FC United of Manchester head coach Tom Fitton spoke to Impetus editor Ben Gilby about his team’s first season in the FA Women’s National League, their large supporter base, and some exciting plans for a successful one club future (6/1/22).
Above: FC United Women 2021/22. Photo: @FCUnitedWomen
Tom arrived at the club this season for the club’s first campaign in the FA Women’s National League as they find themselves in Division One North after promotion into the competition. He opened by outlining the club’s history in brief.
“In the past ten seasons; the women’s team has been born, grown, and established to where it is today. There have been countless successes and achievements in their history in the County Leagues and Cups.”
As with every other club, the past two years have been a difficult period for FC United, both on and off the pitch.
“Lockdowns were a significant challenge for everyone in and outside of football. The team informed me that there were a lot of frustrations and so many unknowns around if the season was going to be completed, would the league standings count, and so on.
“On top of that, we are working through a significant period of change. We are in a new league which is a fantastic challenge for us as a club on the pitch and we are learning a lot each week.
“Off the pitch, it’s all about time – we are creating a ‘One Club’ culture, we have unbelievable plans, the right people involved and tremendous backing from the fans so the future is extremely exciting.”
As with every club, FC United relies on a dedicated band of volunteers to keep the wheels moving smoothly. “There are too many! I would not know where to start from Kirsty Chambers, current player – founding member of the women’s team, Chelsea Patient in the evolution to this point with Kirsty. Pat who is still ever-present and involved on every match day, previous women’s secretary Rob Fullen, our photographer Mark Lee, Marlene and the ‘Brew Crew’ to the current influencing personal now involved.”
These much-respected volunteers are part of a team who have initiated some exciting developments off the pitch. “In the short period that I have been involved at the club, we have already made significant changes to bring the women’s team aligned with the men’s. I report to Neil Reynolds, Head of Football and the Men’s First Team Manager; we have aligned training to the same evenings, we have had social evenings and joint First Team meetings staff and players.
“Our Christmas club parties have been combined, we have access to the performance analysis software the men use and then most significantly we play in the stadium on the club’s first team pitch.
“The plans we aim to achieve over the next year, three years, and five years will all be made and established with both the Men’s and Women’s teams aligned.”
With the club in the midst of their first campaign in their FA Women’s National League, Tom outlined how he sees things going so far.
“We are establishing ourselves at this level, we have had strong performances, we have put the team in situations where they have had to deal with the struggle and we are certainly seeing the positives of this now.
“We are extremely confident we will achieve many more points in the second half of the season, from this learning period we have performed well in. Working off the current league standings we would like to finish top four and still pressure the leading pack of teams.”
FC United have had consistently higher crowds than many teams in several tiers above them, but the club are not sitting back on their laurels and looking to grow their attendances further.
“We have an average of 140 fans per home fixture and are still working on further developing our matchday experience and we have some unique ideas we want to pilot and try to attract fans that may not yet have an interest in football or even sport necessarily.”
Whilst the club are finding their feet at National League level this season, Tom believes that there is scope for further growth. “Currently within the club, the pathway from girls to women’s football is very limited, this is one of the biggest priorities for us and in the meantime, we have to be clever and think outside of the box.
“Without a doubt, we want to be as successful as we can. This club is built on passion, pride, and involvement from everyone that wants to see the club progress and achieve. We have a lot to do, the personal involved are highly skilled, experienced, and motivated so we will never rest or stop looking at where we can improve.
“After being involved in the women’s game for over 10 years and seeing the growth in that time, you could only be excited about the next five seasons especially with the sponsorship of Barclays at the top and the mass variety of increased media coverage of the women’s game. At FC United, we know where we want to be and we have a number of ways in which we can get there.”