Above: King’s Lynn Town lineup prior to their game with Caister in the Norfolk Women’s Cup last weekend. Photo: Richard Brown.
One of the real success stories of the season so far in Norfolk has been that of King’s Lynn Town from the fifth-tier Eastern Region Premier Division. Captain Tiffany Forshaw and vice-captain Jodie Hopkins spoke to Darrell Allen (22/1/22).
Tiffany and Jodie began by introducing themselves. Tiff’s story is one of progression which now sees her as King’s Lynn Town Club captain: “I have been playing football since the age of nine and have played for Kings Lynn Town now for the last six years.
I’ve been within the different leagues in women’s football starting in Norfolk League Two with Brandon Town to the Women’s Premier League with Lowestoft Town. I originally started at King’s Lynn before venturing out to other teams through the years. So, feel I have a good experience at all levels. I have been King’s Lynn Town’s vice-captain and now for the last two seasons, captain.”
Jodie’s story also represents one of progression and a football career to date spanning more than 20 years. “I first started playing football when I was four years old. So football has always been a huge part of my life! It is all I have ever known to be honest. My grandad used to take my brother to football training with the village team and I went along for fun, but it wasn’t long before I was joining in with the boys’ team.
I first started at King’s Lynn when I was seven years old. I joined the Player Development Centre that used to take place in Hunstanton with Jess Ibrom. I went through the age groups here, but I was then put forward for Norwich City Football Club trials at the age of eight, after which I got accepted into the girl’s academy pathway there which was known as ‘The Girls Centre of Excellence’.”
“I continued to play for King’s Lynn for as long as I could but due to training twice a week for Norwich and games on a Saturday, I then had to give up my King’s Lynn commitment as they fell on the same day. I then went through Norwich CoE from under 10s to under 16s after which I then made the step up to Norwich Ladies football team continuing to play for a further two years.
“After a short time out, I was contacted by Lynn Ladies manager at the time, Shelly Stewart. I went along to their open session back in the summer of 2016 and I re-joined Lynn as one of the ladies. I was then at Lynn for a few years before I went to play for Peterborough Northern Star FC but decided due to travel commitments, I was ready to play closer to home and was welcomed by back Shelly with open arms.
“I re-joined Lynn Ladies in 2018 and haven’t left since. Over the last couple of seasons, we have become more involved with the main football club and became officially amalgamated with the club, so we now come under the banner of King’s Lynn Town Ladies Football Club. My current role at the club is vice-captain of King’s Lynn Town Ladies football team”
In terms of her own role at the club, Tiffany was noticeably thanked the contribution of others. “As captain of this great bunch of girls, it makes my job so much easier especially with the help of Jodie. We together drive the team through difficult games that do not always go our way. With our experience together we drive the team match days and in training. I enjoy my role the girls are so willing to learn and develop it really is a privilege to wear the armband!”
Jodie revealed that her roles are varied: “I have several at the club which can be very busy at times, but when you are dedicated to your team there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them. At current, I am a player and vice-captain of the team. I am an active committee member of the Ladies’ team which involves my regular communication with club chairman Steve Cleeve and Norman to arrange bits for match days.
“I run the social media pages. I write the articles for the Ladies’ team that get published in the men’s home game match day programmes and with our manager Joe Simpson leaving, I have recently stepped into that department too.
“Over recent weeks myself and Alice Collins (also a player) have taken training sessions but with Alex Cook now coming in, the pressure of organizing and leading training sessions and match day organization has been slightly lifted but as vice-captain it’s my job to support Alex in getting his feet under the table as this is his first experience with a women’s team as I continue to drive the standards of the ladies in training and on match days. I couldn’t be prouder of the girls; their efforts and commitment are absolutely phenomenal. It’s an honour to represent the club in the way that I do on and off the pitch.”
King’s Lynn Town’s season so far has been fantastic as the team sit on 20 points in fourth place. Jodie is extremely pleased with how things have been going.
“I personally believe we have already proved a lot of people wrong and given other teams a lot to talk about with regards to our debut season in the ERWFL Premier Division. We came in as underdogs after our application for promotion was accepted and I believe we have fully stepped up to the standard of this league.
“The team cohesion is second to none both on and off the pitch. It’s difficult to pick a specific stand-out moment because of everything we have achieved so far this season, when you play football with not just friends but friends who become family it makes the experience 100 times better.
Jodie also acknowledged the contribution of the fans in her stand out moments to date, “Two big stand out moments for me so for this season are the support we receive at our home matches at The Walks. It is amazing and it really helps to boost us with match day performances to know we have a 12th man behind us. The other moment is beating one of our county rivals and also current league leaders Wymondham Town at The Walks in a 4-0 victory.”
Much of Kings Lynn Town’s success has been down to the leadership of manager Joe Simpson who left the club to pursue new opportunities following the 1-1 draw at St. Ives on 5th December. Captain Tiffany was only full of praise for the outgoing boss and what his departure meant to the club.
“Joe leaving was a massive loss to this club, his dedication and commitment to this club was outstanding. His late nights and early morning trying to get the ladies’ team on par with the men never went unnoticed by us as a team. For me personally, he challenged me to think outside the box when it came to developing my football abilities, sometimes with a little resilience from me but I trusted in his process.
“The team also believed in this when our formation changed and structure of how we play, as the season so far supports it was for the better. With Alex coming in he has the same ethos so this will no doubt continue. We wish Joe all the best in his new venture”
Since Joe’s departure, King’s Lynn have played two matches, losing 4-1 at Wymondham on 9th January and last weekend saw a 6-0 success against Caister in the Norfolk County FA Women’s Cup quarter-final. Jodie gave me her thoughts on the game.
“It’s always hard to give much detail as when I’m playing, I’m just in the moment and don’t really think about anything else. It has massively helped having Rich Brown come in and take on the role as Press Officer. Rich has provided match reports that I really can’t disagree with so far.
“As Rich said, we started in bullish mood, setting a high press and taking much of the play to Caister so they knew from kick-off that we weren’t going to let them out easily. I feel we displayed a very dominant first-half performance. We started the second half composed and maintaining possession. We moved the ball patiently awaiting scoring opportunities. It’s a great feeling winning 6-0 away from home under new management. A win always boosts everyone’s spirits which makes a lively bus journey home.
“Caister are currently three leagues below us and have been on a very successful run, prior to the game we looked to see how they were getting on, and its quite clear they score quite a lot of goals. As Rich said, Caister endeavoured to absorb the Linnets constant onslaught by playing the ball long and high from their defensive line but they never gave up and they worked us right to the final whistle.”
King’s Lynn Town return to The Walks this Sunday for their first home game of 2022 against Dunstable and I asked Tiffany what it means to play all home games at the venue.
“It means a lot to play at The Walks, it gives the ladies team a more professional look. We also have a ground well looked after and no longer have to set up goals and check for debris. It will be great to have some home games, some of the travel can take it out of you on match days. Hopefully, this gives us some consistency as we push on the league.”
When King’s Lynn Town were promoted to Step Five many people including myself were expecting them to struggle, Tiffany spoke about how targets have now been altered but still remain achievable, “I personally think we have already proved a lot of people wrong about where we would be sitting in the league this season. I think with this talented group of players nothing is impossible. We very much are competing for the top three and on the basis of our first half of the season, this is not an unrealistic goal. The team will continue to push hard and fight for every game. Let’s say it will be a very entertaining second half of the season!”
Jodie also acknowledged new targets but whilst also telling me standards have been increased and nothing has been accomplished yet
“First of all, our job is to finish what we have started this season, we have already proved a lot of people wrong and given other teams a lot to talk about with regards to our debut season in the ERWFL Premier Division. We want to continue to develop our squad adding strength and depth across the pitch, in the changing room, and off the pitch. We really want to cement the foundations that we have laid so far this season.
“At the beginning of the season, we said where we would like to finish and we said in our first season mid-table would be amazing. But from the first half of the season we have proven we are more than capable enough of this and we have accepted the challenge of competing for the top three.
“This week we have found out that we will play Mulbarton in the semi-final of the county cup. The hope of all the team is to play in the final, challenging to be one of the best teams in Norfolk.
“In addition to this, the main goal for the remainder of the season is to continue what we’ve started as underdogs and continue to step up to the standard of this league.”