Katy Sandalls: It’s time to take the winter weather seriously

Ipswich's Sophie Peskett battles for the ball against Norfolk's Lauren Hemp Photo: ROSS HALLS

Ipswich's Sophie Peskett battles for the ball against Norfolk's Lauren Hemp Photo: ROSS HALLS - Credit: Archant

This month Katy Sandalls looks at the threat the weather can often bring to women’s football whilst also looking forward to the upcoming England games.

Welcome back to a newly expanded column!

Yes this month, for the first time, this column will be crossing boundaries of the geographical sort as we welcome readers in Norfolk for the first time.

Women's football is a rapidly growing sport in the UK and so it only feels right that this column too is expanded. Indeed, my thanks go to the powers that be for helping me to go one step beyond in the immortal words of Madness.

Each month I will be looking at what's happening in the world of women's football both across our counties and beyond.

Admittedly, perhaps this month is not the best to start that examination. Indeed, it's been a bit of a washout for games across our region. Storms Ciara and Dennis really worked their socks off to cancel most games.

Boggy pitches that resemble wells rather than Wembley remain a huge problem in the women's game. Sharing the pitch with non-league sides means there aren't always the resources to keep pitches immaculate.

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It's not just a problem for our local teams of course, but the top level teams like those in the Women's Super League and Women's Championship.

For context, those in Suffolk will be well aware of Ipswich Town Women's recent FA Cup run which saw them take on top flight Manchester City Women. Of all the FA Cup games due to be played that day Town's was only one of two to actually go ahead due to the weather.

Despite the freezing - and I mean horrifically freezing - conditions the game went ahead because, largely in my own view, the City Academy Ground is one of the best women's football grounds in England. With a name like City behind it, there's bound to be more resources and simply more money to put behind maintaining the pitch.

Indeed, so dedicated to maintaining that pitch were Man City that their groundsmen came on to start mowing the lawn before Town had finished thanking fans.

Another problem with the stormy conditions is that now games have to be rescheduled into already tumultuous and uneven schedules. For squads that aren't professional - as indeed none of the players in our region are - with players that have jobs, school or other commitments to attend to, the results can often be exhausting.

Is there an easy solution to all this? Not really. More money in the game will improve resources for pitch maintenance but it can't solve all the issues, especially in the more extreme conditions seen during Storm Ciara. Perhaps more flexibility in match schedules might help too but the two will need to work hand in hand to truly have an impact.

Food for thought perhaps.

As well as looking at local women's football news we also go national in this column. This month sees the return of England's Lionesses who are looking to keep hold of the SheBelieves Cup: the tournament is an invitational event run each year in the US.

England ended last year in a rather desperate position so Phil Neville will be looking to start 2020 in a brighter way, aided be a plethora of young players set to make their tournament debuts.

Among those is Norfolk's own Lauren Hemp.

Hemp, a former Norwich City player, currently plays for Manchester City and has proved herself a vital first team player this season. She only has three senior England appearances to her name but her speed and strength will surely see her take on an increased role in the tournament.

It won't be an easy start for Hemp and her England colleagues as the Lionesses start their tournament the way they ended their last; by playing the USA. Two more games, with Japan and Spain, then follow.

It's an interesting tournament but one that isn't always representative of the strengths of all those involved. Nevertheless it will prove vital in shaping Mr Neville's all important Olympic's squad for Tokyo.

All of England's games will be broadcast live on the BBC. A vast improvement in coverage afforded to the tournament in recent years; even if they are a little late in the day.

If you want to find out more about women's football then check out the Glancing Header podcast which I host alongside my colleagues Ross Halls and Tom Whitby. We talk all things women's football and even did an explainer episode for those new to the game. It's available in all the usual podcast places so please give it a look.

If you have any news to share about your girls or women's football side then please get in touch via email katy.sandalls@archant.co.uk or on Twitter where I am @katysandalls.

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