In the third part of our series of interviews with Impetus-sponsored players, Chorley‘s Lisa Topping, who we have supported for three seasons now, spoke to Ben Gilby about the team’s progress, aims for the season, and the importance of the Euros legacy filtering down to the grassroots (15/10/22).
Above: Lisa Topping (purple kit) in action for Chorley at FC United of Manchester in the FA Women’s National League Division One North last season. Photo: John Shirras.
Chorley had a season to be proud of last time round. A fantastic FA Cup run, and a reputation for being a seriously tough nut to crack in the fourth-tier FA Women’s National League Division One North. They are a club that regularly punches above their weight, and don’t quite receive the recognition that they deserve for doing so.
Lisa Topping, who played top-level football for Liverpool earlier in her career, is an established part of the Chorley club, and we’re delighted to be sponsoring her for a third season. At the current time, Lisa is recovering from a foot injury, but looking to return to action soon. The defender opened our conversation by outlining the focus of pre-season as the club sought to build on last season’s positive outcomes.
“We had a good pre-season which saw us play quality teams that allowed us to apply things we’d been working on in training. We used the time in pre-season to really build on the foundations set the previous year and work on some of our areas. Positively, we welcomed new players into the squad, which is always good and gives us more depth and diversity.
“Those new faces coming in is great. It’s always important to bring more depth to a squad competing in this league, as it can be a long season. Positively, we’ve seen some younger players make the step up from the reserve team, which is fantastic to see as that shows our structure encourages development, growth, and sustainability. It’s a good balance to have both youth and experience and it benefits both parties. They will continue to grow in confidence and performance throughout this season, and as an older player, that’s fun to watch!”
Looking ahead to the campaign on a personal level, Lisa’s aims are all centred around adding value to the club. “I want to do whatever I can do to support the team in achieving our goals. It’s all about a team mentality at Chorley and each person playing their individual part. For me, it’s not just about how I personally play or perform but also about supporting the growth of the team, whether it be by encouraging younger players or being a voice on the sideline whilst I’m injured.”
Chorley’s reputation as being a tough nut to crack has continued to reap rewards this season, as Lisa reflected. “The team have had a good start to the campaign. The FAWNL is a tough league to be in where fixtures and results can be unpredictable.
“With that comes the need to be prepared for every game and battle to the end, which is a trait of Chorley where we never back down until the final whistle. Valuable points on the road have been picked up at the likes of Newcastle United and similarly much-needed ones at home versus Merseyrail. The team needs to continue to take each game at a time.”
Lisa touched on the superb result at Newcastle United – a game which saw Chorley earn a point in a game played in front of 2,000 fans at Kingston Park. I asked her what that experience was like for the squad.
“We seem to be a thorn in Newcastle United’s side. Last year we took vital points away from them which in the end stumped their promotion capabilities. We seem to have remained a thorn this year with a worthy away point in front of over 2,000 fans. You can always rely on a Laura Walker free kick in those situations! The girls and travelling Chorley fans will have celebrated loudly despite being only a few in number.”
While the summer saw the huge boost of a home European Championships, with the Lionesses winning the competition and the resulting boost in crowds at the top level. However, lower down the women’s football pyramid, clubs are still waiting to see the rewards of the summer’s successes
“A lot of focus is being put on the Women’s Super League and Championship after the tournament but there’s so much more to women’s football than those two leagues. The FAWNL gives a fantastic, tough game of football to watch too, and at a very local level. Hopefully, the grassroots clubs around us gain more interest and involvement, and in turn over time that will mean more players coming through our ranks.
“I think by putting Karen Carney in place to lead the FA’s review of womens football is a really important step. I’m confident she’s going to do a great job in ensuring progress. Momentum can very quickly be lost, so it’s really important to capitalise on it now and drive the changes that need to happen.
“As mentioned, the more people we get watching FAWNL games the better as it increases exposure. For me, being around the game for the past 25 years, I’ve recognised that it’s really important to provide opportunities for girls to play. Like so many others, when I was young I had to fight to play football with the boys and that was an intimidating experience that would make a lot of girls shy away from the sport. So, it’s about making football accessible early for all. “