Gillingham Ladies have enjoyed a fantastic opening few months to the 2013/14 campaign. Some brilliant team performances against the like of Cardiff City, Coventry and Charlton Ladies has seen the girls reign at the top of the league for consecutive weeks. Among the beaming optimism around the club has been a glowing example of the importance of grassroots football in Kent. Sixteen year old Lauren Davis joined the club from Gillingham Football Club’s Centre of Excellence this summer and has slotted into the first team set up with ease.
After a solid 80 minutes on the pitch for Gillingham on Sunday against West Ham, we caught up with Gills Ladies’ youngest first team player to see how life balancing football and A-Levels is!
Lauren started by telling us a bit about her playing career so far: “I started playing football at Gillingham’s Centre of Excellence at Under 12s level. I used to play right back and then carried on that season playing in defence.”
“When I went up to the 14s I got pushed up into centre midfield in a role like Jay plays for us now. From there I kept getting pushed up the pitch! My job was to create the play because we didn’t have much solidness in the middle and they wanted me to create play or take someone out if they were strong.”
And Lauren’s strength has reaped dividends for Gillingham Ladies as the 16 year old was given the nod to come on against the Hammers, after an injury to Rachel Ahern caused manager James Marrs to turn to reinforcements from his bench less than 10 minutes into the game. Lauren told us: “I was buzzing to get on the pitch, to get out there and have a bit more time to prove myself and getting time on the ball was great.”
“It gives me great experience to get out on the pitch as I’m the youngest here so I’m still getting used to playing with the team.”
And it was an impressive performance from Lauren who was able to exploit her pace to terrorise the West Ham defence during periods of the game: “At the beginning it took me a while to get into it as I was playing in a role I was not too sure about, so I was relying on Fliss to help me out which she did and she was great.”
“When the balls got threaded through and I was able to use my pace, I thought I could help the girls out a bit. I need to keep working on my touch and getting used to playing different positions.”
It was a difficult opening 45 minutes for the Gills who found it difficult to find the clinical touch or pass to unlock the Hammers. ” At half time, James told us we needed to pick it up and that the standard we were playing in the first half was not the standard we’d been playing so far this season.”
“We had to go out there and do what we normally do, so when we went out for the second half you could see we were straight on it, pushing the ball and getting inside West Ham’s heads. That’s when the goal came and we were in the game again.”
And whilst the three points eventually escaped the Gills, Lauren reflected: “Sometimes you just can’t finish – it’s hard to explain why as you’ll do fantastically in training but you turn up on the pitch and everything’s there but you just can’t finish it. ”
Nevertheless, Lauren is loving her football at Gillingham and paid tribute to the club’s management and her team-mates for helping her progress since she joined the club. Lauren said: “When I’m training I try to put myself up against girls like Jay and DC who I know are stronger than me so I can get used to it on match days.”
“When I was at the Centre of Excellence at Gillingham I was one of the most physical players, so I had it in my head when I came here that it was going to be a step up and hard work.”
“But I know with the girls backing me and pushing me on that I’ll get better, work harder and become stronger. With our additional gym sessions I can already feel I’m getting stronger.”
“It’s making me such a better player as the girls are great and the standard is so high around you it makes you better. It helps you improve on every fine detail and pushes you when you’re out there playing to do well, play well and help your team-mates out.”
When asked what her favourite thing about playing for Gillingham Ladies is, Lauren simply beamed: “I love the girls and their attitudes – even the banter! It’s all very different for me but I love it! Crouchy too – as he is probably the best coach I’ve ever played under and to be in his sessions and learn from him and everybody is what I love most. ”
Given Lauren’s phenomenal success at such a young age, we recommend Gillingham Ladies fans keep their eye on the pacey winger as she helps drive the Gills to further success this season.
Want to sponsor Lauren Davis or any other Gillingham Ladies player for just £40? Click here to find out more.