Thursday, 17th September 2020, 2:51 pm
The head coach of Ollerton Town Ladies Football Club remains confident his side will continue to thrive during the new season despite any knock-on effects of COVID-19.
The Walesby Lane club kick-off their new East Midlands Regional Premier League season on 27th September and are looking to build on their success over recent seasons.
Pre-season has clearly come with many difficulties, with reduced training programmes and pre-season friendlies hampering the club’s preparations.
But head coach Mark Bullock is confident his side will still give a good account during the new campaign.
Captain Emily Stretton is aiming for another solid season.
“It’s been a challenging pre-season for a lot of teams across all sports, but in particular in the women's game,” he said.#
“We tried to get back to normality as soon as possible, but everyone’s circumstances are different.
“A lot of our girls are working full-time. Some work in front line services so there are a lot of challenges.
“We have had a series of pre season games to get as ready as we can be. It is challenging, there are a number of girls on our team who have held off and not wanted to re-engage training.
Holly Cox is a key part of the Ollerton midfield.
“No team is different in that respect and everyone has had a disjointed pre season.
“We are all just happy to get back and there's a nice sense of a shared challenge. Everyone is delighted to be back kicking a ball again.”
Town won the East Midlands Regional League Division One title in the 2016/17 season and were runners-up in the Notts FA Senior Cup two seasons later.
It leaves Ollerton going into the season aiming to bring silverware to the Fast Frame stadium and to also continue their expansion of the club.
And Bullock is confident that his side can tick those boxes, with continuity of players and youth coming through the ranks helping to push the club in the right direction.
“Our ambition is to be the best we possibly can,” he said. “We will try and do the best with the group we have got.
“We are pleased with the group we have. It is quite a tight-knit group who have been together for a few seasons now.
“They have got a much greater understanding of each other and how each other plays.
“We are looking at a team who has been to the county cup final and semi final in the last two years, so we are right up there with the best in the county.
“Forest will always be the best. Mansfield and Notts County are also good sides, so it's got really competitive in the region which is great for female football.
“We have quite an experienced side with players who used to play for Forest, Chesterfield, Derby and Mansfield.
“The thing that attracts players here is the standard of football and the level we are playing at.
“We are competing every year and girls can taste success when they come here.
“It is great to see younger players coming through our programme and really shining.
“One of the great things for the younger players is being able to play alongside experienced players.
“We have got a really good bunch that work hard and train hard. They are a good influence on the younger players in terms of how they apply themselves, how they train and it should stand us in good stead.
“The standard of our league is getting better year on year and better players are coming through. The game has grown significantly and it is fantastic to see.
“We are always looking at how we can grow our programmes. There has been interest in producing younger ages groups and that's something we need to do to provide our own pathway.”
Town, who finished fourth in last year’s table, face a tough start to the campaign against a Peterborough United side who were13 points clear when last season was cut short.
And for Bullock it heralds the start of an exciting season for Ollerton and the wider female game.
“It's going to be a tough ask,” Bullock added. “They were fantastic last year and would probably have been promoted had the season finished.
“We are looking forward to it. We have seen games not played in pre-season and COVID-19 will still impact on the league, but what I'm confident of is that women's game will continue to grow in the coming years.
“It’s had an astronomical rise, supported by initiatives from the FA, the pathways are there and are helping feed girls into the women's game and making the standard much higher.”
Ollerton have been bosted during the summer with cash grants from the Football Association to help them prepare for a return to football.
Bullock was also keen to praise the backing from the local community and is encouraging new fans to pop down and see what the club is all about.
“We have got a fantastic community in Ollerton,” he added. “They have really rallied behind the women's team and travelled with us to games on the road.
“We are supported by the Pathfinders care home in Ollerton, so we have sponsors that are backing us and supporting the club.
“I'd encourage everyone to come down and see the football we are playing.
“This is a hard working community and has been for many years. “There's an expectation that any team that plays for Ollerton, men, women or youth, will work hard and graft in the same way. They will be pleasantly surprised at the effort we put in.”
(Photo: Alexandra Johnson Photography)
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