By Julian Hart
Making the progression from youth development football into a first team Ladies regular, Gillingham Girls Academy student Madison North has utilised her first full season to shine in the full back role, securing a starting role on the team sheet of a side hunting promotion back to the Women’s Premier League South.
Gills Ladies are having a good season so far, just one defeat in nine league game with seven wins, cup runs that have seen Gills reach the 3rd round of the FA Cup and Quarter Finals of the FA WPL Plate. A progressive season so far for Gillingham looking for promotion, the rising star of the campaign, a 17 year old Girls Centre of Excellence graduate who’s combining studying at Priestfield with first team football at the Ladies club.
North with 14 appearances already this season, the most of the players making their full debut season this campaign, is pleased with her own progress so far;
“I am finding this season very enjoyable and exciting, with the league being such a close contest and playing regularly against higher opposition in a variety of cups. This season has been even more enjoyable with the girls I am surrounded by: they are a great group with a variety of personalities, which makes every week different and more interesting.
The older and established players definitely help with settling in and development of the squad, as they bring experience with them to the team which helps with the overall performance, I think we have a good mix of young and older players to help bring depth to our squad, which will hopefully see us success and Gills Ladies into the WSL in the coming future.”
Whilst settling into a squad at a club that is developing itself for a brighter future, North also has her own future in mind, studying for a Level 3 BTEC diploma in Sports Science at the Girls Academy run at Priestfield.
“The Gillingham Girls Academy is a great programme for 16-18 year olds who would like to earn a Level 3 BTEC degree in Sport Science, which is equivalent to 3 A levels! On top of this, you get to study at Priestfield Stadium and use the top facilities within the football club, as well as having a variety of added bonuses including the Level 1 & 2 coaching badges plus extra training lead by top quality coaches!
As I am apart of this as well as being in the Ladies, it is beneficial to me because everything I do is linked with one club so it is easier to communicate with different members of the community and enhance my development as a player.
The pathway between the two is good because it allows the girls, including myself, to work on my areas of improvement during academy training. The club staff at Gillingham are so supportive and hard working to make Gillingham successful both on the men’s and women’s side. With the possibility of there being a development squad as well next season, it show the progression we are making as a club, and we will only get bigger and stronger!”
Last week the Ladies faced their first league game since the end of November, due to weather postponements and cup rearrangements, North like the rest of the squad were happy to end frustration and claim three points against second placed Milton Keynes Dons;
“The amount of cup games and postponements we have had is ridiculous and extremely frustrating as it has prevented us from playing week in week out. Which has meant we are unable to put what we work on in training into more games and develop as a team.
The second half of the season is really congested, with a lot of tough games especially February and March as we play the top three teams, all of which we have to win! We don’t look at the run in any differently to any other game, as we face each game as it comes, we just need to make sure we keep our fitness up and kick on until the end of the season to gain promotion.”
On Sunday they face league leaders Crystal Palace at home, the only side Gils have fallen to defeat to in the league so far. North like the rest of the squad is roaring to go after claiming the points over Milton Keynes Dons last week;
“The upcoming game against Crystal Palace can be potentially described as a league defining game, it’s a must win and nothing else! The game just gone against MK Dons was definitely a confidence booster and has also prepared us for top opposition next week.
We have never felt more ready to play the league leaders at the moment. This game is also a chance for us to grab back the points they took from us earlier in the season, I feel that we have improved significantly and developed as a squad from then so everyone is buzzing for Sunday’s game!”
Gillingham Ladies take on league leaders Crystal Palace at Chatham Town FC at 2pm on Sunday, come and support the Ladies as they move into an important end of season set of fixtures. Match admission for Adults is £3 and under 16’s are Free! Follow Gills Ladies online via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for all the latest content.