Wednesday, 30 October 2013

England Journeys

     In the cause of supporting women's football I have had a couple of trips to watch the national team as they begin their World Cup 2015 qualifying campaign after their poor showing at this summer's European Championships in Sweden. An early exit that saw long standing coach Hope Powell lose her job. Now the post-mortem over those strangely below par performances is long over, plenty of opinions flying about as to why but the fact remains it was and still is a very talented and gifted squad of players with plenty more knocking on the door at senior level and U23's.
      Of course it wasn't all doom and gloom for England's national teams over the summer there was one stand out team the Women's U19's who took part in their own European Championships in Wales back in August. Mo Marley the team coach had assembled herself a very gifted squad of young players, who played some very good positive passing football and made it all the way to the final without conceding a goal and in doing so qualifying for the U20 World Cup in Canada 2014 in the process. Unfortunately they were beaten after extra-time in the final by a very strong and physical France. They can however be proud of what they achieved and I will certainly be looking out for many of those players to see how they progress with extra interest as I travel the country to various games.
     Below is one of my favourite pictures I took during the summer at Llanelli's Parc ye Scarlets stadium at the final before kick off love it, it's a major tournament final and shows how excited these girls are...

Anyway for the senior women's team it is a new era one without hope... (sorry nicked that one from everyone and their dog). Brent Hills, Hope Powell's assistant was put in temporary charge for the first two qualifying games against Belarus and Turkey whilst the FA began its search for a successor. There weren't too many surprises in Brent Hills first squad calling up the in form Natasha Dowie and Danielle Carter. Many had called for both Toni Duggan and Jordan Nobbs to be in the starting line-up and he duly oblieged as I travelled down to the Goldsands stadium on the south coast at Bournemouth for the first game against Belarus.
     It was however Karen Carney who stole the show striking a first half hat-trick as England romped to a comfortable 6-0 victory ,White, Dowie and Aluko with the other goals. This was followed by an even more convincing 8-0 demolition of Turkey at Portsmouth 5 days later a perfect start for the caretaker boss.
    Roll on a month later and the FA confirm that Brent Hills will continue in the role for the next two qualifiers at home to Wales and away to Turkey. Out of all the England Women's World Cup qualifiers this is one was the one I had to see my first home nation's football match in any form. Out of all the teams in the group Wales would present England with the toughest challenge many of their squad play in the WSL with Natasha Harding and Jess Fishlock being the two players to watch out for. That being said squad on squad England's was the strongest I expected a win but certainly not by the margin of the previous two games.
    Off to London I travelled (via Lincolnshire) with three fellow excited and enthusiastic supporters in tow our venue The Den in the heart of London home to Championship side Millwall FC. Driving in London was for myself a relatively new experience but that's why I have a sat nav (do as she says) and I usually get there. Heading right past the Olympic Park, a place I must visit one day we made good time, no parking at the ground mind we took our chances on a single yellow line and headed to the ground.
    The Den (formerly The New Den) is an impressive looking stadium I liked it and can imagine it's a pretty imposing place for an opposition team to visit when the home team are playing. England and Wales supporters filled the lower tiers of the ground on all four sides which was good. A good atomsphere everyone was looking forwards to the game.
     The first half was a story of England dominance without finding the back of the net the Welsh goalkeeper Nicola Davies pulled off some fabulous saves, frustrating England's attackers who were passing the ball across the pitch with adandon trying in particular to get Karen Carney onto the ball from the right. Wales did have a couple of moments but on both occasions when a snap shot was the option their players hesitated and allowed England's defenders a chance to make a challenge. Still going in at 0-0 at half time Wales would have been pleased even with the injury Jess Fishlock suffered to her arm.
     The second half however was a different story Natasha Harding had to be replaced through injury and with her arm bandaged up and clearly in discomfort Jess Fishlock playing in a deeper role for her country was struggling. England's Jordan Nobbs had done a fantastic job marking the Welsh playmaker in the first half found herself on the edge of the box with a scoring chance early on and England were in the lead.
     With Jess Fishlock really struggling to continue (there's only so many times you can land on a damaged limb) England could attack in even greater numbers and it was Toni Duggan who added a second goal midway through the second half and effectively kill off the game. There was no point in Fishlock struggling on it was a brave effort as she was subsituted. From then on it was a combination of brave defending from Wales and wayward shooting from England that prevented a greater scoreline as England ran out comforable winners 2-0. A tougher opponent it was a game England certainly needed, the return match in Wales I'm sure will be an equally passionate affair.
     After three games England lead the group with no goals conceded and 16 scored, a great start for Brent Hills onto Turkey where you would expect another victory. England will be confident but I'm sure never complacent of winning the group and qualifying for the World Cup and with a new manager to come and places to play for the real benefit should be the WSL and the fans who support it.


Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Rebranding - Lincoln Ladies to become Notts County Ladies

    I'm a Ladyimps fan I feel I'd best start here. A 12thimp as we started referring to ourselves in the last season. Proud to be a 12thimp too. That of course leads to the future the REBRANDING and the questions I have been asked by so many. How do you feel about it? And then, what are you going to do?
   I was stunned like most fans of the club when the news broke back in April through the poorly thought through and hardly needed statement from the FA, something that disappointingly was going to be a theme from the sports governing body from then on in and something the club itself used to hide behind. It was a huge shadow that affected the team all season and on the eve of our FA Cup semi-final down at Bristol the biggest game in the clubs history (at that point) it had affected the players no doubt.
    Personally I was shocked I'm a football fan got behind a club had just joined the newly formed Supporters Club, had sponsored a player too. Strangely up to that point I was fairly inactive on Twitter, that changed that day so you can blame the rebranding on that too. In the previous season and a half I had had little engagement with my fellow fans (I can be a shy chap believe it or not) with the formation of the Supporters Club we came together. I suppose because I travelled from Norfolk I felt like a bit of an outsider however I know that was not the case getting to know everyone I have felt very welcome and have made some good and I am sure lasting friends it has been a real highlight and I suppose my sadness at this move comes from my feelings for those in the county of Lincolnshire who were prepared to get behind this club and make it a success.
    The most frustrating thing for myself has been my drive to understand the decision and the lack of explanation, because I do want to understand. Don't think I don't at this point because although it's been like getting blood from a stone I have spoken to various sources at length on the subject.
    Lincoln Ladies will become Notts County Ladies from 2014 as the WSL enters its second phase and gains a second tier. It is a franchise league which means teams bid to secure a place in it. Lincoln Ladies are owned by Ray Trew who is also the owner of Notts County men's club. Teams in the current WSL set up and the new bidders 33 in total had to submit a bid to join the new 2 tier WSL 1 & 2 these criteria included, playing facilities and financial backing on this basis it meant the merging of 2 clubs into 1 and with the men's club being the larger Lincoln Ladies and it's 18 year history was the casualty. Lincoln Ladies as it stood would not have been able to retain its place in the WSL based on the terms laid out by the FA.
     If this rebranding had happened in the men's game there would have been uproar, debate on a national level... it was the women however and barely caused a ripple that is perhaps an example of how far the sport has to come?
    The club is becoming Notts County Ladies the Ladyimps will be no more that is that. Now I became involved when the club first joined the WSL and then Lincoln Ladies own inclusion caused a stir the casualty then was Leeds of whom several Lincoln players came from and looking at that group in general Leeds had one hell of a side so there were losers back in 2011 too. Someone said to me and it is a valid point had Notts County been in a WSL side back in 2011 and not Lincoln would I have gone to support because they would have still been the nearest, although only just?
    I think that's fair enough from my point of view, I am an exception but by no stretch the only one, a fan who is prepared to travel stupid miles to support a team. It is the people of Lincoln who have lost out, they have lost a club 18 years in history which I had a brief glimpse of however like myself they are passionate about the game and will find a way to support the women who want to play the game and maybe I hope another Lincoln team will rise, someone in the county will take advantage of what was a strong and growing fan base. A lot walked away when the rebranding was announced but 500+ had turned up for that first league game in 2013 the potential was certainly there.

Well what am I going to do?

   This is a good question I suppose you have to take the emotion out of it progress is not without victims and in this case a football club is no more, wasn't the first, will not be the last. I guess over the course of the 2013 season my own evolution as a fan began albeit subconsciously to start with. Franchise football, what the hell is that all about this is England for goodness sakes, not America? Who better to ask then than an American (oddly several of them aren't fond of franchised sport either) however they get it and I did listen to what my friend had to say, over there you don't always support the 'club' as strongly as you do the players within it.
     It wasn't the only reason and I know I wasn't the only fan with this mindset we kept coming because we support the girls who just want to play the game. It was those same players who were thankful for the support too. We all have our favourite players after all and I guess if enough of those players are still at Notts County come the start of the 2014 I will support them, it will be for them and myself a new beginning. However there is a long winter period, which will see lots of coming and goings player wise involving all clubs not just Notts County, Man City are new too and we don't know yet what they're spending power is. Liverpool won't stand still either thus the rest will have to act. It will be very interesting.
    One thing is certain my passion to support has only grown.

Welcome to the Blog

    Welcome to my new blog, Supporting Women's Football. My aim is to in my own small way help to promote the sport as so many other fans do so well in various guises and media throughout the land. Although growing the women's game still lacks the mainstream media coverage it deserves and the more coverage it can get the better in my opinion.
    A little bit about myself then and why I am so passionate about the sport,a bloke in his thirties from Norfolk born and raised. My first taste of women's football came back in 2005 when the England team played Iceland in a friendly at Carrow Road (oh my god This is going to be a long introduction!) I can hear you cry. I was asked to go by a colleague at work and thought it would be interesting, was curious to see how good they were. I liked it, was impressed by the standard of play and passion. After that however I only really followed from a far my interest peaking at major tournaments because it was only then the team got a mention.
    Fast forwards to the 2011 World Cup, I got right behind the team played some good football but alas we lost to France on penalties. However that was the year the WSL (Women's Super League) was born and I decided I should take a look at this new league as it resumed after its summer break. Bearing in mind I live in Norfolk it was a case of taking a look at the teams and seeing what was what. My favourite women's footballer of all time was playing for Everton at the time but for little travelled me that wasn't really practical, looking at the miles I've covered since then mind supporting women's football I have to wonder why?
   Anyway Lincoln Ladies were the nearest a mere 72 miles, they had Sue Smith, Casey Stoney and Sophie Bradley in their squad and the visitors were Birmingham I thought this would be a great place to start. Off to Ashby Avenue I went without sun cream and stood by the pitch getting burnt as I witnessed a spirited 1-1 draw, really liked the home team and the work they put in to secure a point against what was a very good Birmingham side, liked the little blonde terrier/batting ram in midfield, Remi Allen and the feisty leftback from Harrogate who gave the linesman nothing but grief from start to finish, Rachel Daly and thus my passion for the ladyimps and women's football was truly awakened and I haven't looked back since.
    In creating the Supporting Women's Football blog I hope to cover as many levels of the sport as I can from the upper reaches of the WSL all the way down to the grass roots level of my home county of Norfolk. Therefore I will be all over the place (probably getting wet a lot) attending matches and reporting back to you on proceedings and any other topical news regarding women's football that might be of interest it'll keep me out of trouble if nothing else. I will always welcome comments and debate positive or negative on here or on my Twitter feed @GilharrenD and maybe if someone out there has got something they would like me to write about within the sport then feel free to let me know I will certainly consider it. I will do my best to regulary update I'm new to this blogging experience so will be learning as I go along but I am certainly excited by this new adventure.