Women's Football wins AU Sports Club of the Year
by Finlay Macleay
image courtesy of AUWFC
Aberdeen University Women’s Football Club is the latest Sports Club of the Year. Finishing as the runner-up in the Scottish Student Sport Cup and winning the Scottish Conference Cup just last year, the club is looking to better itself during this coming season.
For a reasonably small club, it can boast large numbers considering it has just one team. “Currently we’ve got about fifty I think, regular members anyway.” However, despite these healthy numbers it has proved problematic as the Captain describes, “I think we are in quite a difficult kind of limbo right now where we have enough in the club almost to have two competitive teams, but we are maybe not quite there yet to have two really strong squads.” By next year the club is hoping to expand through a second team and, with their membership intake increasing consistently, that aspiration is very plausible.
So why is the club experiencing such vigorous membership growth? Unlike most university sports teams, there is no trial stage for new members. “At the start of the year we don’t do trials. Everybody who wants to join the club [can], whether you’ve played football your whole life or playing for a club team or you just want to start.” From their evident success this may be a suitable model for other smaller clubs to practice.
Also, the club makes an effort to bridge the gap between freshers and seasoned members as the President describes: “at the beginning of the year we do a lot of pre-season, so everyone has a chance to prove themselves and then obviously that’s also a time when we can get to know them a bit better.”
Moving away from membership, the club hasn’t just experienced highs. With the Aberdeenshire weather coming into play, the club’s Captain stated that “we get to the end of the season and were literally running out of weeks to play all the fixtures we have to get through.” Also, the team’s promotion into the top tier proved to be testing. “Obviously it was a massive jump in quality coming from the second division to the top tier.” However, despite the initial shock to the step-up, the team experienced numerous dominant performances, once even going 8-0 against another first division team.
Due to the club having no trial stage and welcoming beginners equally as much as club players, was their success down to a handful of better-quality players? The club Captain says, “It was definitely just a big team effort because we had girls coming in like I said towards the end of the season who were struggling fitness wise. We [also] had girls coming in who had never played before who were called upon and did a really good job for us.” The success of the club however does not just lie with the players. The volunteer coach Scott Duncan has dutifully stuck with the club for seven years and has led them to many achievements.
With the previous year’s success how is the club expected to perform next season? “After last season, I think we aim to stay up and of course do better than we did last year which was a fifth-place finish. So, we’re aiming [for a] top four [finish] this season, absolutely. “Aside from a desired top-four league finish, the club has other objectives within its sights. “Granite City [Challenge] is an important one for us because we went years and years without beating RGU. Beat them once and haven’t been beat by them since.” Sounds rivalrous.
So, with the club’s momentum from last year, is there a possibility of a second consecutive win of the prestigious Club of the Year award? “It would be unreal to win it again, but it will take a lot to better that season that we did have to win it because so much has happened for us.” With every university club hoping for the award, what would the club need to improve upon to do it again? The Captain says, “trying to find consistency week in, week out because I think we do have a really strong team and this year we have new freshers in [alongside] girls back who have been abroad. We didn’t lose too many people last year, so we are in a good position with the first team to do well.”
However, despite their success, the club has experienced issues that may be down to football being commonly perceived as male-dominated. The club Captain says, “For us, the fact that football is perceived to be a ‘male-dominated’ sport does pose us some problems, as we have often found ourselves struggling to secure good training and even match day facilities when we are in weekly competition for these with the men’s teams. So, our hope is that if we can continue to grow as a club and perform well at this high level, this will finally be noted by the uni, and be reflected in the form of grants or funding, which would allow us to have more girls developing and strengthening our club even further. Participation in women’s football across the UK is really picking up as the national teams are doing so well, and we are proud to be a small part of that and hope to keep doing so in the future.”