Impetus spoke to founder and chairman Will Boye who revealed their story so far: “In the short space of time that the club has been in existence, we have won the Greater London Women’s Football League (GLWFL) Division Three (South), GLWFL Division Two (South) as well as being Capital Cup finalist in 2016 and being victorious in 2017 winning the Capital Cup and GLWFL Trophy. Further glory followed in the following season when the team achieved another back to back promotion from GLWFL Division One and winning the GLWFL Premier Division.”
Boye then went on to explain the club’s set up: “We are proud to be affiliated to Ashford Town (Middlesex) FC and to have Wristfitx wristbands as our club’s main sponsor. Our relationship with the men’s side (who play in the eighth tier of the pyramid) is good. There are always things to improve that will never change in football as the demands of the game get greater and greater. We are run entirely by volunteers, this club has gone from strength to strength looking to progress to the very highest level of the game as well as provide development opportunities for all. This has been achieved through the creation of an U10s, U14s, U18s and B Team Team which are now all part of the pathway to the senior Women’s First Team. Matthew Aumeeruddy (Assistant Coach) and I have been together since the club was newly formed.”
Given the way that Ashford has flown up four divisions since formation, I asked Boye for what he believed was the key to such incredible success: “It’s simply been down to our togetherness, dedication and resilience. Just under half of the squad have been together since our existence in Division Three and a large majority have been dedicated to the club since Division Two. We have shown tenacity and resilience through difficult times to develop a mental strength to get through any challenges put our way. We work hard as a group on the training ground and constantly challenge ourselves to be better and this is, in my opinion, is what is key to our success and why new players want to join the football club and be part of the success journey that we’re on. “
Ashford Town now finds themselves in the highly competitive top flight of the London & South-East League, just one step below the FA Women’s National League, with only one promotion spot available. The Middlesex side’s chairman views it as a tough league: “I would go as far as saying this is the most competitive this division has been for a number of years. There are four or five teams in this division who could win the league any other year with consistency behind them because the quality is most certainly there. It took us a while to get used to the division. We have been used to climbing the leagues and this has been a nice challenge for us as a squad. It will be a tall ask to win the division this season with the top two convincingly running away with things at the moment, however we do believe we possess the ability to mount a firm challenge next season.”
Ashford Town feel that that they are more than capable of making the jump up – but are more than aware that it’s not just about reaching the National Leagues, it’s also about staying there: “Reaching the National Leagues has been our goal since our formation. The coaching and management team have bought into this goal and each and every player at this football club have too. We do need to improve on and off the football pitch to make this a reality but I don’t believe we’re a million miles away from achieving this. For me it’s not just about achieving FA Women’s National League (WNL) status and saying “job done”, we want to achieve WNL status and effectively challenge at that level. If this means an extra season in the division we’re currently in to mature as a team and prepare us for what is to come then we’ll take on that challenge.”
I had the privilege of watching Ashford Town’s game at Fulham in the League Cup in December – it showed Town side with some good players who play some fantastically skilled football. I therefore asked Boye how the club develop their players and help instil then with such a high standard of play: “There is no question we possess unbelievable talent at this football club who can more than hold their own in the level above. We believe in our coaching philosophy at the football club and have developed this every year based on the new challenges that have come our way. For us as coaches, it’s about effectively studying our opposition and preparing our players for what they’re going to face in the game whilst developing our youth to the standard that will eventually have them playing football at the highest possible level (be it with Ashford or away from the football club). We have a philosophy which every player and coach are aware of, this has served us well over the seasons and it’s ever-changing, as the challenges we face and the sport also are. This is what will make us successful as a football club and the individuals within it.”
Success breeds success, and a combination of Ashford climbing up the leagues rapidly and the increased media attention, Boye’s club are attracting more and more players as he reveals: “There has been a noticeable increase in players wanting to join the football club and this increases after the success we achieve year after year. We began with only a senior women’s team and have since added four more age categories to our club providing football now for over seventy girls and women.
The conversation then turned towards the challenges that Ashford Town face, and it was a familiar tale: “One of our biggest challenges is sponsorship. We currently compete with three or four teams in our division in which their budget is double or triple what we currently have. Many teams have access to 3G pitches which allows training to be free of charge and accessible to teams whenever they require. We don’t have this and spend year on year our budget to hire out pitches and that remains our biggest challenge. Discussions are in place for next season however I’m sure there are many other teams (men and women’s) we’ll be competing with.”
With Ashford Town aiming for the promised land of the FA Women’s National League, I asked the club chairman what he believes the keys are for a sustainable future for his club: “You need a team of players and staff who are all on the same page and all committed to success. Success comes in many different forms at various stages of a football journey so it’s important that the success targeted is realistic and we’re patient yet determined in achieving this.