Michael Taylor, secretary of Euxton Girls, based near Chorley, spoke to Impetus editor Ben Gilby about how the club have navigated their way through the pandemic and the successes they have celebrated since then.
Above: Euxton Girls were named Grassroots Club of the Year by the Lancashire County FA. Photo: Euxton Girls.
We last caught up with Euxton Girls back in January in the midst of the second lockdown. Michael revealed what that first training session was like once girls’ football was allowed to return.
“We’d pretty much forgotten what it felt like to be honest! However, it was no less than epic to have the vast majority of all our teams back out playing home and away across Lancashire, it was a fantastic feeling for everyone to see each other again and get back doing what they love.
“Despite all the lockdowns, it’s probably been one of our best seasons on the pitch as a club with pretty much all of our teams vying for either a top league position or a cup. With three cup finals and two trophies with only our U16s losing out to a good Bolton side in a final, we also achieved a couple of playoffs and a semi-final loss thrown in as well.
“The standout for me and the club was the U9s winning their trophy, This team was put together in the first lockdown and had only played two games before Christmas, it was fantastic to watch. Despite the trophies and cup finals, all of the teams have really pushed on and all did amazingly well to finish where they all did and things are looking very good for the new season.
With light finally appearing at the end of the Covid tunnel, Michael emphasized the impact of the pandemic on Euxton Girls.
“Its been the toughest 18 months any grassroots football club could have had, we simply couldn’t have done it and come through it as well as we have done without the support of our parents and supporters, who’ve continued to back the club through their monthly subs and ongoing support.
“Financially, we aren’t a club that has or needs to have loads of cash in the bank, it all goes back into the teams for facilities, kit, equipment etc, so when we did have some spare cash during the lockdowns, we donated to the local food bank, but the biggest fear for me was player retention, how many would we lose due to the lockdowns, school isolations, girls being sent home just before games after a text to isolate from school for example and all sorts of curved balls thrown in.
“A lot of hard work and quickly putting in and ever changing processes to deal with the majority of issues has made it all a lot easier than it otherwise could have been along with the help and support of all parents, players and coaches to pull it all together across all our teams and the Wildcats.”
Despite it being summer and the close season for most, there’s been plenty going on at Euxton Girls.
“It’s been a very busy!” Michael said. “There is a tight window from the end of the season to getting ready for the new one. We were named as the Lancashire County FA Club of the Year which is just fantastic for a stand-alone girls club. We’re a partner club on a new 3G facility in the town which will be announced and opened shortly We’ve created another three new teams, with our new U7s, U8s and U9s teams from our Wildcats and consistently 60+ girls from age five at our relaunched Wildcats Centre.
“We’ve rebranded our U18s team to a development team along with our Open Age team which is finally getting started properly, with both teams starting in the County League in September. Our Nike Partner club has now started. Our long time Chairman and founder Dennis Winn stood down after almost 20 years and also received a 50 year long service award from the County FA and we welcomed Nicola Smith as the new chair of the club. Nicola is Dennis’ granddaughter and the reason the club was formed, for girls to play football in 2002 and is fantastic to have Nicola as chair and a fantastic role model for all the girls within the club, we’re hosting the district School trials in August we also sent our old football kits and boots and equipment to Africa for girls football there and are in the process of launching our supporters club. There’s more in the pipeline with hopefully more partnerships and player pathways that will be coming up very shortly, watch this space.”
Euxton have also outlined several aims to keep the momentum building at the club, as Michael highlighted.
“The main aim now is to continue to build on all the great work that’s happened in the background over the past few months and push on with the progress on the pitch and get the momentum going again. The younger end and the Wildcats is where a lot of the focus has been to get that conveyor belt going to continue to build more new teams and opportunities to play football to work up through the age groups. We also want to restart and revamp our Youth Council and will look to more closely integrate it within the club committee structure itself to give the players more input and to get what they want to see from their club.
“We’ve also started a young leaders initiative where we give our older players the opportunity to train and learn to be able to coach and get the experience and qualifications in coaching, maybe as part of their college courses or Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme for example and is also a good opportunity as part of our drive to hopefully get more female coaches into our teams and club alongside our existing and new coaches and the aim is to have at least one female coach in every team which is well on the way.”
The next calendar year is also hugely important for the club, with lots planned – “We’re coming up to our 20 year anniversary in early 2022,” Michael explained, “So we’re going to be planning some events and activities around that as we go into the new year which is a fantastic milestone to reach and build on as we go into the Euros and build more teams and continue to build on the great foundations we have in place.”