Bradford City WFC made a welcome return to competitive football last week, five months after the season was ended prematurely due to the Coronavirus pandemic. City’s last game of the season that never was saw them go down 3-0 away to Liverpool Feds.
The club has been busy behind the scenes though, Manny Mehmood has stepped up to lead the Reserves following the departure of James Wright, who left to work with the newly-formed Silsden Ladies team. Player recruitment is also ongoing, with the club announcing the arrival of Caitlyn Douglas from Sheffield FC, and confirming the signing of Sophie Hawkins, who joined the club at the end of February and made an instant hit, providing two assists in the 3-2 victory away to Norton & Stockton.
Further signings are expected in the coming days, along with updates on the club’s 2020-21 retained list. City have already announced the retention of six senior players on social media, including captain Katy Woodcock.
City have been back training for around three weeks now, and manager Chris Hames has seen a lot of positives from his players, he said: “Training has been good. We have staff in new roles, some new staff in and their contribution is being felt across each session. Training has been completed at a high tempo. Each player we have had come back, is hungry to be successful this year and it shows”.
On the pitch, City’s first team have had three challenging games so far. They started with a 2-2 draw away to Rotherham, before a costly penalty miss meant they went down 1-0 away to an Ossett United side who included former Bantam Sophie Parrish in their defence. City fell victim to another ex-player on Sunday, Laura Elford bagged four goals as her third-tier Huddersfield Town side ran out 6-0 winners in their third consecutive pre-season victory.
With the season set to kick off in four weeks, and fixtures expected to be announced this week, Hames is focussing more on the opportunity to learn and develop during the pre-season period rather than the results: “We knew none of our games would be easy, we wanted to be tested. Each game has tested some part of us in a way that we can go away and improve and make sure we are a better team because if it.
“It’s about the process, of working towards games that matter. But we of course still want to have the mentality of trying to win each game.
We’re bedding new players into the club, a new system, and have yet to be able to get everyone together in a game. So those bits will all add to what we are doing when it is there
“Fixtures are of course expected out soon, which will again make it all feel a little more real and add extra attention to what we are doing now, as we build and prepare for game one”.
Meanwhile, Mehmood took charge of his young Reserve side for the first time last week, overseeing a 3-0 defeat to a strong Thackley side. Just like Hames, he is enjoying being back on the sidelines, and is looking to learn a lot before the season starts next month: “It was just a joy to be back on the touchline after five months away. I've been looking forward to this day for many months. Just being able to watch your team from the touchline was an amazing feeling.
“At Thackley I thought we played good football throughout and there were clear signs that the players are getting the hang of the style of play, but we need to be more ruthless in front of goal. The result wasn't there for us but I was proud of the performance overall.
“We have Nelson Ladies coming up on August 25th so we have plenty of time to work on different areas that we need to improve on. Nelson will be a good test for us but the players have been working hard in training and are eager to learn”.
The club will face a different type of challenge on September 6th, with their first home competitive game at Eccleshill United since February, when they host Doncaster in what will be the final pre-season game before what the league are branding “Big Kick Off 2020” a fortnight later. The Bantams have appointed committee member Chris Routledge as their dedicated COVID Officer, and he has been working tirelessly with club colleagues and league officials to ensure City are as prepared as possible. Track & trace is in place at training, along with temperature monitoring. The FAWNL have also provided all their clubs with a stock of equipment to get them started, including protective wear and cleaning products.
Routledge is keen to recognise the work of the various governing bodies in supporting his new and unexpected role: “Preparing for football after lock-down has been fairly straight forward, thanks to lots of guidance from the FA, The Women's National League and The West Riding FA. All clubs had various risk assessments in place prior to the threat of Covid-19 and another one has been completed for the specific risk for contracting and spreading from Covid-19.
“Coaches and players were all desperate to get back on the pitch so are all taking care to follow simple measures put in place such as self-screening checks prior to training and matches, strict sanitising measures and of course track and trace. These measures along with many others are vital for all clubs so football can go ahead in a relatively safe environment”.
“Covid-19 however has brought along a whole set of new problems, not just for Bradford City Women but the whole football family, there is additional expense involved in all the extra measures and the generous sponsorship from companies supporting football will be even harder to come by in times where purse strings will have to be tightened”.
One of the measures City have come up with to counter the additional expense is the launch of a fundraising partnership raffle alongside their new streamlined player sponsorship package. The raffle offers supporters and businesses the opportunity to become a club partner for just £20. More details of this scheme can be found on the club’s social media channels. City are also on the lookout for player and club sponsors, and anyone wanting further information should contact Club Secretary Matthew Kermode – email@example.com