Ben Gilby spoke to Stockport County Welfare Officer Peter Attfield about how the club has been making the best of a stop-start season in the FA Women’s National League Division One North.
The club have a fascinating history, with Peter stating “Stockport County Ladies were set up following a partnership with the local authority. Formed in 1989/90, they were an instant hit. There have been various changes over the past thirty years leading to the club as it is now.”
Lockdown has been another massive period of adjustment for the club as Peter explains: “None of our teams have been 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.”
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.