On the eve of their first ever game in the Welsh Womens Premier League we caught up with ladies manager Ross Norgrove, here is what he had to say-
Hi Ross, with the club's first ever season in the Welsh Premier how excited is everyone involved?
Our ladies team was formed at the start of the 2012-13 season and with the huge support given from the club and committee, the aim was always to see premier league football at the Old Road. Since gaining promotion at the end of last season, the focus has been on our first game at that level which comes on Sunday against North Wales outfit Llandudno. We have a really young squad with 12 of the 16 girls selected for a recent pre-season game being 18 or under, however, these youngsters have some real quality. As we’ve gone through pre-season I can see the excitement building in the squad and after some good performances in our pre-season friendlies, the girls can’t wait to test themselves against the higher standard of opposition that we will face.
Could you talk us through your management/staff set up for the season?
Following our success last year I didn’t want to make too many changes and Simon Powell remains as my assistant and John Kearle as our first aid man.
However I have added a new coach in Nigel Lewis. Nigel previously worked alongside me 2 seasons ago and his experience of playing at the highest level of the game in Wales will be invaluable to the squad as well as his coaching experience at Academy level with Cardiff City youngsters. With Nigel and Simon taking care of the majority of the coaching it allows me to focus on how the girls are performing in training as well as looking at some of our newly formed second team in training to assess which players have the ability to step up and push the first team squad.
We will be running a second team for the first time this season and they will play in the West Wales league under the guidance of Harriet Williams, Nigel O’Shea & Richard Churchill.
Any new signings and how do you think they will fare in the step up?
We have lost our experienced captain Anna Doble for the majority of the season with Anna expecting her second child in February and we wish her all the best with that. It did however mean that we needed strengthening.
I have signed defenders Claudia Meyrick from premier league rivals Cyncoed ladies and Sophie Cardy from local rivals Goytre United which will strengthen us at the back. Additionally Sophie Amor returns to the club and she will give us options both up front as well as in goals. With Jess Garlick getting injured on Wales Under 19 duty last week, she will start the season as our first choice keeper.
Additionally I have signed a number of young players who are stepping up to senior football for the first time this season. I saw them as being really important for the future but have been so impressed with them in pre-season that I expect several of them to feature prominently in the first team squad, in particular, Renee Day, Anya Welch, Mel Thomas and Niamh Terry.
There are several other young players who have also impressed and may get opportunities.
What are you looking forward to most this season in the new league?
With the improvements made at the ground, in particular the new stand, it will be great to welcome some of the best female footballers in Wales to Old Road. We were unbeaten at home last season and it will be great for myself and my staff as well as the girls to test themselves at that level. It would be lovely if we could see some new supporters also, to come along and witness female football (maybe for the first time!!) as we welcome the likes of Cardiff City, Swansea City and Cardiff Met as well as teams from further afield including Rhyl, Llandudno and Aberystwyth.
Finally what are your hopes and expectations for the season and what are your realistic targets?
We are realistic about what lies ahead and it is always nice to have a cup run. But the focus will always be the league and as with any newly promoted team our first aim will be to avoid relegation and remain in the league for the following season and further ahead. If we can do that and keep our young squad together, who knows what the future holds. Despite the aim being to avoid relegation, I have great confidence in the squad and as they get used to the pace of the game at this level, I’m hoping we can shock a few teams and push up to midway in the league.
I’m sure it won’t always be a smooth journey and there will be ups and downs, but whatever happens it is important we stick together as a coaching team and playing squad and always give our best and wear the Ferry jersey with pride.
I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at Old Road during the season.