Sheffield clubs to the fore as girl power marches on in football

editorial image

The Women’s World Cup is well under way in Canada and with the expanded version of the competition featuring 24 teams for the first time, it has been estimated that up to a billion TV viewers around the world will tune in throughout the tournament.

Hopes are high for the England national side with The Lionesses’ head coach Mark Sampson, 32, targeting a semi-final spot after they secured a last 16 place by beating Colombia 2-1 on Wednesday to finish second in Group F behind France.

England will play Norway on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals -but whatever the outcome for the national side, the sport has never been more popular. And with the increased interest from broadcasters, added to the success for local sides in the Women’s Super League, football is set to boom in the city of Sheffield.

After Sheffield FC Ladies’ promotion to the Women’s Super League Two was confirmed, manager Helen Mitchell said: “We were desperate to do it this year because we’ve worked so hard behind the scenes, with very few resources.

“I really hope teams in the city around us take inspiration from our story because if we can do it, then the likes of Wednesday and United can do it too.”

Next season Sheffield United Community Ladies, who played in the same league as Helen’s side, will be playing in the North East Premier after being relegated, whilst Sheffield Wednesday Ladies are in the division below - the North East Regional women’s league.

Both sides are hoping to emulate Sheffield FC’s success and have reported a record number of enquiries and players at trials due to the World Cup coverage, which they hope will continue.

The red and whites’ head coach Dan O’Hearne, 34, said: “It’s always pleasing to see a local side do well and I wish Helen and her players all the best next season.

“It’s been a difficult period for us but things are on the up. I’ve had so many people ringing up to ask about joining and I have a lot more players to choose from for our next league campaign because of the big turnout at pre-season trials.

“I hope all my girls watch the World Cup and get inspired. You don’t get to the top of your game without commitment and dedication and I want us to do the same week in, week out too.”

David Higgins, 50, who has been the Owls manager for the last four years, added: “I know the popularity of the sport will keep growing in the city and it will definitely be helped by the success of our local teams and the World Cup.

“We are a big club that has gone through some hard times but recently we attracted over 50 players at a trial, which is incredible.”

“In the next five years I want the Owls in the Super League - we have the structure here. And I just need to find that right mix of experience and youth to get us pushing up the leagues.”

Sheffield FC Ladies can expect to play in front of record attendances and FA head of women’s leagues and competitions Katie Brazier has long term high aspirations for the sport.

“We want to be the second most popular team game after men’s football - this is achievable and we have to believe it is,” she said.

“It would be great to have female players as household names and hopefully after this World Cup many will be and young girls will want to get on the pitch and get involved in the sport.”