save her side as Katie Zelem’s ball through to Ona Batlle resulted in the Spaniard crashing in an effort which the Derbyshire born custodian held. Seconds later, Millie Turner fired in a curling effort which went just wide.

Salmon had another opportunity for City just after the quarter of an hour mark when a rare error from Zelem resulted in a long ball through to the visitors’ star, but her first touch wasn’t quite up to scratch and Earps repelled the danger.

It only seemed a matter of time though before United’s dominance resulted in a goal, but there was more frustration when Tobin Heath’s stunning drive from outside the area skimmed the left hand edge of the cross bar.

However, the home side had better luck on twenty-six minutes as Zelem fed Ella Toone. Her pass played in Leah Galton who got past Flo Allen before firing in a glorious long range effort from outside the box which rocketed into the net.

Above: Leah Galton (right) celebrates a stunning strike with Jackie Groenen. Photo: @ManUtdWomen

Four minutes later, Baggaley had to save well to stop Casey Stoney’s charges from doubling their advantage. Batlle’s through ball deflected off of Vixens defender Laura Rafferty into the path of Heath but the visiting goalkeeper did her job well.

The pressure mounted further as Heath released Toone, but her effort was deflected out for a corner by Aimee Palmer.

As the first half entered stoppage time, Vixens’ Jemma Purfield was sold a dummy by Ona Batlle, but the Bristol City defender recovered well to put in a great tackle at the cost of conceding a corner. Zelem’s flag kick went to the far post where Millie Turner nodded home the second goal, which is how things remained at the break.

The second half began with United in control – but again, the first opportunity went the way of the Vixens and Ebony Salmon, but Mary Earps was alive to the danger.

Seven minutes into the second stanza, the Red Devils made the game safe with their third. Jess Sigsworth claimed she was fouled in the box from a corner, but got up off the turf to turn and smash home a loose ball.

The pressure on Bristol City was turned up further, and it was no surprise when a fourth was added. A magnificent long ball towards the left found Leah Galton on the edge of the box and she crashed home a glorious shot from an acute angle just past the hour mark.

To the Vixens great credit, they never gave up, and two minutes later had a chance when Charlie Wellings ran up the right, and put in a cross-shot which rebounded off of the post for a goal kick.

Indeed that Westcountry strength of character was further emphasised on seventy-two minutes when a long through ball found Ebony Salmon. Her searing pace saw her through the high line of United’s defence before putting in a first time effort which cannoned back off of Earps’ midriff. It rebounded to Salmon who composed herself and unleashed a fine drive into the net.

Above: The excellent Ebony Salmon fires in Bristol City’s goal. Photo: @bristolcitywfc

Yet this goal for the visitors just seemed to rouse United – and Tobin Heath specifically – to greater endeavours.

With seven minutes left, Flo Allen gave the ball away to Heath who looked up and saw Sophie Baggaley off of her line. The American superstar looped a glorious first time effort over the Vixens keeper and into the net.

Ella Toone saw an effort curl narrowly wide of the right hand post shortly afterwards.

It was Heath who had the final say in the aftermath as she received the ball from Hayley Ladd to ease the ball home.

Manchester United were impressive against an opposition with limited ambition in the game and deserve to finish 2020 on top of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table.

There was an inevitability about this result, but Bristol City’s fate will be determined by their results against those around them in the table after Christmas.

Above: It was another great performance, capped with two late goals for United’s Tobin Heath. Photo: @ManUtdWomen

Teams: MANCHESTER UNITED: Earps, Batlle, Smith, M. Turner, A. Turner, Groenen, Zelem, Heath, Sigsworth, Galton, Toone. Substitutes: Harris, Okvist, McManus, Ladd, Fuso, Hanson, Ross, Bentley, Press.

Scorers: Galton 26, 63. M. Turner 45+2. Sigsworth 52. Heath 83, 86.

BRISTOL CITY: Baggaley, Rafferty, Allen, Evans, Purfield, Logarzo, Humphrey, Daniels, Palmer, Salmon, Wellings. Substitutes: Bryson, Haaland, Bissell, Collis, Wilson, Mastrantonio, Jones.

Scorer: Salmon 72.

Referee: Lisa Benn.

Huddersfield Town Women: Strong Values & Development Pathways

Ben Gilby spoke to Huddersfield Town Women manager Jordan Wimpenny about his club who play in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier. (17/12/20)

Jordan Wimpenny makes it very clear how proud he is to be associated with Huddersfield Town Women and the fact they are in a strong position in the third tier of the game in England. The fact that they have done it with a clear, shared strategy is the cherry on the cake.

“We have progressed massively as a club over the years and have grown to give female athletes opportunities to fulfil a pathway in football. As a club, we pride ourselves on a particular set of values that we carry out all the way through the club and the club’s development are down to those committed hardworking people who make it all happen.”

Above: Sarah Danby (left) and Brittany Sanderson (right) start the celebrations for Huddersfield Town with Kate Mallin and Laura Elford racing to join in. Photo: Jess Hornby via Huddersfield Town Women AFC.

Huddersfield Town started the season on fire and stand three points clear at the top of the National League Northern Premier with six wins from eight games before the second lockdown struck, which was frustrating. “Lockdown is always a difficult time for anyone especially when you lose contact from training and competing in fixtures weekly, however it is something we have experienced with the first lock down and are able to stay connected as a group. We know that this is hugely important with the return to matches now starting in which we want to continue with our strong start. It hasn’t had a direct impact on the club but like anything the players just want to be out on the pitch”, Jordan says.

Long term there will be a knock on impact. The Terriers’ manager identified the club’s biggest challenge at the moment as “Being able to adapt to the new normality with training and games. It’s a new means of conducting our work. However we have a very strong group of people who are the driving force behind the club and so we are in a good place to fulfil our goals and objectives for this year.”

In terms of the division that Huddersfield are presently top of, Wimpenny recognises what a big battle his side have on their hands to remain at its summit: “The league is a tough one for any side. The FAWNL Northern Premier is a competitive league with experienced players and staff who have been around the game for several years proving no game is easy. It also provides a good solid platform for up and coming players who wish to find their feet and learn their trade to be able to progress to the next level which would be Championship football.”

Above: Serena Fletcher on the ball for Huddersfield Town against West Bromwich Albion. Photo: Jess Hornby via Huddersfield Town Women AFC.

Jordan then identified the difference between his side’s present division and the Championship which lies immediately above it, which if Huddersfield’s form continues, could be their destination for next season: “The jump is quite a significant one in terms of the operation, expectations and requirements for such league. This is something we will prepare for if, as a club, we need to. Our main focus is to stay in a position of winning each game as it comes and get ahead of those other teams who surround us.”

The club have a detailed pathway for young girls to start playing for Huddersfield Town at a young age and potentially go all the way through the system to play in the National League system. “We have community projects with the Huddersfield Town Foundation, Wildcats sessions for girls aged as young as five, the our junior sides, a female football academy at Calderdale College, our U18s, Development Squad and then the first team.”

There is no doubt that Huddersfield Town Women are a well organised and well run club. Wimpenny is clear that the reason for that is their incredible band of volunteers: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank and credit all the staff who are involved in the club, without the people involved we couldn’t achieve the things we set out to achieve and all work above and beyond for the players through their commitment and desire to succeed. I would like to especially highlight Alison Bamforth who took on the role as our COVID-19 officer and has been exceptional in ensuring we can still operate as a club and deserves great credit for her work. From a personal point of view, I would like to credit the players for their continued patience and hard work each week to apply themselves to their work and due to this have given themselves a positive start to the season in which we will look to continue.”

Above: Laura Elford in action for Huddersfield Town. Photo: Jess Hornby via Huddersfield Town Women AFC.

In terms of the future of the sport both generally and at Huddersfield Town, Jordan Wimpenny sees bags of potential: “The women’s game is ever growing and each year will continue to grow. As a club, we will aim to be a part of that growth. We will look to fulfil the potential of the club and it starts for us on the pitch. There are plans in place for the women’s game and with the support the game is having it will only develop for the better providing more and more opportunities for female athletes to be involved in football and reach their potential with the pathways and opportunities that are being created, an exciting period for any club or player who is involved.”

Keep a close eye on Huddersfield Town’s progress, this is a club with an impressively well organised player pathway which is bringing through some exceptionally talented players who could well be about to lift their side into the Championship.

Above: Huddersfield Town Women AFC – forward thinking and aiming for the Championship. Photo: Jess Hornby via Huddersfield Town Women AFC.

Elementary from Watson

Sutton United 1–1 Clapham United (13/12/20)

by Ben Gilby

Honours were even in the battle between the second and third placed sides in the London & South-East Regional Women’s Football League Division One North (tier six).

Played on a typically dank and drizzly December afternoon at Gander Green Lane, the two teams played out a fascinating game that at times resembled a chess match and at others was an end to end drama of the most epic nature.

Sutton United began the game calmly, looking to establish their patient probing passing game on the opposition. An early example of this saw a carefully weighted ball through from Olivia Watson towards Fern Colepio which won a throw in down the left on the edge of 18 yard box.

With six minutes gone, the home side won a free kick just outside of the box on the right hand side. Jenifer Neves played the ball in which was met by the head of Mika Keen, but Emily Jones gathered in the Clapham United goal.

Sutton threatened again as Keen played in Emma King, with the move ending with the latter’s long range shot landing on the top of the net.

As the early exchanges wore on, it was more apparent that Sutton’s patient approach work was the more successful as Clapham’s attacks were restricted to occasional long balls down their left hand side. One such move ended with an outstanding tackle by Colepio on Clapham’s Florrie Maxwell.

Just after the quarter hour mark, Evie Nebbitt was dispossessed by Molly Yoemann thirty yards out. The Clapham substitute ran on but her shot lacked power and was comfortably held by Paige Hersey in the Sutton goal.

The visitors threatened again shortly afterwards when Asia Harbour Brown got in a shot which was put out for a corner. Sutton comfortably dealt with the danger.

Sutton responded after 23 minutes when, following a throw on the right, Mika Keen found Fern Colepio who hit a powerful effort wide from just outside of the box.

By now the game was developing into an end to end encounter. It was the turn of the visitors to fashion an opportunity. It came when Lauren Robinson played a slide rule pass in to Letitia Campous-Lennon, but Hersey saved well. On the half hour mark Clapham came close once more as Serena Guardino’s free kick from the right hand edge of the box went narrowly over the bar.

With thirty-four minutes gone, a superb move from the hosts almost led to a spectacular goal. Captain Darcy Wells put in a superb tackle in the centre of midfield and played in Sophie Hendy who returned the favour with Wells hitting a great effort that narrowly went over the bar.

From the resulting goal kick, Clapham earned a chance but Hersey dealt with Phoebe Dennis’ effort from the edge of the box. Seven minutes from the break, Dennis did have the ball in the net after being played in by Maxwell, but the assistant referee’s flag went up somewhat belatedly, but correctly.

With four minutes of the half remaining, Sutton United’s Olivia Watson put a header wide after promising build-up play by Hendy and Keen.

Above: Clapham United’s Sally Cheeseman (18) has a header blocked by Sutton United’s Tamara Graham. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Despite Clapham having as many opportunities as the home side as the first half wore on, one was always left with the feeling that Sutton had the greater quality in their locker in terms of build-up play and skill in the squad.

However, what was also apparent as the second half opened was the growing importance of the first goal.

Sutton started the second half on the front foot and Darcy Wells was in the thick of the action again as the home captain hit a shot against the right hand post.

Shortly afterwards, a delightful ball from Hayley Halford down the right played in fellow substitute Gabby Howell whose effort forced a corner, which was eventually cleared at the second attempt by the visitors defence.

Clapham substitute Natalie Kennedy had two excellent chances within sixty seconds of each other, proving that her side were still well in the game. First, a promising build up resulted in her volley on the turn which went wide. Moments later she was one on one with Paige Hersey, but the home keeper blocked the effort.

On the hour mark Emily Jones was called into action to deny the hosts. Sophie Hendy’s run down the left found substitute Keisha Small. Her cross was not dealt with by a hesitant Clapham defence which allowed Halford to get in a shot which was deflected out by the keeper for a corner.

The home side continued to press and a great piece of combination play between Small and Evie Nebbitt forced a corner which was eventually cleared.

As the persistent drizzle got heavier, Sutton’s pressure grew. Hendy played in a teasing ball which Jones did well to get to first in the Clapham goal.

Yet, despite this, the game remained goalless. That is, until the sixty-eighth minute.

Clapham were awarded a free-kick centrally, just outside of the ‘D’ when Sally Cheeseman was brought down by Gabby Howell. Up stepped Serena Guardino whose effort went round the wall and couldn’t be stopped by Hersey before it crossed the line.

With a quarter of an hour left, the visitors gained another free kick outside the box after Keisha Small fouled Cheeseman on the right, outside the box. This time the set piece curled wide of the left hand post.

Sutton created a much needed opportunity when the ball fell to Tamara Graham outside the area, but her powerful long range effort went over. Shortly afterwards, Cindy Colliver played in Darcy Wells, but Jones managed to reach the ball first before Wells could get a shot away.

As the game entered the final ten minutes there were two opportunities for the hosts. First, Olivia Watson couldn’t quite get on the end of a floated ball through and the ever impressive Wells had an effort which was just over.

With eight minutes left, Fern Colepio combined with Darcy Wells who was fouled. The resulting free-kick curled towards the far left corner but Emily Jones made a good save.

In the eighty-fifth minute, there was another chance for the hosts as Gabby Howell played in Hendy. Her great cross from the right curled towards the left hand post just needed the slightest of touches to go in, but Olivia Watson couldn’t quite get there in time.

Above: Emma King in midfield action for Sutton United against Clapham United. Photo: Ben Gilby.

But both Sutton and Watson had better luck just sixty seconds later when a teasing cross from the right by Howell saw the midfielder slide in at the far post to grab the equaliser – her first goal for the club in only her fourth start.

Sutton were desperately unlucky not to win it at the start of stoppage time when Watson was fouled on the left and the resulting free kick was put behind for a corner with a minute left. A beautifully curling flag kick was met by the head of Keisha Small, but her effort was just centimetres wide.

The final exchanges were frantic amid huge vocal support from the Sutton United fans. The action was played out entirely in the Clapham half, but try as they might, and with Wells, Small and Watson particularly prominent, the home side couldn’t quite get the winner.

Teams: SUTTON UNITED: Hersey, Neves, Hendra, Nebbitt, King, Graham, Colepio, Watson, Keen, Wells, Hendy. Substitutes: Colliver, Howell, Small, Savage, Halford.

Scorers: Watson 85.

CLAPHAM UNITED: Jones, Lemos, Sharrock, Guardino, Robinson, Cheeseman, Maxwell, Campous-Lennon, Harbour Brown, Dennis, Walker. Substitutes: Shimnell, Skazlic, Yoeman, Kennedy, Jump.

Scorers: Guardino 68.

Referee: Kevin Guest.

Attendance: 75.

Brentford Women – Celebrating Thirty Years

Ben Gilby spoke to Brentford Women‘s Amy Crook about the development of women’s football at the West London club. (10/12/20)

Brentford Women’s FC celebrates thirty years this year after being formed in July 1990 when Roger Crook founded the club in response to his daughter Amy’s passion for the game. They were then based at Feltham Arena in Hounslow. The pair are still an integral part of the club today.

Above: Going for goal – Brentford Women. Photo: Sophie Boycott.

The club started out as an Under 14 team playing in friendly matches, before entering the Greater London Women’s League in the 1991/92 season. Their division comprised just four teams with Arsenal, Wimbledon and Walton & Hersham. By 1995/96 the group were eligible to play senior age football and so the club made the move to the Greater London Women’s Football League.

1995 saw interest in the female game increase enormously with the upcoming European Championships in 1996, and it was a time of progression as Brentford merged with a team from Smithkline Beecham to become Brentford Beechams.

By 2003/04, Brentford were competing in the Greater London Women’s League Premier Division. Two years later, the Bees merged with Viking Ladies and expanded to six teams: Ladies First and Reserves plus ages U15, U13 and U11A and B. In the early part of the 2010s the first team made the jump to the London & South-East Women’s League.

Above: The Bees in action against Dulwich Hamlet Development. Photo: Sophie Boycott.

Since 2014 there have been both ups and downs. The team are now playing in the Greater London Women’s Football League Premier (tier seven) and currently consist of a First Team and a Development Team, comprising players aged 16 and over with a total of forty-seven players across the two teams.

The club is still run by Roger Crook and daughter Amy, who now works for Brentford FC and is in charge of their two women’s teams. Amy Crook also highlights the fact that we have “a team of committed and qualified coaches headed up by Brentford legend Karleigh Osborne.” Talking about the potential of the side, Amy tells us that she believes “we are capable of playing at FA Women’s National League level.”

The women’s teams are supported by the men’s team and have played several home games at the Griffin Park stadium prior to the club leaving their famous old home this summer. “Brentford have also recently employed me to run both women’s teams and match day activities. There will also be opportunities to play a home game or two in the new Community Stadium, a 17,500 all seater arena once the pandemic is over and fans are allowed back into stadiums.”

In terms of the challenges that the club face, Amy recognises: “There is a lot of competition for players in West London. But the ones we do attract stay with us – one has been with us for twenty years now. In terms of the coronavirus situation, training has been difficult as Swift Road, where we usually train, has been closed.”

Above: Dramatic action from a Brentford Women’s game earlier this season. Photo: Sophie Boycott.

The short-term aim for the coming season is at least promotion for both teams, and there is a genuine feeling that this is realistic and achievable. Amy believes that the key to this success is: “Treating all players well at whatever level of talent – allow them to develop organically or allow them to move on and develop. It’s also important to have a real honest, open and trustworthy respect for all players, staff and volunteers.”  In terms of the future of the women’s game, Amy believes that whilst coverage is increasing at the top levels, it is not filtering down to the lower levels: “It’s very slow at grassroots level. We hope that with the professional men’s team behind us, we can attract more talent to push us towards the FA Women’s National League. Money needs to be invested and there needs to be more coverage for clubs at our level and lower to progress.”

Watching FAWSL action in the Covid Age…

This weekend, at long last, fans were allowed back in limited numbers to the FA Women’s Super League. Ben Gilby was one of the lucky seven hundred supporters at Kingsmeadow for Chelsea’s game with West Ham United. (6/12/20)

Watching a game in the FA Women’s Super League is a very different experience indeed – but whilst forward planning and patience are the watchwords, the rewards are oh so wonderful!

The process of attending Chelsea v West Ham United began on Monday afternoon when seven hundred tickets went on sale through Chelsea FC’s website, and being held in a “virtual waiting room” for what seemed an eternity the magic happened and ticket purchased.

Additionally, everyone attending was required to fill in a Coronavirus questionnaire ahead of the game and you would only be allowed entry to the stadium if you could fill it in, send it back and print off a reply telling you that you were cleared to attend the game medically. Coronavirus questionnaires came through early on Sunday morning which meant setting the alarm for an ungodly hour to fill it in online and there was then a short wait before the most awaited email that I have had in 2020 arrived at around 7:30am. I was officially in.

Whilst no-one is able to use their passports to go on holiday right now, if you’ve missed brandishing it this year, fear not, because you need it to get into Kingsmeadow. So, let’s see – Ticket printed out? Check! Covid questionnaire proof of health printed? Check! Passport? Check! Great – off to Kingsmeadow we go.

Above: Got your paperwork? Good! Now you can leave for the match! Photo: Ben Gilby

Leaving the house feeling as bouncy as a kid on Christmas morning, I made the short trip to Kingsmeadow feeling more excited than I can ever remember being for a football match in all my forty-one years on this planet. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Then, this view, which I had started to think I would never see again:

Above: Passing through the gates for the first time since February. Photo: Ben Gilby

Taking my place in the stadium an hour and a half before kick-off was a chance to catch up with familiar faces again after all those months hidden away, and embark on another pre-match ritual. It’s well known that Sam Kerr is my women’s football hero. The Western Australian branch of my own family live just 20 minutes up the road from where Sam was brought up in East Fremantle, so every game at Kingsmeadow since her arrival has seen me unfurl and tie up an Aussie flag on the barrier – today, the Matildas Active Support flag – representing the supporters club for Australian women’s football. It’s an honour to represent them at FAWSL games this season.

The first sighting of the players to come out and warm up was met by huge cheers. The first songs started up and it was quite emotional to see Guro Reiten joining in with some of the chants too once they started!

The Chelsea line-up included Beth England, Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby from the start for the first time and the movement and connection between the four was quite magnificent all afternoon long.

West Ham, with Billy Stewart taking over the reins after Matt Beard’s departure started well, but the front four of Chelsea made the difference. Fran Kirby pulled in a low cross on the quarter hour mark and Kerr steered the ball home.

Above: West Ham’s Rachel Daly fires in a cross despite the attention of Maria Thorisdottir. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Almost immediately afterwards, the Hammers could have levelled. Maren Mjelde’s pass was gobbled up by Rachel Daly who bore down on goal to reach a one on one with Ann-Katrin Berger, but the German shot stopper stood up well to the effort and saved the day.

Chelsea possibly should have had a second, but West Ham United’s Australian international Mackenzie Arnold made fantastic saves from Ji and Melanie Leupolz.

Above: West Ham’s Australian goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold made some spectacular saves. Photo: Ben Gilby.

If any of the gathered supporters felt that a run away second half would transpire, they were put right just two minutes after the re-start when Daly swept home following a less than impressive interlude in the Chelsea defence.

Any hope West Ham had was ultimately snuffed out by Fran Kirby who was in outstanding form down the left and it was her probing and great deliveries that sparked Chelsea’s attacking prowess throughout the half.

Above: Fran Kirby was back to her imperious best. Photo: Ben Gilby

Kirby’s creativity was also added to by Pernille Harder and it was the Danish superstar that played in a cross that Mackenzie Arnold could only push into the path of Sam Kerr to smash home her second.

Above: Pernille Harder’s cross was eventually turned in by Sam Kerr for the Australian’s second of the afternoon. Photo: Ben Gilby.

It was Kirby who produced the cross for Chelsea’s third when Kerr completed her first hat-trick in English football, injuring her hip, most likely in a collision with West Ham’s Cecilie Redisch in the process of scoring. Erin Cuthbert replaced Kerr as a result, with the Scot coming on to produce another outstanding Scottish Terrier like performance.

Above: Sam Kerr, who left the field with a hip injury after scoring her hat-trick clinching goal. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Chelsea were comfortable at 3-1 – possibly too comfortable – and another worrying defensive lapse ended with Magda Eriksson deflecting Emily van Egmond’s effort into her own net.

The home side deserved their win and were hugely impressive coming forward at times, but concerns remain about the defence when Millie Bright and Magda Eriksson are not playing together in the starting line up.

Above: Erin Cuthbert produced a very impressive cameo after coming on as a substitute. Photo: Ben Gilby

Teams:

CHELSEA: Berger, Thorisdottir, Mjelde, Eriksson, Andersson, Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Harder, Kerr, England. Substitutes: Bright, Ingle, Carter, Reiter, J. Fleming, Charles, Cuthbert, Telford (GK).

Scorers: Kerr 15, 55, 68.

WEST HAM UNITED: Arnold, Redisch, Flaherty, Fisk, Vetterlein, Longhurst, Cho, van Egmond, Daly, Thomas, Leon. Substitutes: Lehmann, Svitkova, Mustafa, Grant, Brosnan, Joel, Dali, Cissoko, Kiszkis.

Scorers: Daly 47. Eriksson (OG) 88.

Referee: Rebecca Welch.

Attendance: 700.

Introducing our first partnership club: Penryn Athletic Ladies FC.

Impetus are hugely excited to announce an official partnership between ourselves and Penryn Athletic Ladies FC, who play in the seventh tier Earthbound Electric Cornwall Women’s Football League. The partnership involves regular features with key members of the squad and officials about how the club and players are progressing. Impetus founder Ben Gilby launched the partnership by having a chat with club player-manager Yaina Andrew. (6/12/20)

Yaina and I started our conversation by discussing the history of women’s football in the historic town of Penryn, situated less than three miles from Falmouth.

“I set up the women’s team between five and six years ago now,” reveals Yaina. “I used to play for Mullion but it was quite a lot of travelling from Penryn each week. Me and my friend Bethany Hibbs who also lived in Penryn thought we should set up a team for the Penryn and Falmouth community. We had a look around for coaches and managers and started at Mabe, two miles outside of Penryn. We trained six months before the season had started just in case we couldn’t raise a side.”

“For the first four months of training we only had between two and five ladies attending each week, at this point it was not looking good!  I didn’t want to give up on the idea and felt like we had to carry on training regardless of numbers (which would show commitment and how serious we were to start this team). Two months before the season was about to commence, we then started to receive a ton of interest from the local community and Falmouth University Students. We had a great first season at Mabe with between ten to thirteen ladies. As a team we wanted to progress so we moved the whole team together to Penryn AFC where David Baker (Bates) could provide a lot more for us, such as sponsorship, free facilities, a clubhouse, food and drink after the game, ground maintenance and help with league and cup funding. Since being at Penryn, we have been able to attract more players because of the great facilities and pitch there, we have grown so much from when we first started. Obviously we have had our ups and downs as most teams do but we always manage to pull through the other side both better and stronger. We now have a strong and striving team of between sixteen and twenty-six brilliant ladies and an ever growing community of support!”

Like pretty much every women’s club, Penryn Athletic Ladies have had to cope with hugely uncertain times since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Yaina reveals how the club kept the team links strong during the most difficult periods: “When the first lockdown was announced, we were absolutely gutted because we couldn’t finish off our season however we didn’t lose team spirit. Initially each week, which eventually turned into every night, the girls would go online and we would play quizzes and games against each other. After lockdown we were quick to go back to training, starting off pre-season strongly with full commitment. This showed in the friendly matches and the league matches as both fitness levels and morale were high. Unfortunately, the second lockdown came mid-season and therefore means we have no training time to catch up on any fitness and ball control lost before returning to matches. However, myself and the coach have been sending skills and fitness drills out for the ladies to achieve each week.”

Above: Penryn Athletic Ladies FC 2020/21. Photo: @PenrynLadies

Women’s football in Cornwall has some added extra hurdles to clear that may not necessarily be there in other parts of the UK – the geographic location meaning that it takes over an hour and a half just to get out of Cornwall should the club ever go higher in the league system – and the fact that the Duchy, and Penryn in particular is a Rugby Union stronghold. Yaina highlights some of the issues she had at the start of her own career: “Even though women’s football in Cornwall may have not been as popular than in other places up-country, we did still have the option to play and compete in youth matches. I just don’t think there was the support, funding and facilities in place for ladies teams like there is today. When I first started playing ladies football at the age of 14, there were only around five teams in the league and only one division. Now we have around sixteen teams in the Cornwall Women’s Football League which is split into two divisions with the option to go up to the South-West Women’s League as well. Rugby is and always has been a popular sport especially in Penryn, I myself know this coming from a family of rugby men. Due to the rich history of rugby in Penryn (the town’s rugby club regularly went toe to toe with some of the sport’s biggest clubs over the years – including a game against the British & Irish Lions), it would be impossible for football to compete with so many successful international rugby players. Despite this, the two sports see no challenges from each other and the community is harmonious in its support for both.” 

Yaina highlighted earlier just how important the link up was with Penryn AFC men’s side, so I asked her further about the relationship between the men’s and women’s teams: “The relationship between the teams is constantly building, we have a few supporters each week from the men’s side which is starting to grow. We also like to watch the men play as well, which gives us an insight of how they manage and run their teams. We share our equipment and facilities and they also offer assistance with training. All teams get on really well and we are happy to be a part of Penryn Athletic FC.”

With league football about to recommence after the second lockdown, it felt like the perfect time to discuss the club’s season to date in the Cornwall Women’s Football League: “We have started off the season brilliantly, we have won three and lost three games. However, we are determined to improve before the second half of the campaign comes around. We’re very committed this season more than any other season due to a large number of ladies training and playing each week. We are definitely looking to finish the season in the top half, as long as the commitment levels stay high and the ladies have maintained their fitness through this second lockdown.”

With the club well established in Tier Seven, we were keen to know more about the Cornwall Women’s Football League (CWFL): “We love being in the CWFL, we love representing our County and the league has always been ran excellently with some brilliant representatives,” Yaina says.

“Of course we would love to move up to the South-West League and the more teams that actually move up the better, the quality of football is getting better, we have lost two players to Plymouth Argyle’s 1st team and one player to America. The more teams that excel will hopefully help with funding down here, enabling more youth teams for girls which will feed into the ladies. Each season we vote for what we want the season to look like. This season the vote was for a South and West league rather than a divisional split by ability. Last season we had such a low that we wanted to have a divisional split where we could regroup and build our confidence back up, however that was not the case. We actually got put into the South split and against some very good teams, luckily in pre-season we had a new manager, more players and a fresh start and we’re now proud of ourselves and how far we’ve come.”

Artwork designed by Graphics by PW: @Graphicspw

We had talked about coronavirus, geography and competing with Rugby Union as all hurdles to overcome for Penryn Athletic, but there are a couple of other challenges that Yaina highlighted: “The biggest challenges in sport altogether is lack of participation. Penryn Athletic men used to have four teams and now they only have two teams, the same for Rugby and Cricket in the town. Today children and young adults would rather play online on Xbox and PlayStation than go outside. This could become a really big problem for clubs because they would have to shut down if no money from the bar etc is coming in.”

Another issue is one which all grassroots clubs can identify with – but particularly in Cornwall: “Income is another really big one! Petrol, subs, training facilities and referee fees are all funded from each individual player however this could become unaffordable if we moved to the South-West Women’s League due to our location. It takes us eighty plus miles to get out of Cornwall as well as travelling time therefore this can put off some players.  Our club is kind enough to pay for our league,county fees and insurance but the club itself, as many are these days, is struggling due to the lack of funding, volunteers and income.”

At the present time, Penryn Athletic do not have a girls team, although it is not for want of trying: “We have tried to start up a Penryn Girls Youth team however it was unsuccessful, this was due to the girls from Penryn College being involved in so many sports with the school that the days kept clashing, Yaina explained.

“We do have the support and equipment in place and this is something we are still looking at doing for next season. This would really benefit us if we put this in place and help keep Penryn Ladies running in the future.”

Penryn Athletic Ladies rely on a small but exceptionally loyal band of volunteers keeping the show on the road. “It’s really just myself, Bethany Hibbs and Hannah Batt that have kept the team going for so many years. We were the first to arrive and I can’t imagine any of us leaving now until we retire (which will be never!). Without them I couldn’t have done this and we always knew if no one else came to training, there would at least be us three musketeers!”

More widely in the club, within the Penryn Athletic Men’s teams, there are so many that help behind the scenes, the treasurer, the chairman, the club president, the secretary and the vice chairman. All of which have done an amazing job of keeping the club running and giving up their own time to do so as well as supporting the ladies when needed. However, there has to be a special mention to David Baker (Bates) and Tom Blewett for always being there from the beginning, offering support, guidance and knowledge. Bates has helped us train, watches our matches, offered us work and included us in as much as he can. He is excellent at what he does and we couldn’t have done it without him! Tom Blewett is also a massive support for the ladies team, he started off helping us train and running our line, now he manages alongside Will on match days. He has always been our number one fan and would do anything to help us out.”

“I would also want to say a massive thank you to our team Penryn Ladies for always being loyal, committed and just a great team to play with and to anyone that has sponsored us, helped us and supported us. It is always massively appreciated.”

Above: Penryn Athletic Ladies FC and a beautiful Cornish sunset! Photo: via: Yaina Andrew

The conversation concluded by looking at where Penryn Athletic Ladies would ideally like to be in five years. “We would love to win the CWFL, have two successful teams and a youth team, said Yaina. We would also love to build our fan base and see more supporters in the stands on Sundays. We would love to play in the South-West League and have our own mini bus to minimise travel costs for the ladies. As long as the team has the same commitment and happiness as it has now, then anything else would be a bonus.”

Impetus will be checking in on the fortunes of Penryn Athletic Ladies every month when we will meet different players and characters from the club, find out about their progress on the pitch, what goes on off the pitch and just what it’s like to play tier seven women’s football.

Rovers Return Home With The Points

Coventry United 0–1 Blackburn Rovers (22/11/20)

by Ben Gilby

Blackburn Rovers moved into fifth place in the FA Women’s Championship after a hard-earned 1-0 win at Coventry United in an entertaining game at Butts Park Arena.

The home side came into the game on the back of a four game losing run, during which they had scored only two goals. For Rovers, the same period had resulted in two wins and a draw with six scored.

A hugely enjoyable first half opened with the visitors from Lancashire having most of the possession in the early stages, with the majority of the game in this period being played on their left wing. The pressing at this stage forced United to make hurried clearances, the majority of which went straight to a player in blue and white halves.

Blackburn had a great chance to take a lead when Natasha Fenton’s ball through was put out for a corner. The in swinging flag kick was pushed out by Sue Wood in the Coventry goal but only as far as Maria Edwards who hit an effort which rebounded back into the path of team-mate Saffron Jordan who prodded an effort goal wards and prompted an almighty playground style scramble before Anna Wilcox cleared for the home side.

United’s first effort on target took just over ten minutes to come and a good run from Shannon O’Brien saw her cut in from the left and hit an effort which Alex Brooks in the Blackburn goal dealt with.

Buoyed by this effort, Coventry began to show more of an attacking flair. O’Brien again was involved and found Amber Hughes, but her shot was blocked by defender Ellie Fletcher.

The home side mounted another attack and a sensational move saw Wilcox’s cross field ball met with a glorious first touch and instant control by Katy Morris. She played in O’Brien but the Rovers defence snaffled up the danger.

Rovers replied immediately as Aimee Hodgson forced a save from Sue Woods. They then created another chance as Coventry United’s Alice Hassall was caught in possession and the dangerous Saffron Jordan broke clear down the left, but the home side were able to marshal mass ranks of red and green to clear.

Blackburn benefitted again by a home player losing possession, this time Becky Anderson, and Jordan was in again. Once more United dealt with the danger and launched a counter attack as Wilcox found O’Brien. Hughes was then played in down the left before cutting inside and lashing a shot into the side netting.

Coventry finished the half on the front foot and more great skill, this time from Hayley Crackle which saw her juggle the ball over the head of an opponent and play in Wilcox before she was brought down by Fletcher, who received a yellow card for her sin. The resulting free kick from Crackle was cleared.

The home side pressured Rovers into an error when Natasha Fenton’s attempt to make contact with the ball ended with a fresh air shot. Hassall intervened, gained possession and got a shot away which Alex Brooks saved.

The final opportunity of the opening period went the way of the visitors as Hodgson stole the ball away from Crackle and curled in an effort which was deflected out for a corner. United dealt with the danger again ahead of the half-time whistle.

The even nature of the contest continued in the early stages of the second period. Coventry United’s first effort came from an incredible free kick inside their own half which was launched goal wards by Anna Wilcox and Alex Brooks was forced into a save in the Rovers goal.

Saffron Jordan continued to look dangerous for Blackburn and a quality turn and shot needed a smart save from Sue Wood to deny the Lancashire side’s captain.

The end to end sequence followed and this time United were only denied by a magnificent save by Brooks. Becky Anderson combined with Amber Hughes who struck a fierce effort which was only kept out by the outstretched legs of the visitors’ keeper.

Alex Brooks had to be at her best again shortly afterwards when Hughes found Phoebe Warner. Her pass played in the ever dangerous Shannon O’Brien but Brooks pushed the effort away.

With nine minutes of the second half played, the deadlock was finally broken – but not without the slightest hint of controversy. On another dangerous sortie into the Coventry penalty area, Saffron Jordan was brought down. Play continued momentarily before the assistant referee on the right hand side flagged and a penalty was awarded – but Coventry were convinced that contact was made with the ball first. The arguments fell on deaf ears and Elise Hughes stepped up to dispatch the spot kick for Rovers.

Shortly afterwards, United came close yet again. Katy Morris’ corner was headed towards goal by Chelsea Weston but her effort was dramatically cleared off of the line. Another chance came for the home side as Amber Hughes broke through and played in O’Brien whose effort was just over.

Blackburn were not without their own opportunities to extend their lead. First, Aimee Hodgson looked up and saw United keeper Sue Wood off her line and fired in an effort on target which was dealt with. Natasha Fenton then cut in from the right and hit an effort which forced a good save from Wood.

Coventry created two final chances to in a bid to obtain the draw that they deserved for their efforts. First, Amber Hughes turned Charlotte Newsham and hit a shot which was deflected out for a corner. The resulting set piece saw a great header from Alice Hassall which forced a save from Brooks. Then, an incredible run from Hayley Crackle down the entirety of the left wing saw her shrug off umpteen attempted challenges and win a corner. Amber Hughes’ goal bound header was cleared by the Rovers defence.

In the closing stages, Blackburn kept possession in a professional manner despite Coventry United’s best efforts. It was enough for them to end up winners of a game in which they were severely tested by a United side who are a point off the bottom of the FA Women’s Championship. There is absolutely no doubt that Coventry United are a far better team than their present league position suggests.

Teams: COVENTRY UNITED: Wood, Weston, Miles, Wilcox, Crackle, Anderson, Hassall, Morris, Warner, A. Hughes, O’Brien. Substitutes: Chandler, Popple, Orthodoxou, Wathan, Colville.

BLACKBURN ROVERS: Brooks, Fletcher, McDonald, Richards, Johnson, Fenton, Doyle, Hodgson, E. Hughes, Edwards, Jordan. Substitutes: Bentley (GK), Jukes, Newsham, Walters, Dean, Embley, Boydell, Stewart.

Scorers: E. Hughes (pen) 54.

Coventry United: Great Support, Positive Future.

Ben Gilby spoke to Jay Bradford, General Manager of Coventry United Women about how a relatively new club have battled their way up to the FA Women’s Championship and are now determined to stay there and thrive. (19/11/20)

Coventry United Women can trace their history back to 2013 when they were formed as Coventry City Ladies. Two years later, they merged with the comparatively new non-league men’s side Coventry United. Since that time, Jay Bradford reveals, the club has been on a “sharp rise”.

“By 2019 we had won the FA Women’s National League and compiled a successful Championship bid, something that had eluded us for a few years. We are now playing second tier women’s football and progressing on and off the field with ambition to progress into The FA Women’s Super League.”

Above: A great save in Coventry United’s FA Women’s Championship game with Leicester City. Photo: Jeff Bennett (permission from CUWFC).

Like every other club, Coventry United’s progress was hampered by coronavirus and two subsequent lockdowns. Bradford though points to fantastic support from the board in the current situation: “The club have been excellent – they showed commitment to all players by honouring contracts at 100% pay. The owners Marcus Green and Jason Timms and the board deserve huge credit, people have no idea what goes in to running a football club, particularly during a pandemic and they stand up to the challenge time after time and have shown their unwavering support to the women’s game. They made sure we had all the resources required to come back in to training once the FA gave the go ahead. Having no fans is difficult for any club as that is obviously a strong income source, particularly for us as we were pulling in crowds of 500+ for every home game. The owners have supported us fully and made sure that the lack of income hasn’t hindered our ability to go and make key signings so we can compete on the pitch.”

Of course, the club also rely on a vast army of volunteers to ensure that they keep progressing on and off the pitch. “I think of people like Jade Ogle that offer nothing but progression to the club and is constantly driving standards, all in her spare time. Our match day support staff, particularly Alan Howe and Harry Bragginton are brilliant. Without them our match day experience wouldn’t be what it is today,” Bradford explains.

Coventry United are fortunate in sharing the impressive 3,000 seater Butts Park Arena stadium with Coventry RFC, Coventry Bears RLFC as well as Coventry United’s men’s team. Bradford explained the women’s club’s links with the various teams at the ground: “We have recently undergone some changes which has seen the men’s section appoint a new chairman. The new format sees the owners and board sit solely above the women’s team and we are continually grateful for their support. We have a great working relationship with all the teams that operate out of The Butts Park Arena, it’s a superb facility and one we are happy to share.”

Jay Bradford sees Coventry United as very much a work in progress – and one which could develop in many exciting ways in the future: “I think our biggest challenge is how we choose to evolve over the next few seasons, we have lots of excellent ideas and avenues we are exploring so I think it’s important we pursue the correct targets and go at them full force. We have a great board and they are constantly striving for more it’s an exciting time to be part of Coventry United.”

Photo: Midfield action in Coventry United v Leicester City. Photo: Jeff Bennett (permission from CUWFC).

The Midlands club are establishing themselves as an FA Women’s Championship club – a league that is notoriously tough with clubs with differing resources. Liverpool have just dropped down from the FAWSL and Leicester City have just invested greatly into their women’s side. I asked Bradford how she sees Coventry United within this league and what the club’s aims and ambitions were – both at the present time and for the short term future. “It’s a great league for competitive value,” she said. “I don’t see anyone in this league not being able to compete and take points off other teams. I think for me right now, Coventry United are in a space where we are striving to become a solid Championship side that don’t flirt with relegation and year on year will progress and compete at a sustainable level.”

“Within the Championship, I think the strengths are the teams. Most of them have come through the football pyramid and are run by great people that drive the ambition of women’s football. I think ultimately the Championship has to keep driving standards and not be happy to just settle as a part time league. We have to want to close the gap with the WSL teams. The gap will always be there of course, but can the Championship close that gap and make small steps every season to be sustainable and ultimately exciting on the pitch that fans want to engage with it regularly? That’s the challenge.

The Championship still contains sides either unaligned to men’s clubs or not linked to professional men’s clubs – Coventry United being one such team. With the WSL no longer containing clubs from those categories I asked Jay Bradford what clubs such as hers need to do to enable themselves to first establish themselves in the Championship and then thrive: “I don’t think being supported by a men’s team is imperative, although naturally it helps. For me the teams that are not aligned to that level of structure have to be smart and create relationships with other parties that can offer them facilities or staff to help drive the sport forward. I think Championship clubs show how resourceful they can be without being handed a big cheque to spend on whatever they like.”

Player development is a key part of any women’s club, and Bradford was keen to highlight what United offer for players from the youngest of ages: “We host several age groups for both boys and girls. We offer the opportunity to play for Coventry United from the age of four and so have a clear pathway of progression for those that want to stay with us and then ultimately play for the first team.”

Above: Coventry United on the ball against Leicester City. Photo: Jeff Bennett (permission from CUWFC).

Our conversation ended by examining the future for the women’s game, and more specifically, Coventry United. “Women’s football in five years’ time has the opportunity to be a real force and I think people are doing great work to draw in big sponsors and ultimately showcase the sport,” said Bradford. “I would like to see the Championship operating a full time league and I would like to think Coventry United will be driving that forward and competing week in week out.”

Frantic Finish Ends With Honours Even

Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea (15/11/12)

by Ben Gilby

There was late drama at Meadow Park with two goals in the last four minutes as the clash of two London heavyweights ended all square.

Arsenal welcomed back Jill Roord into the starting line-up after her goal laden start to the FAWSL season was interrupted by injury. For the visitors, Guro Reiten was back on the bench after injury with Sam Kerr joining her in an exceptionally strong list of substitutes compared to the Gunners.

The two sides came into the game in contrasting form with the hosts putting in a disappointing performance at Manchester United last time out and Chelsea putting in a hugely impressive performance in defeating Everton 4-0. Arsenal boss Joe Montemurro was determined to improve his record against the reigning FAWSL champions which read as eight losses and a draw in ten matches.

In the early exchanges, Kim Little was involved in a collision with Ji which caused the Scot to leave the field for treatment for a long period, leaving the Gunners with ten players.

Chelsea offered an early threat as Sophie Ingle combined with Maren Mjelde. The Norwegian then found Pernille Harder, but she couldn’t squeeze a pass through to Ji as Chelsea started to look comfortable in possession.

Kim Little returned to the action and was involved immediately, playing a lovely pass through to Vivianne Miedema, but Ann-Katrin Berger got in quickly to save.

Above: Vivianne Miedema closes in on Chelsea keeper Ann-Katrin Berger. Photo: @ArsenalWFC

It was the Scottish international who was stamping her influence on the game in the opening fifteen minutes as Arsenal had to rely on less possession and territory.

Just after the twenty minute mark, Jonna Andersson combined with Ji and Ingle but Arsenal’s pressing defence worked well to win possession. They found Beth Mead on the right who did well to get a cross in, but it was too high for Miedema.

Arsenal’s energy in repelling Chelsea’s advances started to turn the tide in possession. Little found Mead, who in turn found Leonie Maier. Her pass played in Lia Walti who went down between two defenders, but it was never going to be a penalty.

With conditions ranging between sun, heavy rain, wind and a rainbow the final fifteen minutes of the half were generally even in terms of chances, but Arsenal were now shading the possession count.

Little combined well with Miedema once more, but the Chelsea defence closed the Dutch star down instantly and snuffed out any threat.

Arsenal were doing well to contain the threat of Jonna Andersson who bossed the game for Chelsea against Everton the week before, taking away a significant threat down the left. They were also working hard to keep both Melanie Leupolz and Beth England on the periphery of the action.

Two minutes before the break, Sophie Ingle gave the ball away to Australian international Caitlin Foord and the Matildas star crashed in a shot which came off the bar, flew up in the air and bounced off the woodwork again on the way down with Ann-Katrin Berger punching away the rebound. It remained goalless at the interval.

Emma Hayes brought Sam Kerr on for the second half and Chelsea started with greater intensity. Leah Williamson lost Pernille Harder and the Dane found Beth England who shot over. This increased energy from Chelsea began to force errors from Arsenal in possession.

Seven minutes into the half, Arsenal mounted a promising attack down their right which was ended by Millie Bright. The England defender launched a move which saw Sophie Ingle find Beth England. Her cross saw Erin Cuthbert get a shot away but Katie MacCabe blocked the effort.

Twice in quick succession, Beth Mead caused danger for the Blues defence. First, she closed down Ann-Katrin Berger and forced a less than impressive clearance from the Chelsea goalkeeper and shortly afterwards she forced a corner from Magda Eriksson.

Beth England had a great chance on the hour mark as a dreadful pass out from Leah Williamson allowed the Lionesses’ hot shot in, but her effort was well off target.

With twenty-two minutes left, Mead escaped down the right once more and fired in a cross which was blocked by Magda Eriksson for a corner which was cleared temporarily before a second flag kick was earned. Foord got in a shot, but Berger saved comfortably.

An error from Lotte Wubben-Moy then allowed Sam Kerr to use her pace to close in on goal, but a superb tackle from Katie McCabe cleared the danger momentarily. From the resulting throw, Ji found Pernille Harder in the box and it took a great save from Manuela Zinsberger to deny the former VfL Wolfsburg star.

Miedema then had a great chance which was deflected out for a corner. Mead’s ball in found Williamson whose effort went wide.

Above: Pernille Harder challenges for the ball this afternoon against Arsenal. Photo: @ArsenalWFC

With four minutes to go, Miedema popped up down the left hand side and made a great run which resulted in her comfortably beating Bright to get in a cross for Mead to dispatch into the net.

Emma Hayes reacted with a double substitution as Canadian Jessie Fleming came in for Ji and Niamh Charles replaced Cuthbert.

As the clock ticked into stoppage time, Harder floated out onto the right hand side and played in a cross which deflected off of Wubben-Moy and ballooned over Zinsberger into the net for an equaliser.

Two minutes later, Chelsea could have won it as Kerr lofted the ball over Zinsberger, but with just as everyone was starting to shout “Goal!” the ball dropped narrowly wide.

Berger still had one last save to make to deny the Gunners at the death in an end to end conclusion.

Chelsea’s ability to get up off the floor and fashion an equaliser – albeit one with a great slice of fortune about it – shows the sort of character that champions are made of. Joe Montemurro will no doubt feel that his side should have won, but once the dust settles the Gunners will be pleased with the progress in their performance and organisation from last weekend.

Teams: ARSENAL: Zinsberger, Maier, Williamson, Wubben-Moy, McCabe, Little, Walti, Roord, Mead, Miedema, Foord. Substitutes: van de Donk, Evans, Williams (GK), Gut, Mace, Pearse, Garrard.

Scorers: Mead 86.

CHELSEA: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Ji, Leupolz, Ingle, Cuthbert, England, Harder. Substitutes: Thorisdottir, Carter, Reiten, J. Fleming, Kerr, Charles, Telford, C. Fleming.

Scorers: Wubben-Moy OG 90.

Walker’s Rocket Leaves Villa Feeling Blue

Aston Villa 0-1 Birmingham City (14/11/20)

by Ben Gilby

One moment of magic from Claudia Walker settled the first ever competitive Villa v Birmingham second city derby in women’s football history in what was, in all honesty a dire game at Villa Park.

This was a game of huge importance, not just with local bragging rights at stake, but in the vital scrap for points towards the bottom of the table.

Villa went into the game on the back of their first ever FAWSL win last weekend at fellow strugglers Brighton & Hove Albion. Birmingham were decimated by injuries to the extent that they could only name two substitutes compared to Villa’s nine.

The home side had the territory and more possession in the opening half, but they could never build on either advantage due to poor quality final passes.

A half chance fell to Jodie Hutton after eight minutes after a threatening move involving Stine Larsen and Shania Hayles but the Blues mopped up the danger.

Hayles was the stand out player in the first half for the Villains, she was busy and industrious. It was the Burton born striker who had the first shot on goal which was aimed straight at Hannah Hampton in the Birmingham goal.

The visitors fashioned their sole opportunity of the first period when Molly Green’s weak effort was easily snaffled up by Lisa Weiss.

The remaining half chances all went the way of the home side. First, Jodie Hutton’s great run down the left ended in a cross that was way above anyone. Just before the break Villa earned a free-kick when Rebecca Holloway fouled Ella Franklin-Fraiture on the right, in line with the six yard-box. Hutton’s set piece was headed well wide by Larsson.

Above: Marisa Ewers firing in an effort this afternoon. Photo: @AVWFCOfficial

Birmingham rallied after the break and had the better of the second half of a game which rarely rose above average. Three minutes into the second half, Chloe McCarron fired a shot over the bar.

With twenty minutes remaining, Villa created another chance when Georgia Brougham cleared Nadine Hanssen’s shot from under the bar for a corner. From the resulting flag kick, Marisa Ewers’ effort went well wide.

Then, with seventy-two minutes played, the one moment of quality arrived. Stine Larsen lost possession to Brougham who combined with Rachel Corsie. The ball found its way out to the right wing when substitute Lucy Whipp pulled in a first time cross. Elisha N’Dow’s attempted clearance went straight to Claudia Walker who smashed it straight into the net from the edge of the area.

Despite facing adversity, Aston Villa could not create anything approaching real quality in their search for an equaliser and this will be a desperate disappointment against their injury ridden cross-city rivals.

Above: Midfield action in the Second City Derby this afternoon. Photo: @AVWFCOfficial

The Blues have now won as many games as Manchester City this season and stand nine points ahead of the sole relegation place already. This statistic will likely mean that today’s win could already ensure Birmingham City will remain a FAWSL side next season.

Teams: ASTON VILLA: Weiss, Franklin-Fraiture, N’Dow, Asante, Siems, Ewers, Arthur, Petzelberger, Larsen, Hayles, Hutton. Substitutes: Rogers (GK), Ale, Follis, West, Syme, Haigh, Haywood, Silva, Hanssen.

BIRMINGHAM CITY: Hampton, Scott, Corsie, Brougham, Holloway, Murray, McCarron, Green, Scofield, Kelly, Walker. Substitutes: Whipp, Toussaint.

Scorer: Walker 72.

Referee: Rebecca Welch.

United Hail Hanson

Manchester United 2–2 Manchester City (14/11/20)

by Ben Gilby     

Casey Stoney’s Manchester United earned the reward for a determined second half performance led by Kirsty Hanson which saw the unbeaten Reds turn around a two goal deficit.

The Red Devils came into the game on the back of an outstanding performance in dispatching Arsenal last weekend far more comfortably than the 1-0 score line suggested. City have had an up and down season, winning the delayed FA Cup Final, but have come up short in terms of results more often than they would have expected.

An open start at the Leigh Sports Village saw Tobin Heath create an early attacking move for the hosts with Jess Sigsworth prominent before Georgia Stanway hit the side netting shortly afterwards with City’s first attempt after a move down their left.

With five minutes on the clock, Heath was again at the heart of the battle. Lucy Bronze hung back from putting in a challenge allowing the American to play a ball through to Ella Toone whose effort went just wide of the right hand post.

However, just three minutes later, it was City who took the lead. Mary Earps stayed on her line for a corner, Chloe Kelly’s attempt to hook the ball back towards the goal failed as did United’s attempts to clear the danger and a gentle poke across the box from Steph Houghton found Kelly again to turn the ball round the corner and grab the opener.

Within sixty seconds, Stanway played a 1-2 with Sam Mewis and hit a shot which went far too close for comfort from United’s perspective.

Above: Georgia Stanway had a dominant first half for Manchester City. Photo: @BarclaysFAWSL

City were now dominant, forcing corners and making it making it tough for United to be seen as an attacking force. Half way through the half, a vicious in-swinger of a corner from Alex Greenwood found Mewis’ head, but her effort went over.

Casey Stoney’s charges needed a sustained spell of possession to stem the City flow and lay the foundations for a comeback. Yet, throughout the remainder of the opening half, it never quite materialised. United’s consistent high press gave them so much joy against Arsenal last week. City were able to play their way out of the attempted straightjacket and as a consequence they earned so much space in the midfield to exploit. That and the total dominance that Georgia Stanway held over Ona Batlle down the left to create so much of City’s offensive play meant that the home side were on the back foot throughout the opening period.

Just on the half hour mark, Laura Coombs was afforded acres of space in the midfield and found Stanway, but the City star took one touch too many which allowed Mary Earps to