How Man Utd and Man City stars have helped boost grassroots football in Manchester since Euro 2022
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It was one of the most memorable moments of the summer of 2022 - Manchester City forward Chloe Kelly’s winning goal sending 87,000 fans at Wembley into delirium and ensuring England’s Lionesses brought football home and were crowned champions of Europe.
And a few weeks after the record-breaking UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 tournament finished grassroots clubs in Greater Manchester have spoken of the impact the victory has had on women’s and girls’ football.
Clubs say increasing numbers of young girls have been turning up to practice after being inspired by the exploits of Beth Mead, Fran Kirby, Mary Earps and co.
And investment from one of the tournament’s sponsors is helping to address one of the key issues facing the game going forward - having enough coaches to ensure girls have the chance to play football.
A club where girls have some famous footsteps to follow
Manchester United player Ella Toone was one of England’s many stars this summer, with her biggest moment coming in the Euros final when her cool,m measured chip from Keira Walsh’s brilliant long pass put the Lionesses into the lead against Germany.
She took her first steps on the path to success in the Women’s Super League and the national team at Astley and Tyldesley FC, and there have been no shortage of girls hoping to emulate her.
Lorraine Warwick-Ellis, the club’s girls development officer, said: “Grassroots clubs are where footballing talent really prospers. We’ve had lots of sign ups from girls that want to follow in Ella’s footsteps.”
Starling Bank, one of the sponsors of the Euros, is donating cash to clubs in each of the tournament’s host cities, which means Astley and Tyldesley is benefitting as games were played at the Leigh Sports Village (LSV).
Lorraine says the money will help ensure the girls coming forward to learn the game will have someone to teach them.
She said: “This grant will help us meet that demand by hiring another dedicated coach and buying new kits. It means we can take our tenth girls’ team to the leagues and ensure that our club continues its tradition of creating world class female footballers.”
A club growing rapidly in the wake of England’s success
Another recipient of Starling Bank cash which will be ploughing the money into coaching is Flixton Juniors, where the Lionesses’ brilliant performances this summer have also translated into an upsurge in interest.
Chairman Pierino Gattei said: “Over the past seven weeks football has been a more open conversation between girls who weren’t interested originally.
“The starting point was when we took them to Old Trafford for the opening Euros match when they really felt the atmosphere. That was the start of more excitement from the girls talking to their friends about it.
“Girls now want to play football and be with their friends. It’s probably brought about 15 to 20 girls to us. That gives us a new headache in coaching but that’s where the funding has really helped us.
“There has also been friendly banter around the girls doing better than the boys. They played in the same stadium but the women won a trophy when the men didn’t.”
The new influx of youngsters means Flixton will have under-eights and under-10s girls’ teams on the pitch this season, something the club did not expect pre-Euros.
And Pierino says the Lionesses’ success has galvanised all levels of the club, with the open-age team being more confident in putting themselves forward to coach the younger girls and parents expressing excitement about the Euros games, which he again hopes will turn into more offers of coaching and volunteering on the girls and women’s side of the club.
He says Flixton puts having fun at the centre of its ethos and said it is important that girls and women can simply enjoy playing football recreationally with their friends in addition to talent pathways being there for those who want to reach the professional ranks.
It runs a programme, The Future of Flixton Juniors, which sits alongside the FA’s Weetabix Wildcats programme and helps girls develop their football skills before they start playing in a team.
Encouragement from a Lionesses legend
Starling Bank also has Manchester City and England legend Jill Scott MBE as an ambassador, and she expressed her support for the assistance being given to develop the next generation of talent.
She said: “The Lionesses brought it home. It was a message to girls everywhere that they deserve to be on that pitch and they shouldn’t have to fight for the right to.
“Now, they need equal training opportunities and dedicated resources, so that when they rise through the ranks of football in years to come, the playing field is truly level.”