In The Spotlight - Dursley Town Ladies
Club: Dursley Town Ladies
Ground: Recreation Ground, Kingshill Road, Dursley GL11 4BJ
League status: Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division 1
Last season’s final placement: Second-from-bottom
Current placement: Second-from-bottom
Player-manager: Suzanne Stanley
Chairman: Dean Macey
Secretary: Suzanne Stanley
Treasurers: Gemma Butler, Jodie Turl
I gather you, Ros, were the brains and driving force behind the formation of your club!
I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t! I used to play for Cam Bulldogs neighbouring Dursley and I went on to have a spell with Forest Green Rovers Ladies, always wishing deep down I could find a way back to my home patch.
I knew Dursley had a really good under-14 girls section and that side of the club has just got bigger and better over the years. They have all manner of age groups now from under-8 to under-18, which is a fabulous achievement when you consider how difficult circumstances can be for female football.
So I approached Dursley Town FC in 2002 to inform them of my dream, to form a senior women’s section, and they had discussions as a club, including checking with the senior men that they were happy, which of course they were, and it went from there.
I made a few phone calls and roped in a few old friends I’d played with and against in the past. Some word of mouth came into it too and we managed to get an initial group of 12 or 13 of us together and while it was all a bit makeshift, we did have some excellent players.
I’d have been one of the oldest at the time along with our central midfielder Ellen Kent, our then-keeper Judith Welsh and my own dear sister Diane Daglish, who played in midfield.
I have a box of old newspaper cuttings about us and our matches from those early years and my own notes about the teams we’d have selected ahead of games. I’m not quite sure where the time’s gone but I’m still out there at 47 trying to keep up!
Was it just the one senior team in operation or did you have others joining forces?
We had just the one senior team back then and that has remained the case right the way through to the present day.
Our girls managed to attain promotion from the second division in the early years and we’ve been in Division One now for seemingly an eternity!
It can be challenging, keeping a competitive side together, as many other clubs like ours will testify. Personal situations change, such as players starting their own families, and then college and university commitments come into play for other girls.
Just when you think you have a truly competitive team ready for a new season, people leave, usually for perfectly good reasons. We do try and encourage girls from the youth section to stay with the club as one of our senior players and we’re always chuffed when they do, as many sign up to local academies or Forest Green Rovers and the like.
We’re always pleased to welcome anyone keen to come our way and two such girls we’re very glad did are Zoe and Claire Gabb. They were 16 when they made the step up. We actually welcomed Zoe first as she had previously had a stint at FGR, but with such numbers at that club it did not always prove easy to get game time. Her first few months with us must have impressed as we then gladly accepted sister Claire out of her break from football for the next season.
Claire is a left-back and Zoe usually performs on the wing, and when they came to us we thought, “wow”, as they were that strong. They are identical twins and they are inseparable.
For all the obvious challenges you face, it sounds like you have a great bunch of players!
You’re not wrong there. Like the twins, Charlotte Warren was originally in our youth section and she is now in her early 20s. She’s a striker and with pace to burn, believe me. She scores a lot of goals too.
Then there’s Yaz - Yazmin Laver - a new recruit and also a prolific striker with skill and speed. She’s from Bristol and hadn’t played for about two years but she heard about us through word of mouth, which is encouraging, and wanted to rekindle her career here.
I should really mention our player-manager Suzanne Stanley, who joined us as soon as she was 14 having been a member of our junior girls’ teams. Not only is she a really good manager but she’s an amazing player too, either right of midfield or upfront.
Suze hadn’t played for ages because of injury but she came on in a recent game to give us a breather and scored with her very first touch of the ball!
Suze took over as our manager a couple of years ago from Jodie Turl, who is a former keeper of ours, and although she hasn’t played for a bit, Jodie is still very involved with the club and its players. In my eyes Jodie was the best goalie in our division but like so many, she and her partner had a baby last year so only plays occasionally.
We’re lucky that we have Biff “The Cat” to call upon between the sticks these days! Her real name is Stephanie Hill and I’m not quite sure why she’s known as Biff, but she’s been excellent all season. She likes to say quite often that she has “the reactions of a cat”, something that can only be agreed with once you’ve seen her play! Although not possessing a typically obvious stature for a keeper at 5ft 2in, her height does not deflect from her skills.
Gemma Butler, a central midfielder, is a player we miss when she isn’t out there and she’s another who took a break to have a baby and like Jodie, has played for Gloucestershire County along with Lianne Bedwell (nee Rickaby), one of our former strikers, who even the men look at in awe because of her abilities. Lianne came to us in our second or third season when we’d go to away games with only nine players to call on and still win through thanks to her skill and goals.
Lianne is another who fulfilled her desire for starting her own family and now is the proud mummy to two little boys. But it would be great to think she might make a return at some stage.
Kirsty Brown – we call her Browner – is an ex-Cam player. We acquired her through our local rivals folding, a shame for their long-standing team but perhaps selfishly from our perspective a real positive! She’s our captain and sweeper and brilliant with it. If we didn’t have her at the back there our goal difference would be a lot higher as she’s cool and composed at all times.
A few players who really hold the ball up well are Michelle Watson, a tough-tackling yet skilful central midfielder; Alex Gwyther, who plays up top to excellent effect, and Lucy Dinham, who is technically brilliant on the ball and has an eye for the game in general.
The latter two travel from Bristol to our humble club week in, week out, and could quite easily be playing at a higher standard.
We do have another important member (amongst the rest!) by the name of Natalie Poolton. Although she has signed on for times when we may be running a little short on numbers, she is there every Sunday without fail, voluntarily running the line – a position that not many so happily take up!
Our long-standing players, Chanelle Trinder, Stacey Drew, Becky Allen and Kirstie Turl have taken our relatively new recruits Emma Allen, Sophie Lawrence and Vicky Mansell under their wings, forming a strong bond and happy football family!
Is Suzanne solely responsible for training and tactics as boss or does she get some help?
No, she isn’t alone. She operates alongside our coach George Greaves who is quite well known to her – they are a couple!
We’ve been trying a new formation lately and it seems to have made a difference. George has been a real star, coming in and coaching us all in his spare time.
Our home after games is the Community Centre at Rednock, where Jane and Arthur, who run the bar, very kindly provide refreshments in an act of support. The ladies very much look forward to their sandwiches after the game and thoroughly appreciate the hospitality.
Despite efforts in gaining sponsorship, we’re completely self-funded and don’t get a lot of help. We have to pay the council £60 per game, not to mention referee costs amounting to another £25-£45 per game, all of which is funded by player subs.
We’re only a small set-up with a small committee which includes George as coach; Suze, our secretary/player-manager; Jodie Turl, Kirstie Turl and Gemma Butler as treasurers and signatories, and me, all part of a playing staff of around 17. It’s been pretty much the same group of us since the start, keeping the money flowing and organising fund-raising events, as you have to do.
It’s a very sociable set-up, though, and we have weekends away and compete in a football tournament each year down in Newquay, usually in May.
We’ll also have the requisite girls’ nights out and organise meals for people’s birthdays.
Biff is the joker of the pack! She’s enjoying an excellent season in goal and off it she’s a barrel of laughs, a character everyone takes to.
So what of the future, immediate and long term, for Dursley Town Ladies FC?
The most pressing thing is to stay up. We’re second from bottom again but our hopes of retaining our place in the first division could be helped by Cirencester’s unfortunate demise and consequent withdrawal from the league.
It would be nice to think we could put ourselves in a position to go to the next level up at some stage in the near future. It’s not so very far away from us even now and in fact we only lost out on promotion by a couple of goals one year when Forest Green pipped us.
Perhaps we need to get on top of our fitness levels a bit and if we can achieve that, I see no reason why we can’t be more competitive next season than we currently are, and that’s largely been because people’s circumstances have changed, as we’ve already seen, or injuries have bitten hard.
It doesn’t help our cause that we don’t have floodlights and we can’t afford use of an all-weather pitch for training on, so we utilise the netball courts at Rednock School on Thursday evenings at 7pm which isn’t always ideal for knees and joints, especially when you get to a certain age; not that I’m there yet!
Still, we want to see more girls coming to us from the youth section and maybe introduce a second team in time. But at the moment we happily and enthusiastically battle on with what we have.