Toffee start for Gas Girls

August 10, 2005

A plucky draw against Barnet saw Ian Atkins’ boys start their season last Saturday, however their female counterparts, the Gas Girls, kick off their Premier League campaign with a tough home tie against Everton, runners up in last season’s F.A. Cup final. Last season both sides tasted success, with Rovers reaching 5th in the Premier League, their highest placing ever, while Everton moving from mid-table obscurity to challenging at the upper reaches of the league, finishing in 3rd place, in addition to their FA Cup exploits. Their league position reflected the fact that Everton also had the better of matches between the two sides last season, winning the two league games and only coming unstuck in the League Cup where Rovers managed a 2-0 home win.

[image1]The Girls’ results against Everton reflected a trend in that they failed to take a point of any of the teams that finished above them in the league. A statistic that manager Gary Green will be hoping to alter this season by adding “strength in depth” to the squad. To that end the close season has seen a flurry of signings, with eight new players joining the squad. England U21 midfielder Shelly Cox has moved with fellow England U21’s keeper Siobham Chamberlain and striker Kate Ward from financially stricken Birmingham City Ladies. Completing a trio of new England U21 players is Rachel Axon who has arrived from AFC Wimbledon’s ladies. Irish international Grainne Kierans has followed her former team mate, and Rovers’ assistant manager, Clare Scanlon from Leeds United, while striker Stacey Daniel turned down Sunday’s opponents Everton to sign for the Gas. However the most exciting news of the summer was the capture of versatile England international Corinne Yorston from former heavyweights Fulham. She was joined by former team mate Dani Bird a prolific goal scorer for England’s U19s. The most significant departure has been Supporters’ Player of the Year, and Dutch Captain, Anne – Mieke Griffioen, who has moved on to rivals Charlton for the coming season. However the squad is still a very strong one with the new additions joining a large number of internationals and last season’s Golden Boot winner Trudy Williams.

Not only do the Gas Girls have a host of new recruits for the forthcoming season they also have a new name! Like many other teams in the women’s game at the moment the Girls have had serious trouble finding financial support for the coming season. Fortunately Filton College have managed to step in and fill the void, and in return the club has “done a Bristol Rugby Club” and renamed itself Bristol Academy after its major sponsor. Although such a move has disappointed some fans we only have to look at the crisis up the M5 in Birmingham where the first team squad has been stripped due to the men’s football club pulling the plug on their support, to see the alternative for women’s football in Bristol.

[image2]Everton have had a less dramatic summer. Their manager Mo Marley has been awarded a MBE for services to women’s football (something for Gary Green to aspire to!), and also managed England’s U19s, captained by the Gas Girls’ midfielder Katie Holtham, as they competed in their European Championships in Hungary over the summer. Meanwhile the bulk of the squad is the same as that which finished last season strongly. Several names will be familiar to people who watched England’s games in Euro 2005 earlier in the summer. Keeper Rachel Brown, midfielder Fara Williams and defender Rachel Unitt are all regular England internationals who featured prominently. Rachel Unitt (pictured) in particular seemed to turn a few heads during the tournament, which earned her a close season contract with American “soccer” side New Jersey Wildcats. Teaming up with England team mate Rachel Yankey, she help the Cats win the Championship Final, scoring the first in a 3-0 “blanking”!

Can the new look Gas Girls gel quickly to see off one of their close rivals in the league? Kick off is 2pm this Sunday, 14th August, at Mangotsfield United’s Cossham Street, come along to see two of the top sides in the women’s game battle it out.

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