FA WNL End of Season Awards 2023/24

Photo: Lucy Copsey

With the welcome demise of the Tier 3 Play Off Final, the FA Cup Final provided a more relaxing backdrop to the FA Women’s National League (FA WNL) Awards. It was a lovely day hosted by Gemma Frith of Wolves & Wolves Women. 

While there are elements of the day which has received criticism and for that I am sure that the organisation will take on board but I wanted to focus on the celebration of the wonder folks involved in the FA WNL.

The day was started by the Chair of the FA WNL Board, Sue Hough, announcing that following the success of the three years of Premier League funding (to the tune of £3m) in 2022, the Premier League were committing to a further six years. This is welcome funding which will help all clubs within the FA WNL implement the FA WNL Strategy and support the development of the whole pyramid.

Now on to the Awards… it started with the winners of the Reserves Player of the Year and the winners were:

  • Leila Awan of Cambridge City (8 Opposition Player of the Match awards from 19 appearances).
  • Elosie Harris of Cheltenham Town (4 Opposition of the Match awards from 15 appearances).
  • Ashley Tiripke from Huddersfield Town (9 Opposition of the Match awards from 24 appearances).
  • Jodie Steadman of Lincoln City (5 Opposition Player of the Match from 16 Appearances)

The Tier 3 Players of the Year were:

  • Caz Fields of Huddersfield, who achieved 9 Opposition Player of the Match awards from 20 appearances and
  • Sophie Peskett of Ipswich Town with 10 Opposition Player of the Match Awards from 28 appearances and 12 goals.

And in Tier 4 the Players of the Year were:

  • Kayleigh Hines (Loughborough Lightning) 6 goals, 10 Opposition Player of the Match awards from 23 Appearances in the Midlands Division, including 14 as Captain. 
  • Kenedy Owen of Stockport County appeared 27 times, 25 times with the Captains Armband and received 8 Opposition Player of the Match awards.
  • Nina Meollo made 15 appearances for Cambridge City and received Opposition Player of the Match in 11 of them.
  • Charlotte Haynes from Keynsham Town with 25 Appearances she received 11 Opposition Player of the Match awards.

We then came to the hotly contested Manager of the Year award for the Reserves, Tier 4 and Tier 3. For the Reserves it was David Staddon of Bournemouth who won their South West League (13 wins and only 1 defeat) and were unlucky to lose by just the one goal to the well respected Oxford United Development team in the Reserves Cup Final.  They scored 87 goals (including 3 penalties) and only received 4 yellow cards.

AFC Bournemouth. Photo: Ian Middlebrook

In Tier 4 it was Andy Mulligan of Sporting Khalsa following their successful hard fought Midlands promotion battle. Scoring 97 goals all season, which was over 20 higher than the nearest team and it was this better goal difference that enabled them to beat Loughborough Lighting.

In Tier 3 it was Jason Stephens, of Hashtag United, following an excellent season for them of winning the League Cup (beating Newcastle in the Final) and coming a hard earned second in the League, following promotion from Tier 4 last season, pushing Portsmouth all the way. 

Once these “footballing” awards were completed the focus turned to the wider recognition awards, recognising the volunteers who give so much both to the FA WNL and the wider Community.

It was lovely to see these awards start with the former FA WNL Management Committee getting a Special Recognition Award. They have committed many hours to the running and promotion of the League as volunteers and the support they have offered to clubs throughout the pyramid over the years will always be appreciated.  We can recommend listening to the Wolves Women Pod where they talk to Carol West a few months before she stepped down, where she gives a fascinating insight into the work of the Management Committee to run the League. It was extremely fitting that Baroness Sue Campbell presented these awards, as she acknowledged that the FA WNL is the beating heart of women’s football.

The “Community Clubs of the Season” awards were awarded to Plymouth Argyle in Tier 3; who provide football in the community; including over 200 kids attending their “Christmas Cracker” event where the kids get to play football with the players.  The club has a family ethos that is part of the community, and this is shared across the whole club as demonstrated by the joint first team visits to the local children’s hospital with the men’s first team.

In Tier 4 the Community Club went to Actonians, who have undertaken a range of community activities including:

  • “Football Welcomes Refugees” with Amnesty International – important due to the high level of asylum seekers and refugees in the local community
  • Spearheaded & organised an LGBT Project within the West London Community
  • Felix Project – redistributing food waste from local supermarkets into the community to reduce food waste & food poverty. This has included two players every week helping through the season by distributing the food.

The Final award was the “Outstanding Contribution Award”, which recognises a person or group of people who go above and beyond to help with the running of the club or providing football for a community etc. This year it was awarded to Liz Pamplin of Cambridge United for all the work she does behind the scenes at Cambridge United.  Cambridge United manager Darren Marjoram said that “Liz is the glue that holds us all together”.  Liz fulfils several roles including on the Women’s Board, Club Secretary, helping at training and ensuring that the Stats are on Full Time accurately. 

When receiving the award, Liz noted that her football was impacted by the fact that no one could or would give 10 minutes to supervise her as a young girl so she could play for her team. This led to a determination to always give the 10 minutes, to help others play football and that this was always 10 minutes well spent…. an inspiration to us all.

Photo @FAWNL

Congratulations to all the winners but also to all the volunteers, staff, players and fans who help make the FA WNL the amazing league that it is! We are looking forward to the 24/25 season already…. see you in August!

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