IT has been another season of progress for the girls’ football programme at Burton Albion Community Trust, despite the impact of the pandemic.

Creating a pathway for girls to develop as players from age 11 upwards is an important part of the work that goes on at BACT and something that is continuing to go from strength to strength.

John Widdowson, BACT’S Community and Partnership Manager, said: “This last year has been like no other thanks to Covid. It started, stopped and started all over again but despite all of the challenges, this season yet again reflects the progress being made.

“As a club we would like to thank all of the players who make it so special – and thanks for joining us for the zoom sessions, listening to the guest speakers and enduring the wind, rain and sunshine when we have got outdoors.

“To the parents who organise their lives around the girls, stand out in all conditions for training, cheer on the teams at the matches and have supported the club throughout, a big thank you.

“Burton Albion Girls’ programme is run mainly by a team of volunteer coaches, so thanks to all of them for being part of this incredible season, for their unconditional support, patience and commitment.”

Steve Guest, Women and Girls Coordinator, Burton Albion Community Trust, said: “With a stop start season it’s been a real challenge for everyone here are Burton Albion girls. I would firstly like to thank all the players, parents, and coaches for been so patient and understanding over the Covid period.

“Hopefully, we now see the light towards the end of this pandemic and football can start getting back to normal. 

“As a trust we are now looking at the future of women’s and girls’ football in our community – giving more opportunities for females to participate in football at all levels, working with both local and national FAs to develop programmes and pathways for participants at BACT.

“The BACT pathway starts from our Weetabix Wildcats (five to 11-year-old) all the way through to the women over 30s team.

“There is a real excitement around all of this here at the trust and hopefully we can play our part in the continued growth of women’s football and sport in the community. 

“As Burton Albion girls, we are now looking at the future of our club and we have been given an exciting opportunity to be part of the club’s technical board, working alongside Burton Albion Football Club, the media team, academy manager and our own women’s first team managers.

“Alongside this. we are working with our coaches and putting in plans to help drive our girls’ teams forward.

“We are looking at different ways we can drive the club forward both on and off the pitch to create a real exciting future for our players and coaches, giving opportunities to players to not only develop here but have a real vision and passion to be at our club, and one day represent Burton Albion Women FC.”

BAFC GIRLS PRESENTATION DAY – 27TH JUNE 2021

PROGRESS REPORTS:

Under 11s 

The U11s progressed really well throughout season considering they have had caretaker management throughout. The girls have all developed in some way, they work hard for each other and there is a real team spirit in this squad. Eventually, they got several wins at end of season due to working hard, practising and being together, which goes a long way when you’re a squad. I am looking forward to seeing the progress under new management next season.

Tom Partridge                 

Under 12s

This was my first season in charge of a football team, so I was proud to be given the U12s girls. Straight away I can say I have enjoyed every single experience of our season. We had our fair share of wins, and a few loses along the way but, most importantly, it has been great to see the girls’ development. They have smiled, had fun but most importantly have grown as a team. I am immensely proud of the work that the team have done this season and can’t wait for the start of the 2021/22 season.

Tom Partridge 

Under 13s

Burton were lying in a healthy third position in the Staffs League when the decision to suspend, and then postpone, the league was taken. On resumption of football after yet another lockdown we started our cup competition, The Nightingale Cup. Burton qualified from their Mini-League (four wins and one loss) through to the knock-out stages, eventually losing out in the semi-final by a cruel goal in the last minute of extra time in a really hard-fought game. We were very proud of the girls.

The end of season has seen some bittersweet news for the team also, as we are set to lose one of our most capable players who has been with the team for the last three seasons and has secured a place with Nottingham Forest RTC. We are both sad and happy in equal measure but wish her every success on the next step of her football journey.

Colin Chapman 

Under 14s

Pre-season was dominated with the rule of six. Training in small groups however gave us the chance to reinforce the foundations and was thoroughly enjoyable. Just to the see the players and get back on the grass was a real thrill. The lockdown gave us a chance to catch breath. Sadly, we lost a couple of players, which forced a change of shape, and with it, through the adversity, came a new desire.  We came back and into the cup competition like a new team.  We completed the group section undefeated and beat teams that had historically dominated us. We grew as a team and put in the best performances since we have been together. Sadly, we fell in the semi-finals.

I’d like to say that injuries hit us badly, they did, but ultimately, we were just found wanting against a tremendous Kidsgrove team, who saved their best performance of the season for that day. The level of improvement over 10 months has been exceptional, in all four corners of the player framework our young ladies have improved, as a coach that is all I can wish for.

Ben Woolf 

Under 15s 

After the previous season in the Staffordshire League was cut short due to COVID-19, Burton Albion Ladies Under 15s made their debut in the Central Warwickshire Girls League for 2020-21.

And what a season it has been. Having added a couple of players to bolster their squad, the girls made an excellent start with notable wins against Sporting Solihull, Leamington Lions and Solihull Moors. They went on to top Division One by Christmas having played seven and won seven – scoring 61 goals in the process and conceding six.

A second national lockdown meant the current league season was curtailed and the league split into two mini-groups with the top two from each going into knock a out semi-final and final. Burton went on to win 10 out of 10 group games built on a foundation of a tight defence and free scoring attacking play, despite suffering a number of injuries along the way. Their semi-final tie saw the visit of Lillington to the Pirelli – running out 7-3 winners. This set up a final with Solihull Moors   – a team Burton had beaten on three occasions during the season but always been given a tough test against.

The final was a typically cagey affair on a tight pitch with the girls going 1-0 up only to be pegged back to 1-1 by a Solihull direct free kick into the top corner. But again, this team showed its resilience and scored two more to go in 3-1 at half-time in what was a physical encounter. The second half was comfortable until Burton conceded against the run of play with 20 minutes to go to set up a tense finale, but the defence held strong.

The nerves were settled 10 minutes from time when Burton added a fourth and then a fifth from a smashing free kick. Burton ran out 5-2 winners in a game they largely controlled without being at their natural best and lifted the Covid Cup to be named Division One Champions for 2021.

This rounded off a fantastic season for the girls which has seen them maintain a 100 per cent winning record over 19 competitive games throughout the season, scoring 145 goals and topping leading scorers and assists lists as they go. They truly demonstrated the importance of a tight squad with everyone playing their part throughout a long stop-start season.

Cliff Clarke 

Under 16s 

Playing in the Premier League of Central Warwickshire Girls and Ladies Football League finds us coming up against the best girls’ teams in the surrounding counties, playing against the likes of Derby County Ladies, Leicester City Ladies, Coventry City Girls, WBA Ladies, Alvechurch Ladies to name a few. 

Pre-lockdown Two we won five out of seven games drawing one and losing one. We then had one game after lockdown measures were eased but, unfortunately, we had Covid cases within our squad – this resulted in only one game being played before Christmas and unfortunately a further lockdown meant the league finished with us in joint third place.

Upon lockdown Three finishing CWGLFL entered the girls into the Premier League Covid Cup, a Champions League-style competition which saw the league split into two groups playing each other home and away. We were lucky enough to finish second in our half of the league which earnt us a semi-final v Alvechurch, a team we’ve never beaten in any of our previous meetings. The Burton Albion Girls worked so hard for one and other and their spirit and desire to get into a Cup Final was rewarded with a 2-1 victory.

Unfortunately, the Under 16s had no luck in the final against Coventry going down 5-1. The scoreline doesn’t reflect the game, with the score being 2-1 until the 75th minute and the Burton team only behind to a penalty. The girls were pushing hard for the equaliser and hit the woodwork twice and had a host of good situations before conceding a third and the game getting away. The girls couldn’t be faulted for commitment, it just wasn’t their day.

Paul Harman 

Under 18s

For the first time, we had a U18 team to bridge the gap between junior and senior football at Burton Albion girls. This season has shown that this has been a great step forward. During the season four players made the step into the first team, making appearances both in the league and the cup.  

With most of the U16s stepping up to U18 football it gave us a good platform to build on. Using the links into the Burton Albion Community Trust Football and Education team and other players coming to open training, we built our first squad. From the start all the girls were brilliant. They all gelled together and become a team very quickly.

Entering the league with a good pre-season the girls all developed very well both individually, in units but mostly as a team. This shows with going unbeaten in the first seven games and looking strong as a group. Then the dreaded Covid started to play its part with us losing couple players each week at both training and match days. The girls stayed strong until the league ended, sitting in third place in the league.  

The CWGLL created a Champions League-style competition for the football restart. Everyone at the U18 were ready to get back playing and have a real opportunity to go win a cup knowing that at the end of this season we would be losing six of our players due to their age.

The girls were impressive throughout the group stages. We ended up coming second behind Walsall FC U18. We moved on to the semi-finals where we played a strong Stratford side away in midweek. The game did not go our way and the team fell short with our biggest defeat of the season. The girls battled to get back into the game with some great opportunity’s that on another day would have gone our way. We ended the game losing 5-1.  

Overall, this season has been a real challenge for everyone at the U18s, both on and off the pitch. I am proud of each player as they all played a part in the season. On a sad note, we lose players due to being too old next season and they will be a miss, For the rest of the team they have set good foundations for something special here at Burton Albion. The future looks bright with some of the girls who are here. On to next season. 

Steve Guest