Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of speaking to London City Lionesses’ trio Lisa Fallon, Ellie Mason and Ylenia Priest, as the pair were announced as the club’s co-captains ahead of the FA Women’s Championship this weekend.
Lisa described that “Ellie and Lenny have both shown tremendous leadership over what has already been a challenging pre-season for all the players. They have had to be adaptable and show versatility and openness to doing things differently. Between the two of them, they have been really exceptional to the group, and to the coaching staff they have been great for transfer of information to the players.”
Ellie Mason had been in sole possession of the captain’s armband last season and while it’s still unclear how that will be managed next season Lenny explained that there is an expectation that both will have an equal role whoever is physically wearing it. She said, “We both bring different experiences and different characteristics to the captaincy which is nice for the players as they will be able to talk to one of us about anything.”
Ellie also told journalists that “Lenny is going to be a role model for our younger players coming up” and that she is confident they will work well with together.
I asked Lisa for her view on the impact on young developing talent in the Women’s Super League with the recent influx of international stars coming in. She told me, “It’s good to welcome new talent into the league as the stronger the league is the more commercial viable it becomes. Also from a player development perspective you want your players playing against the best as it makes you a better player.”
It’s my view that many young players will find their way into the FAWC, either by short term loans of via permanent transfers. Something that Lisa agreed with, adding that it can help the development of homegrown players who will come up against the high calibre of players that are already playing the second tier of women’s football.
Lisa also praised the work being done by the Football Association to establish a strong structure for development squads and under age structures to aid in creating a pathway for players into first-team squads. She cited that this even influenced her decision to appoint Lenny as a co-captain with Ellie as Lenny’s presence and responsibility given at this level should show young players what they can realistically achieve with hard work.
Lisa told me, “Players make a lot of sacrifices in order to be a professional and they don’t get the same financial rewards that players in men’s football get. So if anything it is probably a bigger sacrifice for female players to get to the top of the game. As a coach, it is our job to facilitate their journey and make it easier for future players by showing them that they can have a good career in football.”
London City Lionesses have partnered up with Shenfield Academy with a view to doing just that. Lisa described that “I think it is important that the youth sides and development squad feel connected with the first team and feel that there is a genuine pathway. It very much is a focus of mine to keep an eye on them and to help support and guide the coaches so they are sharing the same values we hold in the first team.”
Looking ahead to the new FAWC season Lisa told journalists, “I think it’s very exciting. The standard of the Championship will probably be the highest it’s ever been this year and this is a challenge that we will all embrace. We have really just been focusing on ourselves in pre-season and tried to establish our own playing style and culture. We can’t wait to get started.”
London City Lionesses begin their season by welcoming Neil Redfearn’s Sheffield United to Princes Park this Sunday. On that match, Lisa said, “Sheffield United is a great game for us, they came second last season and we know that they’re favourites going into this game but that’s ok, we are here to test ourselves against the best in the division. We have focused hard on getting ourselves right for this game and we’re looking forward to the challenge and that is what we’re here for.”
Fans will be unable to attend the Sheffield United game but after initial trials at Lewes’ game with London Bees last weekend it will hopefully not be long until fans start making their way into games. Until then fans of the fledgeling club will be following online or via the FA Player where possible. Lisa added that “When they are able to come back into the ground we’ll welcome them and it’ll be a joy to get everybody back. In the meantime, we have a responsibility to our supporters to be as professional as we can be and get the right performance and make them proud.”
If I am honest, I knew little about Lisa prior to her appointment at London City Lionesses but after spending just forty-five minutes in her company I am a huge fan. She is polite, articulate and appears unphased by the challenge of club’s with more resources than her own, seeing it as a test and something to inspire her team. After a strong start to last season, I wouldn’t bet against more of the same this time around.