The Black Country’s, ‘sleeping giants’ are currently going head to head with both Sutton Coldfield Town and Lichfield City in the battle for promotion from Tier 5 into Tier 4, the FA Women’s National League. Due to some outstanding performances and results since the autumn, Stourbridge have given themselves the upper hand, knowing that their games in hand and far superior goal difference means that seven wins out of seven would guarantee them their second promotion within two seasons.
Andy Fisher’s side currently sit third in the league after fifteen games, but with three amazing cup runs throughout this season has seen their West Midlands rivals gain more points than them due to those teams playing up to three games more.
Unbelievably, we may see a scenario where one team may go through their whole season only losing one game and drawing two, but still not getting promoted. Even the third placed team may only lose two games and draw just once.
Is it time for a restructure of the pyramid to give teams what they deserve? When I asked Fisher this same question, he replied, “Absolutely. We want competitive leagues to gather crowds. So let’s take away the need to be champions to get promoted. The top two should be promoted. This then will start to even the leagues out for more competitive seasons, instead of keeping one or two teams who beat teams six or seven weekly in the league because they lost one or two”.
As teams are now hitting the ‘business end’ of the season, Stourbridge have to be mindful not to look back at the success they have had already this season, too early. With record breaking wins over Tier 3 side Derby County, progression through to the FA Cup third round proper by beating Tier 4 side Cambridge, saw a showdown at the War Memorial Ground against Championship side Sheffield United.
In the County Cup, we have seen Stourbridge beat off all opposition to get to the Semi-Final, only to lose to a Tier 3 team, West Bromwich Albion. This weekend they travelled away to league rivals, Sutton Coldfield in another Semi-Final, the League Cup. They returned victorious with a 2-1 win, thanks to a brace from Millie Rogers after going behind.
It doesn’t end there for Stourbridge’s success this season. Tom Reid, Sav Lambrou and Darren Barnes have all supported in leading their Development team to a final too, which will be played on May 8th, versus a very tricky Redditch Borough side.
Currently sitting on 14 wins, 0 draws and 1 loss so far in the league this season, with a plus 80 goal average, 150 goals scored in all competitions and multiple hat trick heroes throughout the squad, it would be understandable that players and coaches could get carried away with all the success they’ve had so far.
However, having spent time around the camp this season the above statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Until promotion is secure the whole club are focused game by game to keep on achieving their aim, back to back promotions. Continuous discussions about variations of tactics, developing their youth and getting the best out of every player at the club is always the topic of conversation.
Fisher described how he has managed the team being in this scenario and how happy he has been with how his players are dealing with any challenges along the way by adding. “It’s not easy at times and after the County Cup exit we saw a bit of a blip within the team. We have played thirty games this year with lots of success. We refocused the squad, reminded them what the main goal was, set targets. Now we are focusing on one game at a time and just ticking them off with every three points gained. Now we are playing the best football of the season.”
Fisher went on to say, “Incredibly pleased. I have said this many times. We have faced many different challenges on a weekly basis from Championship opposition to poor pitch conditions. The squad have accepted these challenges, faced them head on and to this point smashed it.”
Stourbridge LFC’s destiny is firmly in their own hands and they are more focused now than ever before. The squad are preparing for no margin of error throughout their weeks of training and the passion on game day both on the pitch and on the sidelines has been a mirror of this.