Last week saw Hampshire FA, AFC Totton, the Saints Foundation and Southampton Football Club join forces to host a special Girls Football Week. The series of events were aimed to inspire those involved in women’s and girl’s football across Hampshire and the south coast. The programme included a variety of free activities and workshops covering all aspects of the game.
The first event that caught my eye was Tuesday night’s open goalkeeping session. I coach youth football with Havant & Waterlooville U13 Girls and managed to get our goalkeeper booked into the session. The opportunity to give Katie to train in an elite environment would be a great experience for her.
Saints were allowing the player’s coaches to come down and observe the session so I ventured down with Katie. As I pulled up to the facility I saw the sign for the Markus Liebherr Pavillion, although I needed to continue round to the academy entrance. To give you an idea of the size of the facility there are three different entrances! The players and parents were initially taken to one of the classrooms to be given an introduction and an explanation of what would be happening in the session.
We were then lead to one of the many luscious 11 a side pitches and met by Paul Carr (Lead GK Coach), Stewart Kearn (GK Coach) and Dave Rowland (Lead Youth Development Phase Coach). Paul and Stewart both work across both RTC and Women for training sessions and Paul is with first team matchday and Stewart RTC.
Katie’s age group were paired with Paul. He began with a simple but effective practice where four of the girls stood opposite each other with two others in the middle. The two in the middle received a pass from a player on the outside, return it and then moved to one of the other players and repeat. Players on the outside would also have a turn in the middle. This then progressed as the players on the outside would vary how the fed the ball in, balls would be volleyed in so the players in the middle can also practice catching the ball.
They then moved onto another group practice. None of the players appeared bothered by the rain that was coming down during the session.
I make sure that we have protected time in our training sessions for goalkeeping training. This tends to involve just Katie and me so it was great to see her working with other goalkeepers. Paul was brilliant with the girls but it wasn’t just me that thought that, I received a message from Katie’s mother telling me about how much she enjoying it and came home “buzzing.”
On Thursday evening I attended a Q&A with Southampton’s first team manager and former Arsenal and England player, Marieanne Spacey-Cale MBE. The evening would also include an opportunity to observe a first team training session. The session was initially scheduled to be held at the home ground of AFC Totton but due to the heavy rain during the day it was moved to Staplewood. There were no complaints from me on that one!
With 91 caps for England and a professional contract in her playing career, Marieanne shared her experience as a player but also the journey she has taken in her coaching career that has led to a UEFA Pro License, a bronze medal with England U16s at the Nordic Cup and a 2015 World Cup Third Place as assistant coach. Marieanne gave open and honest answers to questions ranging from coaching advice, to explaining how the role at Southampton has affected her personal life and how the club bounced back from the disappointment of their unsuccessful FA Women’s Championship application.
Based on what I saw in the training session I don’t think that it will be too long before Saints are competing at that level. It will take a bit of time and a couple of promotions but they will get there.
The club wrapped up the week by inviting hosting Ascot United to Totton’s Testwood Stadium. Female’s of all ages were able to get into the ground for free and they were treated to an awesome performance from the home side as Southampton triumphed 9-0 to maintain their 100% league record this season.
The club wrapped up the week by hosting Ascot United at Totton’s Testwood Stadium. Female’s of all ages were able to get into the ground for free and they were treated to a ruthless performance from the home side as they triumphed 9-0 to maintain their 100% league record this season.
Seventeen-year-old Ellie Chaffe fired the hosts ahead with a left foot finish in the first few minutes. The club’s top scorer, Chloe Newton, brought her season total to twenty-eight goals with a first-half brace. Georgie Freeland and Shannon Sievwright killed the game as a contest by giving the home side a 4-0 lead to take into half time.
The second half goal-fest continued with Ella Pusey grabbing a brace of her own, as did Emily Wernham and Freeland. So that’s sixty-four goals scored by Saints with just four conceded! Saints pulled level on points with top of the league AFC Bournemouth but with two games in hand.
The women’s and girls manager Martina Heath told me, “The response we had to Girls Football Week was incredible, offering an opportunity to so many people within Southampton and surrounding areas, culminating in all of the partners working together on the final day in front of a bumper crowd for Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s squad. A huge thanks to AFC Totton, Hampshire FA, Saints Foundation who have helped to inspire the next generation and to all who attended and enjoyed the week.”
I loved my experience with Saints and very much hope that we see Girls Week back in 2019.