Stourbridge FC Women: Embracing the challenge of competing in Tier Three

Stourbridge. Photo: Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

After the success of the last season, which saw Stourbridge FC Women crowned league champions of the National League Division One Midlands and competed in both the Birmingham County Cup and National League Plate finals, anticipation is now building ahead of the new season.

They are looking forward to playing the likes of Wolves, West Brom, Nottingham Forest, and Newcastle United amongst other teams in this division. The Glassgirls are currently in their pre-season campaign where they have already played against Cheltenham Town and Sporting Khlasa behind closed doors.

Stourbridge have since traveled away to FC United of Manchester Women comfortably winning 7-0 and then drawing 2-2 at home to Lincoln City. Manager Andy Fisher said it’s good to be back and has been a busy period for him, the coaching team, and the club itself.

Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

New additions with more to come

Speaking with the Glassgirls Network in his monthly press conference reflecting on last season, he said that we have enjoyed the success we have had. However, there was not too much time to reflect as preparation began in earnest as they prepared for life in the National League Northern Premier Division by retaining/bringing players into the club and expanding the existing coaching team with the arrivals of Tash Tezgel, Aaron Collins and Jack Gallagher.

Stourbridge has bolstered its playing squad with three new additions. Lauren Da’Casto, Rosie Embley, and Jess Lowe arriving from Boldmere, West Brom, and Leafield Athletic respectively. Though happy so far, Andy Fisher is still looking to add more depth and quality to the squad to sustain themselves throughout the season.

Fisher said of the three new signings so far, we are getting Da’Casto back up to full fitness after an injury-hit last season with Boldmere. She played 90 minutes over two games in pre-season and is getting back her confidence. Once back in full flow and playing her best, she will turn heads in this league. Jess Lowe has hit the ground running and Rosie Embley is great on the ball with her technical ability too.

Stourbridge FC Women’s manager Andy Fisher speaking with the Glassgirls Network.

Causing upsets in the league

As Stourbridge head into the new season, it is going to be a battle to compete with these clubs but they are more capable of causing upsets amongst the established order. Fisher said, “The ethos and mentality of the women’s team has completely shifted and that’s full credit to the staff behind the scenes and every single player. So for me, look out for us and don’t look at us on paper and go you are in a relegation battle. We know what challenges we face, and we know we are facing full-time professional players but if there is one group that can surprise, then it is this group for sure.”

One question that was posed to the manager was about what he had learned from competing in tier 4 that he would take into tier three. Fisher said the team will have to learn to lose as they compete with full-time sides. It is about grinding out those results and picking up points to sustain their place in the league. Last season they only lost twice in the league, which was in the opening fixture against Sheffield FC and then towards the end of the season at Peterborough United when the title had already been secured.

Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

They are looking to embrace the challenge ahead as both Stourbridge and Newcastle United are the newly promoted teams. Nottingham Forest is in the mix narrowly missing out on promotion to the Championship after losing to Watford in the National League Play-Off Final in May. Teams such as Stoke City, West Brom, Wolves, Burnley, and AFC Fylde have been competing at tier three for several seasons too.

The women’s game is an evolving sport

There has been a massive shift within the women’s game in the last two to three months according to Andy Fisher. He said, “I have spoken to a lot of people behind the scenes, and is that because we are stepping up into tier three, it’s a part of that but if we were facing twelve months ago tier four, the shift and challenges would still be there because we know that teams in tier 4 are paying expenses and are getting the advantages that Stourbridge players have had over the last couple of seasons. So, it is not just a tier three situation. It is an evolving sport.”

As the women’s game continues to grow, Fisher added, “There are no moans or groans like other clubs and managers have openly said about us in the past where we have paid expenses. It is an open arm from us as a club.”

Stourbridge is now having to compete against clubs such as Newcastle United who are signing players to full-time contracts. Nottingham Forest who welcome the Glassgirls in the opening fixture of the season have recently gone professional themselves.  Fisher is excited by the challenge and the club is ready to embrace it all. He added fair play to those clubs in tier three that have gone professional and align with the men’s football, “It is what we all want, contracts, professional side of the game from tier two down to tier four.”

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