Woodley United’s ladies side had an unbelievable end to the 2016/17 season going on an eight game winning streak that almost propelled them to the promotion spots in the Southern Region Women’s Football League Division 1.
We had the opportunity recently to sit down with manager Marc Surtees and talk through what happened, and what the plans are for the season ahead.
Hi Marc, firstly congratulations on such a strong finish to the season last term. What was the major catalyst?
Thanks, at the end of the previous season we lost a lot of players and so had to rebuild, we were fortunate to pick up younger players from a couple of local sides. I think it took time for the ladies to gel as a team with so many new faces coming in. But after Christmas something just clicked and we went on a great run where we worked as a team and and became hard to beat. In addition to that Nuno Antunes joined as my assistant a month or so after the season started and that helped with new ideas, which again took time to put into place
How is the squad shaping up this season? Are you looking to push for promotion?
The squad is coming together well, we have retained most of last seasons squad, we will be losing some players who are going to university but they are signing so that they can play when they are home if required. We have been fortunate that we have picked up a number of new players again and they are already starting to fit in well. Last season we finished 5th but could have finished 3rd, it all came down to the last game, so this year promotion is a target we have discussed as a team.
How did you get involved in Ladies football?
I first got involved in female football when my daughter started playing for Reading Girls when she was 8 years old. I used to help with the coaching but could not go to matches because I was still playing at that time. I eventually got more involved and took over team and continued each year. Many of the girls stuck with me and we eventually moved from Reading girls to Woodley United as an under 16 team, we stayed together into the under 18 age group and then stepped up to ladies football, I still have 2-3 players that have been with me since a young age
What have you taken from your playing career in to management? Is there anyone you’ve been influenced by?
When I played I was a goalkeeper and played with some good players and under some good managers. We liked to pass the ball and keep it, be patient and work the opportunities, this is how we are trying to get the ladies to play. I played local football for teams who were successful but there was always times where things did not go as planned and you had to learn from those games. It is important to always be a team, stick together no matter what happens, learn from games and move on to the next one. Win together, lose together and be a team and you will be stronger together.
As a goalkeeper my main influence was my Dad, he used to play in goal at local level and supported me throughout my times playing, constantly giving me tips and having chats about things I could do differently, he still comes and watches the matches now.
Who should we look out for in the Woodley side this season?
We don’t like to individually single out a player – I think every player will play a key part in the squad. That squad mentality of supporting one another is what helped us achieve a good run after Christmas last season and we want that to continue to be the case. Across the team they all offer individual attributes and that’s important, but more importantly is the great spirit and friendship they have. That’s a manager’s dream to have a squad with such capabilities and character.
As a ladies team manager myself, I know how difficult recruitment can be. How do you go about it and what advice would you give?
I have had good relationships with managers from other teams and last summer I spent a lot of time speaking to managers who’s teams were not continuing, they spoke to any players they had who wanted to carry on and pointed them in our direction. The current players also do a lot of work trying to recruit players, who better to promote the team that the players currently playing.
For the last 2 seasons we have held a ladies open session where players are welcome to come along to a relaxed fun 2 hour session and get to meet current players and the management team. We found it worked well and have signed many players from these sessions. We felt it was important to make it clear these sessions were not trials, it was an opportunity for players to look at another team or for players looking to get back into football to come along and join in and see how they get on, how they fitted in with the current players and to see how Nuno and I worked and how they got on with us. It was always a 2 way process to see how the players felt about us and the club and what we thought about the players. It is important not to pressure people, show then what the team has to offer and then give the player time to decide.
We also do a lot of advertising of the open sessions and training on social media.
Has the current Women’s international tournament had any noticeable affect on players, has it encouraged more to try out?
We have not seen a big affect at ladies level but as a club we have held 3 Girls sessions for 5-11 year olds, the numbers have been good and a number of the ladies have attended and taken the sessions. The feedback has been good from those attending and it has also been mentioned that is was good to see the ladies taking the sessions and good to have older girls for the young girls to look up to. We have used the tournament in our advertising for these sessions so this maybe enticed some younger players along.
What’s your long term aim for Woodley United Ladies?
We have a great Ladies team, both in personality and standard of football, they are a joy to work with and my aim would to be to continue as long as they want to continue to play football. I aim to ensure they continue to enjoy playing football for Woodley United ladies and with the enjoyment will come learning, improvement and progression up the leagues. I would also like to see the female side grow so that in a few years time maybe we have more females age groups that will eventually feed into the ladies team.