With the start of the new season just days away, Gillingham Ladies manager Simon Ratcliffe looks forward to putting a challenging pre-season into practice and leading the Gills into a new, exciting FA Women’s Premier League campaign.
Since the announcement that Gillingham Ladies would come under the family of Gillingham FC officially for the 2014/15 season, lots of work behind the scenes has taken place to ensure the women’s club has equal access and opportunity within the Football League club’s structure and operations.
With home fixtures now to be played at Priestfield Stadium, Gills teams from Under 9s to the Senior Women’s side training at Beechings Cross and more support than ever to galvanise the profile of Kent’s best women’s team, there’s plenty of positive news propelling the Gills ahead of their trip to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last two weeks” revealed Simon, “My thanks go to Darren Hare, Andy Hessenthaler, Mark Patterson and James Russell for holding the fort until my arrival. Ideally, I would have liked to have been in place sooner as there is an element of catch up.”
Indeed as much work has gone on off the pitch as well as on it to strengthen the structure of girls and women’s football at Gillingham FC. The crucial player pathway for girls at the club has been strengthened with a new appointment to the Ladies staff team. Simon revealed, “It’s great to have Jason Wright on board who will be managing the Reserve side, Jason is also Under 17s Centre of Excellence coach.”
Thereby strengthening the links and development opportunities for players from the Centre of Excellence to Senior Football, many Gills CoE graduates have been enjoying making the step up. Those alongside last season’s regulars have made a good first impression on the new Gills boss.
“The girls are polite, keen to impress and improve. A lot of the players were not regulars last season and will have to become accustomed to playing at a higher level regularly.”
Gills first test of the new season sees the side travel to Tottenham Hotspur and Simon anticipates a good challenge: “I’m very much looking forward to it and hope for a good start. We’ve only had three pre-season friendlies due to postponements so it will be good to get another game under our belt.”
“I’ve got limited knowledge unfortunately about Spurs. However, I know they’ve signed a new goalkeeper and outfield player and I’m aware of how they played last season. As always there will have been changes and only when the season starts will we truly know, as will they about us.”
It’s been a whirlwind of exciting news and change at Gillingham Ladies, building up with purpose to a new FA WPL campaign. What will Simon’s message be to the girls before they step out on Sunday?
“Enjoy the game, play with a smile and play entertaining football and try to come home with three points.”