Sheffield FC Ladies now in country’stop nine clubs

Sheffield FC Ladies' triple player of the year  Claire Wallhead makes a vital save in the play-off against Portsmouth. Photo: Julian Barker
Sheffield FC Ladies' triple player of the year Claire Wallhead makes a vital save in the play-off against Portsmouth. Photo: Julian Barker

The wait is over. It was confirmed this week that Sheffield FC Ladies had fulfilled the required off-the-field licencing criteria to ensure their promotion to the FA Women’s Super League.

This puts them in the top 19 women’s teams in England.

From the ashes of the defunct Norton Ladies who played on very “grass roots” pitches, Sheffield’s formation and rags-to-riches rise means they are just one promotion away from meeting Arsenal, currently second in WSL 1, on equal terms

That would have seemed fanciful as recently as 2007 when the teams met as part of Sheffield’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Then, the pair were almost as far apart as it was possible to be. For, Arsenal arrived as UEFA Women’s Cup holders in addition to achieving their third of five domestic trebles.

Having made their final presentation to an FA delegation a week last Wednesday, Sheffield staged their 2014-15 presentation evening last Saturday with the knowledge that all the hard work had been done and that a positive outcome was all but assured.

Goalkeeper Claire Wallhead scooped player of the year award from manager, players and supporters. With seven clean sheets in the last 10 games of the Northern Division season at a time when the title race with Coventry was at its most intense, Wallhead enjoyed probably the best such run of her career. Another clean sheet and a few more excellent saves then followed in the Championship Play-Off final against Portsmouth to determine who would get the chance for the WSL opening.

Other key playing contribution emphasised was that of the reserves who had stepped up and played. There were several times when the first team squad was badly stretched, not least in a vital away game at Stoke in the run in.

Manager Helen Mitchell, involved with the team since its start, received an outstanding achievement award for her part in guiding the team to success on the field as well as all the untold hours of hard work she has put in away from games.

Reserves awards - players’ player: Sheldon Ashton; manager’s player: Leigha Goodwin; supporters player: Olivia Foxton.

Nicole Kemp was club person of the Year.