ITS - Chipping Sodbury Women

It’s back! In the first instalment after the festive break of our popular series featuring GFA-affiliated grassroots clubs, we thrust the...

Club: Chipping Sodbury Town Women FC
Ground: The Ridings, Wickwar Road, Chipping Sodbury, South Glos BS37 6BQ
Managers: Scott Gibson (head manager); Justin Bishop (team manager)
Coaches: Martin Harris, Neil Harris, Jake Scanlon
League status: Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division 2
Chairman: Mike Fox
Secretary: Les Theobald
Treasurer: Luke Durham

Scott, where does the team play and train, and what are the facilities like?

We play our home games on what we believe to be one of the best grass surfaces around at the Ridings on the edge of Chipping Sodbury. The pitch is certainly well looked after and we’re fortunate to have good social club and bar facilities, seated stands and floodlights, which are all part of the whole club operation, of course.

Our girls train twice a week, which says much about their determination and ambition, on a 4G pitch at Yate International Academy – the old King Edmund School – on Thursday nights, as well as at Chipping Sodbury School’s artificial surface on a Tuesday.

We utilise a minibus for our away games, which yours truly and his managerial cohort Justin Bishop usually have the pleasure of taking turns at driving in quite lively circumstances as I’m sure you can imagine!

This is Sodbury’s first season running a female adult wing. How did that arise?

It’s not common knowledge but we actually had a ladies’ team here in the early 1940s and there’s a wonderful old picture of them up in our clubhouse! Quite why they folded is anyone’s guess but we’re thrilled to be back, not that I remember too much about those particular days.

It all began last year when my good buddy Justin Bishop and I, who had run Yate United Girls together where our daughters played for many years, were sadly forced to call it a day when we reached under-16s level due to a shortage of players.

We all teamed up briefly with Mangotsfield in the Wiltshire League but that didn’t go too well either, not least because of all the travelling, so I thought about starting up a team at our local club, where I was already club manager to our thriving men’s section.

Justin came aboard too although I didn’t give him an option; there was no vote on it! The rest is history; we joined the Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division Two at the start of this season thanks much to the support given us by Sue Henson-Green there, and we haven’t looked back.

We now have a squad of around 30 players which is phenomenal for female football. Sodbury’s a good catchment area, for the men as well, and I do feel that the facilities we have and the friendly approach we adopt are key reasons why we’ve enjoyed the early success we have.

Early days, then, but how is that exciting first season shaping up for you all?

Not too badly at all! We’ve won all ten of our games as we speak and are second behind Frampton Rangers Ladies only on goal difference.

The standard of football is fantastic and it’s very enjoyable to watch. Some of our players have come from higher standards and it’s made for a good mix of youth and experience.

Two of our girls came from Bristol Academy’s under-17s team. Tianna Bishop – Justin’s daughter – also played at Forest Green Ladies and Libby Goater, who is also a winger, joined us at the start of the season too and both are blessed with speed and ability.

Then there’s our hot-shot striker Rosanna Blacker, who is well known in female football circles and plays for the county. She still only 19 and scores about 68 goals a season. If you’re a defender and you don’t have the pace of a whippet, she’ll be gone and out of sight.

Our central midfielder Emily Gibson is a real playmaker-type and I don’t say this just because she’s my daughter but she’s a pleasure to watch, at 19 too.

That’s not to mention one Sarah Price either, who can play in central midfield or up top. She’s formerly of our neighbours St Nicholas and she scores most of her goals with bullet headers off set-pieces or 35-yard belters. She really does hit a ball harder than a bloke.

Once me, our ressies manager Les Theobald and A-team boss Richard Bisp were watching her thump one into the top corner from around 38 yards out and we just looked at each other in disbelief. But that’s what she does.

There’s a little tale behind Pricey’s emergence as she was once told by a coach that she was too big to play football, despite playing for the county at one point before going off the radar. Feeling down in the dumps, she saw our floodlights were on one night and came in off the cuff to introduce herself, and she hasn’t looked back since.

Sarah has obvious talents and while she did lose a bit of weight, the main thing is she’s enjoying her football again and been an absolute revelation.

Sounds like you have some proper characters in the ranks too! Any names to shame?

Well, the aforementioned Pricey is one of them, just bubbly in her mid-20s and great on the social scene, as is Kyra Bishop, Justin’s other offspring, who really has the club at heart and arranges club get-togethers, including one coming up in Edinburgh.

Our captain is Helen Lewis, who won’t mind me saying (hopefully!) she’s in her forties now and is like a mum to them all. She’s as fit as a fiddle bossing central midfield and her team-mates and she enthusiastically sorted out party games at our Xmas get together.

I should know better than to go out drinking with them on a festive night out. They organised a pub-golf weekend at Christmas teeing off at The Horsehose and our girls turned out as you’d expect, suitably clad in golfing attire.

By the time we got to The George just four pubs later I fell over a step, smashed my nose and looked like a giant panda for a month, no thanks to them and their bright ideas of a good laugh.

What are your hopes for Chipping Sodbury Women, this season and in the future?

For starters our aim is simply to get out of the division we’re in and up to the Division One of the County Women’s League.
The bigger picture is to fly the flag for women’s football far and wide, starting with progression to the South West Women’s League and, you never know, all the way into the FA Women’s Super League.

That is certainly a big dream of mine and I’m sure one all of the club aspires to. I know our ground would be fully up to staging top-flight female football and it’s exciting just thinking about the possibilities there.

Women’s football is fantastic and a lot of people don’t realise just how long it has been going for. Okay, the pace is a little slower than the men’s game but the quality of football can be superb, which is why we have 60 to 80 regular people watching our home games.

Everyone works tirelessly to try and make it happen, people like our Level 2 head coach Martin Harris and his son Neil, who assists him with the ladies section but is also our men’s District League thirds coach going for his UEFA B certificate.

Jake Scanlon is our keeper coach and all three work really well together and take the whole thing very seriously.

What we’ve done is make the women’s section a full-on part of the whole club and it’s a massive plus, one of the best things we’ve done.

Why not read some previous In The Spotlight's?

Week 1 - Wickwar Wanderers

Week 2 - Olveston United

Week 3 - Stroud Harriers

Week 4 - Hambrook AFC

Week 5 - Abbeymead Ladies

Week 6 - Tewkesbury Town

Week 7 - Real Thornbury

Week 8 - OPENhouse

Week 9 - Ruardean Hill

Week 10 - Sofab Ladies

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