FOOTBALL-mad females have helped the recently formed girls teams in Matlock Town FC’s junior section get off to a flying start.
Just five months since announcing the move to run four girls teams in the current season, the future looks bright with plans afoot to create more age-range teams and maybe even an open-age side for local ladies should the interest be out there.
In previous seasons, girls had participated in training with the boys in the junior section but, once the competitive action began, they stepped to one side and maybe went off to find a new team.
The junior section’s committee decided to address this and, in the summer, announced plans to run teams at under 10s, under 11s, under 14s, and under 16s levels, with an under 12s side later added to the list. The intervening months have seen the girls’ section flourish and in the thick of it have been the likes of Bob and Tirra Clarke, Bob as manager of the under 12s, and his wife Tirra as manager of the under 10s, under 11s and under 16s, with Glenn Dalton as the manager of the under 14s.
Tirra Clarke is understandably positive about the strides made so far.
She explained: “We couldn’t have imagined it would have gone this well, it’s exceeded our expectations.
“We have girls coming in from Matlock and the surrounding villages, Bakewell and Darley Dale and they’re having really good fun with it.
“One of the best aspects of all this has been the stance of the club as a whole.
“The section and the club have been very, very supportive, and so we have had girls going along to watch the first team and there is the aim too of them having the chance to be a mascot.
“They have received free season tickets, have been really getting involved and the response from the club has been excellent.
“We have people from the club coming up to watch us at Cavendish too and that’s been great.”
Bob Clarke continued: “In just four or five months, we have gone from having nothing to having over 40 girls involved in four or possibly five teams. Once we get a few more for the under 16s, our next move is to get an open age team for the under 16s to progress to and for adults to play in for next season, plus maybe even a B team for the under 11s.”
The girls section is still on the lookout for more players, as Tirra outlined: “We want more players for the under 16s so we’re talking about 14-15 years olds, of all abilities, who are interested in football and learning about it.
“Our under 16s are providing some coaching for the under 10s and are getting involved in the Football Futures scheme soon, which will provide them with a coaching course, so we’re working really well together.
“My under 11s, for example are going really well.
“Most had never really tried football before but they are naturals.”
Bob added “With the under 12s, they’re coming on nicely too. We concentrate on the fun and enjoyment of the game. That is our philosophy.
“They are always smiling and it’s been a pleasure to be involved with them.”
As for the possibility of establishing an open age team in the future, Bob said: “The open age would be an ideal opportunity for women, particularly post-Christmas and New Year, where they think they might need to head to a gym to get fit, to try something different.
“This is a way of getting fit, it’s fun, you can learn something new, meet new people and socialise, and get out in the fresh air up at the Cavendish.”
Tirra Clarke concluded: “The club couldn’t have been more supportive, the parents too. “They are very encouraging and help us out.
“It’s a good set-up and we can improve it further with more girls and more teams, so there’s a bright future, we feel.”
Kevin Rushton, chairman of the club’s junior section, echoed these sentiments and said: “The first thing to say is that it is vital to both Matlock Town FC and the junior section to have a girls section as football is one of the fastest growing female sports in the country at the moment.
“The challenge in this situation over the first one or two years is to get a structure in place to help it progress properly, to get our name out there, to sort out kit sponsorship and so on, but we have had a headstart in that regard because the junior section was already in place and that is helping make sure the time and effort that everyone puts in brings a positive end product.
“There has been a lot of effort gone into it so far and the committee is wholly positive about this as a way forward for the section, so I am delighted by how it’s gone.
“There’s a bright future for the girls section.
“You only have to go up to Cavendish Fields on a Saturday and see all the girls in Matlock kit to see that.
“We are pleased by how it is going and think it can keep getting better and better.
“I’ve heard rumours of an open age team and that would be absolutely fantastic for the club, the section and football in the town, so long may it continue.”
Training for the under 10s, under 11s and under 14s is on a Tuesday at Cavendish Fields from 5.30pm-6.30pm.
The under 12s train there from 5pm-6pm on Thursdays.
There are plans to get the under 16s and open age team training there eventually too.
It is £2.50 per session and interested parties of all ages can call Tirra Clarke for more details on 01629 534493/07920 884567.
n Tirra and Bob would like to thank Dave Barlow (goalkeeping coach) Dave Insley (defence coach), Heather Carr and Mandy Gratton and the under 16 girls for help with coaching as they have stepped up above and beyond, and a big thanks to all sponsors.