The newly formed Whitehaven AFC Ladies Team were recognized at their first Presentation Night last week after a difficult but enjoyable first season in the CFA Woman's League.
The Ladies Team was formed this year largely in part to a 7yr project which started in 2001 when the first youth girls team was formed at the club with girls from a couple of different year groups. Girls football in West Cumbria was very different then, teams would meet up for monthly games against other clubs locally and didn't look like what we have now. It was soon decided by coaches within the Girls Team that we wanted to create a clear pathway from Girls Youth to Senior Woman's Football. The teams have faced many challenges over the years but have always pushed on and stuck together and now this club saw our first set of original youth girls play in the Senior Team which included Morgan McGrady, Ellie Glaister, Abi Wright, Sophie Francis, Kayleigh Moore, Niamh Morgan. The young girls were joined in large part by a set of girls who played for Whitehaven Miners, who moved to Whitehaven Amateurs when that team folded and had no way to play, the team also attracted new faces to both groups who instantly formed a bond within the team which was headed up by Coaches Rob Campbell & Gary Wright who have been involved with the Girls Youth Teams for many years.
The Original Whitehaven AFC Girls pictured at the CFA Festival at Penrith!!
The season as a whole has been a challenging one as everyone knew it would be, the team was asked to not to measure their success this season by results alone, but to set individual targets and team targets on how we play, how we support each other, and what we stand for, and most importantly fulfill all our fixtures, which they did. The lasses were asked to embrace new ideas, not be fearful of mistakes and embrace what the team philosophy was and all the lasses 100% got on board with this and over the season have received plaudits from other stronger teams who have commented on what the ladies were trying to do against good opposition.
Particular highlights included an opening home match derby against Diamonds which finished 5-5 and was an absolute epic game, wins at home to Keswick Ladies and away to Kendal Ladies in difficult circumstances and the ladies have reached the CFA Trophy Final which will be played at Penrith AFC, under floodlights on the 26th September 7.15pm KO.
Vice Captain Megan Batey taking on the Kendal Defence in the season!!
BEST NEW COMER - Samantha Bennett
This was an important award, although we had a large chunk of lasses from the ex Miners team and the young Amateur Girls, we had lasses who joined from outside that group, so we wanted to recognize those as they have helped the team lots.
It was felt this lass who came in has had a bigger impact than most in a short space of time, maybe not at first the most confident, but whatever was asked of her she always said she would do her best and try. In her first training session the team were working a lot on passing and movement and she really gave it her all and impressed instantly. Then in her first game she was asked about where she likes to play and she said she'd give anything a go, she was like a warrior, crunching tackles and running the ball out defense and even though she was threw into that position against a very impressive side, she excelled and was a credit to herself and the team
It was also felt the lass brings a massive amount of positive energy to the team and is great in the group laughing and joking and you simply couldn't imagine the side without her now.
DIRTIEST PLAYER - Georgia Irving
The ladies always do try to play football correctly and fairly and as a club we promote fairness and sportsmanship so although the award was named Dirtiest Player, it was largely named that as a bit of fun within the team. Georgia is one of the most dedicated players in the side, rarely misses training and always available for games. Normally a left sided winger, she has been asked throughout the season to challenge herself and played in Central Midfield which initially she said she was lost in, but due to her hard but fair tackling, high energy levels and enthusiasm she has quickly developed into a very capable central midfielder when called upon.
Due to her high levels and enthusiasm to win the ball, she has on occasions gave a few free kicks away over the season but its mainly in training against her own team mates she lets fly and players have to be right on their game to avoid being on the wrong end of her, she really lifts the intensity of the team in training and this makes sure everyone isn't just floating through sessions.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER - Samantha Atkinson
Samantha was extremely deserving of this award, early in the season she told the coaches she was wasn't very good and always felt she was only trusted to kick the ball away, she was challenged to be brave on the ball, and we would not yell if she cost us goals trying to show courage and bring the ball out, and she took that massively on board and we can probably count on one hand the times she has kicked the ball out when she could’ve done something better, sometimes you have to kick out, it’s the safest and best decision, but not always and Samantha has really got this.
Samantha now not only got the ball under control, she also didn’t then just pass, she started coming out with the ball, taking players on with the ball and winning and then playing out. It was felt she has a good calmness to her play now, and this has all came about by her challenging herself. Later in season she told the coaches she can’t play left defense as right footed, so being nice coaches she kept getting put there and asking her to find a solution, and we remember coming to her one game when playing against very good opponents and we lost our left sided defender and we said ‘We know you don’t like the left but going to put you there’ and she reply was ‘I’m fine with going there now, I don’t mind and I want to help the team’. This is a lass who’d said weeks prior that no chance she could play there, literally went white and tried to pull and hamstring or something so didn’t have to go there and told us she’ll cost us lots of goals, absolutely brilliant from Samantha.
This for the coaches is the quality we looking for in a player and character we want, no matter how good you are or aren’t, can you do something different and challenge yourself, she should be very proud.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Kayleigh Moore
Kayleigh hugely deserved this award, she one of the original youth players for the Girls at the club and this season like so many other seasons, she has shown how much football means to her. Her dedication to playing is unmatched, she would turn up for training with a leg missing if she had to and often when carrying an injury has to be told when to rest and not make herself worse.
As a player, she is fantastic, she listens to instructions well and always looks to be positive on the ball, she is happy in contact and not scared to run the ball into positions where she could have strong tackles coming in against her. In past years one of the things she needed to improve on, is sensing danger and coming back when needed to help the team, however this season she has improved massively in there and even played in the defense to help her understand it and she did very well.
Kayleigh over the season has shown how brave she can be and has grew up from a youth player to a senior player brilliantly and showed so much strength. the coaches are so proud of her this season and they could't ever imagine a team without her, simply an amazing talent, lovely girl with a great family behind her supporting her.
PLAYERS PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Morgan McGrady
Players Player of the Year is always a really important one as its being recognized by your peers and who you share a pitch with, a dressing room with and all the battles throughout the season.
The nominations this year were spread but 2 girls stood out more than anyone and this winner just nipped it. We think its equally as impressive that this player is one of the 16s who started at the club with the original youth girls. However Morgan this season quickly got the respect of the team with very impressive performances in a variety of positions. Morgan plays the game effortlessly and although a very hard working girl, she makes difficult tasks look easy. Her link up play with her team mates has been excellent and she always has an eye for goal. She has grew in confidence over the season and really mixed with the older players who have really taken to her and as the award suggests and become a team favorite.
COACHES PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Megan Batey
Megan was named the teams Vice Captain earlier in the season, she is a coaches dream to have in your side, football is her life for a start and when she was asked to be Vice Captain it really meant an awful lot to her and she fully embraced the role and was always a good voice in the team. Megan would lead by example and play in a position most of the season she normally wouldn't but it was to help the team and she was superb at it, becoming the key figure at the heart of the team.
Megan very rarely misses training and she is always looking to learn and wants to improve as a player, she helps team mates and wants them to improve and made sure the 16s have felt at home. Megan also knows the importance of being a role model for the youth girls teams and wants to show them the way, this season she came to present awards to some of the youth girls at their presentation night and didn't just give awards out, she played party games with them and spoke to most of them on the night. Megan is a very skillful player and this is what we want the youth girls to embrace, so to have a talent such as Megan in the team is wonderful for the little Lionesses to look up to.
Megan has really impressed everyone, especially the coaches and we are excited to have her in the team for many years to come.
LIONESS OF THE YEAR - Lauren Dye
When the team was formed at the start of the season, Lauren was instrumental in helping bringing this team together as she knew many of the players from previous years, however there was a lot of names and she helped sort out who wanted to join and who didn't. Many players wanted to get the team sorted, but it was Lauren who put her hand up first and helped form things and take a bit of a lead really and become our link to all the lasses we didn’t know.
She helped with things such as telling the coaches where all the players joining enjoyed playing and what their strengths were and she was always positive about her team mates and what they could do. She was made Captain as showed great characteristic to be one, and throughout the season has been available for every 9/10 training sessions and always available for games. She was our captain and it was difficult at times when we had to sub her to accommodate others even though she didn’t deserve to be subbed as always at training and higher attendance than others, but she never complained and dealt with things like a proper captain.
She always stayed positive throughout the season, even when some results were difficult for us and we believe she is key to our future success and will make a great Captain for years to come as the team becomes stronger each year.
Like her Vice Captain she also came to the u8/u10 Girls Presentation Night in her own time to meet with the younger girls and she made a really good impression on them and really showed herself to be the perfect person to lead this team and be the head of the Lionesses.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Kelsey Hunter
Kelsey is an immensely talented female footballer and has been key to everything the team has done well this year, her positive attitude off the pitch has been brilliant. Her efforts in training are always superb and she never gives anything less than 100%. In games Kelsey has shown herself to be a very capable player both in attack where she is mind blowing at times and always seems to find her team mates, but she also understands the importance of coming back and helping her team and never thinks she's to good to do that.
The scary thing with Kelsey is she can be far far better as a player and its going to be exciting over the coming years to see this super talented player improve and become better and better.
When in full flow she is amazing to watch taking on players down the wing and delivering high quality balls into dangerous areas and she's not scared to get involved with big tackles to win the ball and break up attacks against the team.
Off the pitch, Kelsey is a lovely lass and real pleasure to be around, highly respected and liked by her team mates and coaches. Kelsey attended one of the young Lionesses Presentation Nights the other month and was a huge success, with one girl in particular being very nervous, Kelsey spent time with her and became best mates by the end of the night. Kelsey had fun with all the young players and really presented herself as a fantastic role model for the girls.
Coaches Rob Campbell & Gary Wright said 'We have both enjoyed one of our best seasons as coaches with this group, yeah some results weren't what we wanted but we understood that would happen and also understood the importance this team represents to the younger girls and the club as a whole. We couldn't ask for a better set of lasses and they aren't just our players, they are our mates and there is a really team bond within the group, from players who can attend every week to those who attend when they can due to other commitments, there is a real togetherness.
We'd really like to thank the lasses for everything this season, we've loved having them and can't wait to see the team continue to develop and evolve. We'd also like to thank all the teams we have played this season, we've really enjoyed the challenges, and we'd also like ti thank everyone involved with the running of the Cumberland FA Woman's League, we know its a hard task at times, but without you we wouldn't have the platform to provide what we've been able to this season to these lasses, so thank you.