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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Olympic thrills see girls’ game flourishing

WHILE still very much a male dominated sport, football for females is as strong as it has ever been in Tynedale.

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Tynedale Ladies' are ready for action.

It may still be a struggle to attract players, but the results on the pitch have shown that the quality of the district’s women’s teams are top notch.

Tynedale Ladies and Prudhoe Town Women are proudly flying the flag for women’s football in the area with great success.

Plying their trade in the first division of the North East Regional Women’s Football League, Tynedale are the highest ranked team and they are holding their own in mid-table.

Coached by Steve Ord and assistant Ashley Lambert, of Prudhoe, the team’s fortunes have picked up in recent years both on and off the field.

Currently, 25 women are on the books with a regular turn out of 16 for their games on Sunday afternoons.

Playing and training at Stocksfield, they have access to quality football facilities, while their finances are healthier than ever.

Ashley said: “We are in a much better position in the last two years than we ever have been and we have come on loads during that time.

“We are attracting more young players to the club and the interest in women’s football in recent years has been fantastic.

“Tynedale are doing really well and holding our own, and we hope to keep improving in the future.”

The uptake at the club has coincided with a UK wide growth, the performance of Team GB’s girls at London 2012 going along way to raising the profile of the game.

But a lot has been done in the North-East too, and Tynedale are feeling the benefits of that.

“Over the years, I have played for Newcastle United and Sunderland but there was never the publicity about the women’s game that there is now,” said Ashley.

“More awareness of the sport in the region has led to extra demand in ladies’ football in Tynedale, and more are seeing that it is not just a man’s sport.”

Prudhoe, the only other senior women’s team in the district, are also going well as they look to put pressure on the teams at the top of the Northumberland County Women’s Football League.

They too have 25 ladies signed with them, although getting more than the bare 11 for games can sometimes prove to be somewhat of a difficult task.

With players ranging in age from 16 to 32, the future is bright for the team in orange, though.

Manager Nigel Foster said: “We are doing well and we have the strongest team ever at Prudhoe Town Women’s this season.

“We lost a couple of players from last year but have managed to take on some good players too, and the squad is really strong.”

However, Foster said recruiting local girls had proved problematic and that more still needed to be done to promote the sport in the district.

While there were some locals on the books, most players travelled from across the region for their football fix.

He said that he would like to see more girls encouraged to take up football at an early age, and that would ultimately strengthen senior ladies’ football down the line.

“Unlike men’s football, you have to fight tooth and nail to keep a player if she decides to leave because there is a lack of players to choose from.

“But in men’s football, there will always be two to three players wanting to come in.

“Football remains a predominantly male sport so I would like to see the local schools and clubs do more to encourage girls to play.”

At junior level, girls’ football is currently thriving and there are eight Tynedale teams playing in the Northumberland Girls League at various age levels.

Foster’s daughter Rebecca runs Prudhoe YC U15 Girls and she is impressed with the enthusiasm of her squad.

She said: “The girls are enjoying it and I think this is the best season we have had through all the age groups.

“We have 13 signed on for the nine-a-side games and I am really impressed with the interest from the girls.

“They are a good group of friends who go to high school with each other, so they all like playing football together. The problem will be to keep them playing at this age as they have many other interests too.”

Prudhoe Youth Club have introduced a U14 girls’ team, and there are representatives from Ponteland United at U15 and Haltwhistle United at U13.

Wylam Rockettes cater for the younger girls in the district with teams at U13, U12, U11 and U10 levels.

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