Ben Gilby spoke to Marine’s manager Iain Scott and assistant manager Declan Henry about the relatively new tier seven club who ply their trade in the Liverpool County FA Girls and Open League.
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 was 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.
With all the hype over @MarineAFC playing @SpursOfficial ... who thinks our women should go head to head with @SpursWomen??💪💪⚽️⚽️— Marine Women's Football Club (@MarineWFC) January 1, 2021
We are calling @SpursWomen out for pre-season friendly this summer!@bbcmerseysport @CrosenderWay @BarclaysFAWSL @LivEchoSport @primevideosport pic.twitter.com/zavDr1C5CO
“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.”
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.”
“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.”