Ben Gooden: How ‘Little Chorley’ Flew Under The Radar

In the final part of our series looking back over the season with Impetus’ sponsored players and partner clubs, Chorley head coach Ben Gooden speaks to Ben Gilby about the FA Women’s National League Division One North side’s successful campaign in both league and cup (14/7/22).

Above: Chorley head coach Ben Gooden on the touchline last season. Photo: John Shirras.

Ben Gooden’s Chorley, although not receiving some of the attention that other teams in tier four have had last season, completed a campaign to be proud of. Just four defeats in the FA Women’s National League Division One North and a superb FA Cup run are examples of what the Lancashire team can do (see https://impetusfootball.org/2021/12/12/chorley-the-game-is-massive-in-stature/). Yet Ben tempers this pride with thoughts of how they could have done even better.

“I think we can look back with some pride that’s for sure. I’ll always look back on a few of the games and wonder ‘what if’? But that is for me to obsess over and try and put it right next season. On the whole though I think we gave a very good account of ourselves for the most part.

Asked whether he thinks the club has received the attention that their achievements deserve, Chorley’s head coach was clear.

“I still don’t think so, but I think it helps us go about our business on the pitch without fear and pressure from the outside. We just have to focus on ourselves. I think in the first round of games we were underestimated by most and you hear the post-match comments from coaches and players after we’d beat them saying ‘no disrespect to Chorley but…’ and that’s fine. We’ll embrace that attitude and use it to fuel us in the chase.”

Ben reflected in detail in identifying what were the keys to Chorley’s successful campaign.

“It’s not a difficult question but the answer has so many layers to it because I can’t put it down to just one aspect, it’s a combination of everything. The players have been brilliant, they’ve taken on board information, they’ve been open to new ideas and they’ve been happy to go and try and win every game that we played in last season.

Above: Chorley head coach Ben Gooden. Photo: @BenGooden.

“When you add this to the hard work we put in at training, the amount of hours put into analysis whether it’s counting every single one of our passes, duels, shots (the list goes on) and then we’ve got the opposition analysis to put the game plan together, it’s always going to be a good mix.

“There were a lot of sacrifices made last season and for a club of our size, that’s what it takes to have a year like that. When pre-season rolls around in the middle of June, it has to start all over again. Unfortunately, nothing is given to us, we aren’t attached and funded by a pro men’s club, we don’t play in a stadium, we have played on five different home grounds this season, our training facilities are spread around all over the place and in the eyes of everyone, we are little Chorley.

“But I think that is part of our charm and that’s what we thrive off. We are happy to be little Chorley in the eyes of everyone else, because we know we have massive hearts, incredible work ethic and a never say die attitude.

“There are lots that contribute really and I think it would be unfair to pinpoint a handful of players when it’s a full squad effort. Everyone brings something to the table and contributes in a positive way.

“Something we do have though is a unique way of implementing the team’s rules. We have a changing room court system where we have a judge, a player appointed jury and a non-financial fines wheel for punishments so there is a fun way of ensuring that the standards are kept.”

In terms of his most memorable moments of the campaign, Ben identified several. “I think it’s the attitude and resilience that is the highlight for me. There’s a bit of something special about the team and we’ve seen it not just on one occasion, but many throughout the season. Which in itself will have created memories that will stay with me and the players probably for the rest of our careers.

“We were 3-0 down at halftime against Stockport County and we came back to 3-3 and had more than enough chances to win the game. There’s the Middlesbrough FA Cup game that we just kept coming back at them and then had it about us to keep our nerve at the end to progress. There is an equaliser late on against Barnsley away, two games against Alnwick where we score a winner in the 94th minute, Stockport again who equalised in the 88th minute and we go and score the winner in the 91st minute.

Above: Ben Gooden (red top) watches his side in action during the campaign. Photo: John Shirras.

“We just don’t give up. We play the same way from the very first whistle to the last and everyone that played us last season may not like to admit it but they will say that if they’ve got something from us, they’ve had to work hard for it.”

Ben is not resting on his laurels and planning to get things in place to help the team’s continuing evolvement in 2022/23.

“In the coaching department, we are adding new people to ensure that we have the right balance of specialisation, individual and unit development, and tactical understanding without watering down what has given us an edge this season.

“In the playing department, we need to ensure our recruitment adds quality and not just quantity, as we are a little light in certain positions. There are upgrades to our game that I need to make on the grass in pre-season and we’ll need a few extra bodies to ensure we can do that consistently in every game of the season rather than most games. A number of targets haven’t paid off for us but the summer is only just beginning.”

“We need to continue what we are doing in terms of developing the younger players but also making slight changes to ensure we are enhancing what we do.

“I’ll not give all of it away but we are making changes to the game model which I think will allow us to be more consistent, see games out and ensure we get more wins on the board. I’ve made changes in the way we look at the analysis of the game which I feel will allow us to be far more productive and be prepared for anything that we may face. 

“The message to the players is that we don’t think of this season as a massive achievement and we’ve hit the ceiling but this is now the minimum expectation and the chase starts now.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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