Doing it for the girls: Matlock's ladies team are flying high
DerbyshireFootball.com's Matthew Rhodes looks at how Matlock Town Ladies are defying life's current uncertainties by flying high in the league:
It’s not only Matlock Town’s men’s team that has had an impressive start to the 2020/21 campaign.
Matlock Town Ladies are currently in second place in the Derbyshire Girls & Ladies League Division Two after winning five of their first six league games.
However, this is a season like no other and the great start comes under the constant worry and anxiety over what happens next regarding the COVID-19 virus within England.
And for Matlock's joint-boss Josh Gomm, it's now a time to reflect on how lower league women’s football has been coping under, arguably, the most difficult year the world has experienced in modern times.
“When we first started going back, everyone was just happy to be back playing some form of football," said Gomm.
"But we had restrictions where you couldn’t get close to anyone. It developed where you could only have groups of six training together. Our league actually started a lot earlier than a lot of other leagues, so because of that we had even less time to prepare. It was a very quick turnaround.
"We also had a problem where some players were a bit cautious to play to start off with, because we have players that work in healthcare and things like that. So we had to be cautious because obviously we didn’t want to spread this virus round and these players didn’t want to spread it round at their day jobs.
"So it was very tough to start off with. There was a lot of risk assessments that we had to do to make sure all the right protection was there for the players and for the managers. So it’s certainly been an interesting start to the season but we’ve got through it as well as we can.”
While much has been made about the financial worries of non-league teams within the men’s game, the women’s game within lower league football receives even less support and relies on funding itself even during normal circumstances.
Gomm said: "Financially, we don’t really get any support from the FA. We’re self-funded. Players pay subs so we can afford things like the referee’s fees etc. and every player makes their own way to the games in terms of travelling. So we’re very much self-funded. We get help from Matlock Town’s men’s team where they can.”
Gomm is optimistic that the support for women’s lower-league football will improve but concedes that there is still a lot of work that needs doing.
“I think it’s going in the right direction. The FA do a really good job with getting young age groups involved," he said.
"But once it gets from youth football into adult football, the support starts to drop off a little bit. The proper support is not there at the minute.”
With England now having gone into a second national lockdown, there could be huge consequences at all levels, something Gomm says Matlock need to be prepared for.
He said: "Facilities-wise it isn’t too much of an issue financially as we’re self-funded but if with another long break, it will be hard to get everything back running again.
"We’d effectively have to have another mini pre-season. We’d be struggling to get players' fitness back up to standards. With the start that we’ve had, we obviously want to keep building on that."
Away from the pandemic, Gomm spoke at length about where Matlock Town Ladies are as a football club at the moment and is clearly encouraged at the direction that the team is going in:
"We didn’t have a women’s team until about five or six years ago. That team has come up through the youth ranks, we’re making a really good push this season and this is probably one of the best squads that we’ve had in a while," he said.
"We’ve got a good core of players and we’ve had a very positive start. The short-term goal is to get into the top division of the Derbyshire Girls & Ladies league. That’s the goal we’re aiming for this season.
"In the long-term, the football landscape changes quite a lot when you go from regional football to counties football. We want to go as far as we can go. We want to build up the youth team more. We’re quite lucky that we do get quite a few spectators for our level of football. If anyone wants to get their football fix, please come along and watch us and get to know the team. We try and play an attractive brand of football.”
Gomm is confident that support and interest for the club will continue to grow, particularly once the COVID-19 crisis finally eases off. The team play their home games at Cavendish Fields in Matlock but there is something in place which should mean that the club will be able to alternate where they play at times to try and boost their fan base.
Gomm said: "We’re still definitely looking to boost our support. We’ve agreed with Matlock’s board to host some games at the Proctor Cars Stadium, so hopefully that will encourage more fans to come along and watch us.
"As the club has only been around for about six years, I don’t think the whole of Matlock know that we’re there, but we are starting to make a bigger name for ourselves and as the word gets out there, more people are coming out to watch us.”