One of the highlights for Salford City’s 2018 was without doubt the formation of the club’s first ever women’s team, Salford City Lionesses, from May.
It was an idea that co-owner Gary Neville said was always in the plans for the club from day one, and that with other areas of the club doing so well it was the ‘right time’ to implement the team.
Trials were conducted over the summer with a large interest and number of applicants for a limited number of places, and a squad of 19 was assembled ready for a debut season in the Greater Manchester Women’s Football League Division One – the seventh tier of the women’s football pyramid.
Under manager Shauna Duffy the team made, and continue to make, a perfect start to an era with 11 wins from 11 in all competitions (plus a walkover), scoring 105 goals and conceding just four.
“We’re currently unbeaten at the top of the league, and in the semi-finals of both the league and divisional cups, and also the quarter-final of the Manchester County Cup,” says team captain Ellen Thornton, one of the successful applicants in the summer.
“At the beginning of the season we set ourselves the target of winning the league so that’s always been our number one priority, however the players in this squad are winners and we want to win every single competition we enter, therefore we’ve put the pressure on ourselves that at the end of the season we want to win the quadruple.
“To do that would be an amazing feat for the team in it’s infancy and it’s down to us to deliver this.
“The league we’re playing in is the seventh tier of English football so it’s a long way off where we want to be, however the standard of it is improving year on year and there are some extremely talented players playing in this league who are more than capable of playing at a higher level.
“The girls in this team are very professional in the manner in which we approach every training session and game, regardless of the opposition. Obviously we’ve had some amazing results so far which may allow for complacency to set in, however we train hard in the week and with the intensity we expect to perform with on a match day.”
Season so far
That intensity and determination was in evidence from day one and a 13-0 win away at a young AFC Urmston Meadowside team in September, where Thornton scored two late goals to get her tally up and running for the season. Top scorer Feiruz Abdullahi accounted for six of the goals with Phoebe Duckworth, Laura Tobin, Jade Boulton, Adora Yau and Mia Pemberton adding the rest.
Further double-figure results have followed which are a testament to the success of bringing a new team together on one hand, but unfortunately on the other they have brought with them some negativity on social media, which is disappointingly common throughout the women’s game. However Thornton says that it is something the team have to deal with, and it part and parcel of playing the game.
“The first six months of the Lionesses has provided us with some great football experiences, but also has given us something we’re not used to. Playing for Salford means we’re in the media spotlight and having our highlights published is great for publicity and awareness of the club, but also leaves us open to comments from the public. Some of the comments we receive are negative, but it is an aspect of this club that we’ve learned, or will have to learn, to deal with. These comments often stem from people who have negativity towards the club and we fall under that bracket so come in for the same criticism.
“For a new team we’ve had to start somewhere and for this group it’s in the bottom tier of the football pyramid, but the results we’ve had so far do suggest we’re capable of playing at a higher level and hopefully by the end of the season that is what we hope to have achieved.
“As the inaugural Lionesses team it’s up to us to set the standard for teams in future years. We need to establish our own brand of play which makes future generations want to come and play for Salford City. Why can’t this team, in time, not be pushing for the WSL and competing with the likes of Man City and Man United for North West bragging rights? Surely that’s got to be the aim of any team to play at the highest level!”
What’s to come in 2019
After a break over the Christmas and New Year period, the Lionesses resume the GMWFL Division One season away at Sale Ladies on Sunday (KO 14:00, Sale Sports Club), and Thornton says that by winning they want to continue adding to the momentum and winning mentality throughout the club.
“With the first team and academy currently doing well in their respective leagues, we want to build on that one club mentality and increase the profile of the Lionesses. It would be great to have some new supporters down to watch us and to get to know the players and get an idea of what women’s football is like, and maybe we can change some of the ideas and perceptions that people have about the women’s game.
“With interest in women’s football increasing all the time and with the Women’s World Cup being held this year in France, now would be a great time to get some support from the local community and get people right behind us and to join us on this journey.”
Keep up to date with the Lionesses fixtures and results on the FA Full Time website.