WITH no First Team or Under 18 action this weekend at the Dripping Pan, the spotlight has instead fallen on Lewes Ladies, who take on Luton Town Ladies at home on Sunday at 2pm.
Under the guidance of proud boss Jacquie Agnew, the Lewes lasses are enjoying their best season ever; winning every match played so far which sees them sitting comfortably on top of the South East Combination League with a game in hand and a goal difference of plus 52.
Just eight years ago, the team was playing at the lowest regional level but given their form this season they are much fancied for promotion into the highest possible level – the Women’s Premier League.
So, what’s behind this remarkable success story?
Without doubt Jacquie Agnew (pictured) is the key but she is the first to assert that it is all down to teamwork. Back in May, Jacquie and Ladies Football Director Ron Moore put together a blueprint for the season ahead.
Dave Cole came in as Head of Development to improve the team’s playing techniques and coaches Tom Fawdry and Tammy Waine began work on patterns of play.
There’s even a goalkeeping coach – Tom Betts, a young man who recently himself had trials for the England Youth side.
Two physios, Steve Cameron and Marie Reynolds, concentrate on keeping the players fit, while Brin Pollard remains at the heart of everything, having been involved ever since a Ladies team was first formed at Lewes in 2002.
This hard-working supporting cast has certainly instilled a confident ‘winning’ mentality and great belief in the Lewes players.
A successful team will always attract talented players. Lewes is no exception and the pedigree of the current 18-strong squad is impressive. To name but a few:
Millie York has come through Brighton’s Centre of Excellence before a spell with Chelsea’s academy.
Centre half Stacy Baker has played in Slovakia as well as for Premier side Portsmouth.
The midfield unit features Jo Gardiner who played for Arsenal Ladies and flew the flag for Britain’s Ladies in Rome in 2007 at the European University Women’s Football Championships. Naomi Cole has just joined on loan from Women’s Super League club Chelsea (the latter do not play again until the New Year).
Jacquie has set the squad a number of objectives, the number one priority being to win the title and make it into the Women’s Premier League.
She also wants to do well in the Women’s FA Cup as this competition can generate some cash to help cover the costs of running a successful side.
Her ‘wish list’ includes retaining the Sussex Challenge Cup and winning both the SEC League Cup and the Ryman Women’s Cup.
The way the ‘Rookettes’ have been scoring goals for fun I wouldn’t bet against them achieving a clean sweep of all the silverware that’s up for grabs.
‘Jacs’ and Ron Moore obviously get on well. I also love the irony that Jacquie’s career outside of football sees her in the role of Customer Business Manager for GlaxoSmithKlein. Never heard of them?
Well, they make Lucozade, the famous energy drink most favoured by footballers all over the world.
I very much like Ron’s guiding principle for creating a successful team: ‘Perfect Planning Prevents Pthetic Performance’.
He also provided the Ladies Team with their motto: ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’. I think Ron’s two excellent bon mots would serve the post-Capello England manager very well!
I do believe there will be a good turn-out of Lewes people this Sunday – I know some folk who’ve said they will be coming to a Ladies game for the very first time. Entry is free, the bar will be open (with Harveys on sale) plus teas, coffees and snacks will be served from the hatch. Ardent Lewes FC fan Steve Watts is one ‘first-timer’ who will be there.
He told me: “I’ve followed the results against the likes of Norwich and Ipswich and there’s no doubt the Lewes Ladies are a phenomenal team.
“So I’m looking forward to a Sunday afternoon enjoying a pint or two while hopefully watching a Dripping Pan goal fest – with our Ladies the winners, of course.
“Then I’ll be off to the Brewers to watch Tottenham put a few past Newcastle on TV and thus round off a perfect day.”
Rook’s fan Janet Ward discovered the Lewes Ladies some time ago and attends matches whenever possible.
She told me: “I go because they play open, attractive football and I enjoy it.
I did manage to take a group of nine once, including children, and hope to do that again.
“I know there are some people who don’t think women could possibly play good football but I recommend they really should go along and watch a game. Entry is free so they have nothing to lose – apart from their misconceptions.”