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An introduction to women’s football


I did something that I’d never done before last week. I attended women’s football matches.

Women’s football has lagged behind the men’s game for decades. The fifty year FA directive that saw womens teams banned from using men’s football grounds was only lifted in the early 70s and the women’s game has never recovered to the pre-war days of 50,000 crowds at Goodison Park

Recently however, the game has seen a bit of a renaissance with the formation of a national league (the FA WSL) and the coverage of women’s football, especially the English national side, has increased over the past few years.

Women’s clubs at the top of the game in England are linked to already established Premier League and Football League sides, but they generally play at non-league stadia (to accommodate the sort of attendances they are likely to attract). Arsenal Ladies play at Borehamwood, Liverpool play at Widnes and Birmingham Ladies play at Sutton Coldfield. On Wednesday evening of last week I travelled to Staines Town to see Chelsea Ladies play Millwall Lionesses in a Continental Cup match.

Chelsea Ladies 4 Millwall Lionesses 0, WSL Continental Cup @ Staines Town

It didn’t take too long to see that Chelsea were a step above in class over Millwall. Not unsurprising considering Chelsea are in WSL1 whilst Millwall play in WSL2. The Lionesses struggled with the crisp passing of Chelsea, but held on valiantly until England international Eni Aluko – one of the few players I actually recognised – broke the deadlock. This opening goal settled Chelsea down, and apart from a few dangerous set pieces, Millwall barely troubled Chelsea’s Chilean goalkeeper Christiane Endler.

Not many kids to entertain on a school night

Not many kids to entertain on a school night

 

Despite the crowd being less than 200, the atmosphere inside the ground is very different to a non-league match with a similar attendance. That’s both unsurprising and perhaps even encouraging. But, it’s quite difficult to fully understand who this game is actually being promoted to. Is it being promoted towards Chelsea FC fans who can no longer afford to attend games at Stamford Bridge (entry is set at a very reasonable £5 and £1 for children)? Or is it the demographic being aimed at young children (a disconsolate looking Bridget, Stamford’s sister I’m told, walked slowly around the pitch during the match). I was very confused to see two 14 year old lads at the game until the second half when I saw the larger group of 14 year old girls giggling amongst themselves.

As far as I can surmise, WSL sits in a strange netherworld in the footballing galaxy. The games are played at non-league stadia, using famous club names, in front of low crowds, the programmes they produce are glossy, thin and expensive (£2) but Chelsea (for example) still use Staines Town’s corner flags. I also saw, for the first time, a player make a referee blush by making a rude comment. Normally the referee would ‘banter’ back at the player, but he was a bit taken aback by the Chelsea player’s remark…

 

 

Reading Women vs Arsenal Ladies, WSL Continental Cup @ Farnborough FC

If Chelsea playing at Staines feels odd, then Reading playing in Hampshire, 24 miles away from the Madejski Stadium feels even stranger.The crowd at Farnborough was around double that at Staines the previous evening. Bolstered by some rowdy Arsenal fans, and some rather optimistic Arsenal fanzine sellers there were approximately 400 in attendance for this tie.

WSL2 side Reading fared much better than Milwall had managed against WSL1 opposition the previous night and went ahead when the diminutive Fran Kirby flicked the ball with the outside of her right foot, past Japanese World Cup winner Yukari Kinga, ran onto the loose ball and slotted past the Arsenal keeper to put Reading 1-0 up. It was a magnificent goal and ranks as one of the best I’ve seen live this season.

Reading celebrate their win over Arsenal

Reading celebrate their win over Arsenal

 

Kirby was a thorn in the side of Arsenal all game, and eventually proved to be the difference between the sides. A bit of trickery in the box left Arsenal defender Casey Stoney on her arse and the eventual shot from a Reading striker was parried away only for Lauren Bruton to finish well. Kirby’s excellent performances have seen her deservedly called up to the England squad for the first time.

What’s quite refreshing about the women’s game is that players generally have a lot more time on the ball. It means that rather than rush a pass, or hitting it long, they normally have time to pick out a pass to a team-mate. It leads to some very attractive football. The two WSL games I’ve witnessed have seen far more attractive passing football than I’ve seen at many games this season (if passing football is your thing of course!).

 

 

WSL is a fantastic opportunity to see some footballers playing at the peak of their sport. I’ve seen World Cup winners, England internationals, players from afar afield as Chile and Belgium and Wales. In the 90’s British football fans were drawn towards Serie A by the allure of watching Paul Gascgoine at Lazio, many still watch Italian football, hopefully fans will be pulled into women’s football by Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City and will stay because of the quality of football show. WSL is certainly going to become a part of my own football calendar.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Women's football

 

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Championship: Doing the Double


The following list shows the number of times each club in the Championship won home and away against one of their rivals during the 2012/2013 Championship season. Every single one of the 24 clubs managed to achieve this feat against at least one of their opponents during the season.

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7

  • Cardiff City: Millwall, Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United, Blackpool, Birmingham City, Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday.

6

  • Hull City: Millwall, Derby County, Huddersfield Town, Ipswich Town, Leeds United and Birmingham City.

5

  • Watford: Huddersfield Town, Leicester City, Birmingham City, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest.

4

  • Birmingham City: Bristol City, Peterborough United, Leeds United and Middlesbrough.
  • Crystal Palace: Peterborough United, Derby County, Wolves and Charlton Athletic.
  • Leicester City: Bristol City, Huddersfield Town, Burnley and Middlesbrough.
  • Nottingham Forest: Peterborough United, Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic.

3

  • Burnley: Bristol City, Derby County and Wolves.
  • Charlton Athletic: Bristol City, Blackpool and Leicester City.
  • Huddersfield Town: Bristol City, Burnley and Wolves.
  • Sheffield Wednesday: Millwall, Barnsley and Charlton Athletic.

2

  • Barnsley: Millwall and Middlesbrough.
  • Blackburn Rovers: Bristol City and Barnsley.
  • Bolton Wanderers: Bristol City and Blackburn Rovers.
  • Brighton & Hove Albion: Huddersfield Town and Burnley.
  • Bristol City: Peterborough United and Middlesbrough.
  • Derby County: Bristol City and Leeds United.
  • Ipswich Town: Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers.
  • Millwall: Leicester City and Middlesbrough.
  • Peterborough United: Barnsley and Cardiff City.
  • Wolves: Bristol City and Birmingham City.

1

  • Blackpool: Millwall.
  • Leeds United: Bristol City.
  • Middlesbrough: Blackburn Rovers.

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  • No side did the double over promoted Hull City or play-off finalists Crystal Palace and Watford.
  • Cardiff did the double over seven other sides but relegated Peterborough were the only side to do the double over the Dragons.
  • Ten sides did the double against Bristol City which may explain why the club finished bottom.
  • The three sides who did the double against only one other club finished in 13th (Leeds United), 15th (Blackpool) and 16th (Middlesbrough)
 
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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Statistics

 

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CHAMPIONSHIP 2011/2012 SEASON REVIEW WORD CLOUDS

CHAMPIONSHIP 2011/2012 SEASON REVIEW WORD CLOUDS

With the new season upon us we at Spirit of Mirko are continuing our retrospective on the 2011/2012 season. Following on from our Premier League word-clouds we’ve now constructed twenty-four clouds that represent each Championship club’s season via the words used in their respective BBC match reports.

If you wish to use one of these images for your own site, then feel free. Just ensure you set up a link to this page and also give full credit to tagxedo (the wonderful site that these images were created in).

Barnsley

Barnsley

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Statistics

 

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Foreign players in the Championship 2011/2012


Of the 699 players who appeared for Championship clubs during the 2011/2012 season 387 were English. As you’d expect the other nations from the British Isles also featured heavily with (and no, this isn’t a joke) 52 Scotsmen, 50 Irishmen, 28 Welshmen and 19 Northern Irishmen.

The table below shows data on each of the twenty-four clubs in the Championship and the nationalities who played during the 2011/2012 season. The columns are as follows, Nats: number of nationalities used, Plyrs: total number of players used, Eng: Englishmen used (Sco, Wal, NI, Ire self-explanatory). %Eng is the percentage of the total number of players used who are English whilst %B&I is the percentage of players used who are from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. Whilst I understand that Ireland is a foreign country I feel that this metric is useful as players from the Republic of Ireland have been integral parts of squads in the football pyramid for many years.

Championship nationalities 2011/2012

Championship nationalities 2011/2012

Relegated Portsmouth are the side that can most adequately be labelled as the division’s “foreign-legion”, though it has to be said that the term “foreign legion” exited the football lexicon a few years ago. I think it dropped out of common usage at the same time that the goalkeepers union was finally disbanded.

Doncaster Rovers’ (Willie McKay inspired) policy of recruiting anything that moved during the second half of last season leaves them having used the most players in the division (41). Play-off semi finalists Birmingham City used the fewest players having only used 22 during the season. It’s a real credit to the Blues as they also had a gruelling (and very fun) sojourn in the Europa League to navigate.

Peterborough United fielded the highest percentage of English players (79%) but it was Barnsley who used the most (28). In fact the only player that Barnsley used who originated outside of the British Isles was Ricardo Vaz Te, and he signed for West Ham during the January transfer window.

Blackpool used the most Scottish players (7), Crystal Palace used the most Welshmen (4), Burnley were the club who fielded the most Northern Irish players (5) whilst Palace and Ipswich Town fielded the most Irishmen (5).

In 2011/2012 an incredible sixty-seven different countries were represented in the Championship. They were Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Iceland, Brazil, Netherlands, Denmark, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Spain, Senegal, Grenada, Zimbabwe, Portugal, Trinidad &Tobago, France, Mali, Slovakia, Malta, Jamaica, Slovenia, Serbia, Ghana, South Africa, DR Congo, Finland, Australia, Cote d’Ivoire, Bulgaria, Japan, Latvia, Poland, Israel, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda, Curaoao, Czech Republic, Malawi, Morocco, Guadeloupe, Chile, Comoros, Argentina, Cameroon, Algeria, United States, Belgium, Estonia, Honduras, Hungary, Barbados, Switzerland, Fiji, Canada, Mexico, Croatia, Italy, New Zealand, Turkey, Austria, Sweden, Germany and Burundi.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Statistics

 

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