Wolves Women more determined than ever after last season

It was a moment of disbelief when Wolves Women Captain Anna Price and the team learnt that their hard work ensuring the team would gain promotion from the Midlands Division One would be undone and the season be declared null and void following the outbreak if COVID-19 in the UK. Head Coach Dan McNamara has spoken openly about his emotions saying that he spent hours crying in his car at the sheer unfairness which he and his side had been dealt.

It was a decision that seemed rushed, and Wolves were not quiet in letting their feelings known to the FA about the decision. Chairman Jeff Shi has gone on record to express his annoyance, and also wrote to each player and member of staff concerned with Wolves Women to convey his sympathy and his support for the future. And the future is most certainly the most important thing for Anna and the team now. Seven arrivals over the summer alongside a passionate Head Coach and a forward-thinking Captain have given a morale boost to the squad as the girls look to pick up where they left off in March. Long-standing captain Anna Price spoke with Talking Wolves to reflect on last season’s disappointment, changes for Wolves Women in recent years and also look forward to the forthcoming season.

Anna has been Wolves Women Captain for a number of years now, and things have certainly changed and evolved for the better during this time. 

“There have been massive changes at Wolves particularly since Fosun have taken over. We now train at Sir Jack Hayward’s training ground, which is a real privilege. We no longer have to pay training and match day fees and we have the full training kit like the men’s side. We have also been involved in kit launches in recent years and included in the end of Wolves season players awards, where they have now included a female player of the season awards.”

In addition to Anna’s role as Captain of Wolves Women, she is also a full-time secondary school PE teacher and has to balance both roles, something she says can be difficult but is often worth it.

“I love both my job and playing for Wolves, so, therefore, do all I can to not have to sacrifice either. Some days particularly being PE teacher, out on fixtures can be very long, going straight from work to Wolves training and then getting home at 10:30 pm, however how much I get out of both it is totally worth it.”

In her role as a PE teacher, Anna is actively involved in the progression of the girl’s football teams and says that the standard of football in the teenagers she coaches continues to improve as the women’s game grows in stature. 

‘I really notice it when the young girls come to our secondary school as the overall standard continues to improve. The opportunities girls are getting at primary school through PE lessons and initiatives such as “the Wildcats” sessions run by the FA is allowing girls to be introduced to football a lot earlier and therefore having a knock-on effect.’

Reflecting on the disappointment of last seasons near perfect run being curtailed, Anna is surprisingly upbeat, thanks mainly to her forward-thinking attitude, but does not hide the sheer devastation in which the squad felt at the time.

​​”I personally found out the news from our manager Dan McNamara, who phoned me late morning on the afternoon that the National League were going to announce the decision. As you can imagine we were devastated with the decision after the hard work that had gone and how close we were to clinching the title. However, I am a strong believer in things happen for a reason, so we have moved on and are all raring to go to finish what we started last season and get our hands on the trophy this season instead.”

Head Coach Dan McNamara has made his devastation clear in a number of interviews following last season’s premature end, but he also spoke positively about the future for the side, and his captain speaks in glowing terms of his coaching ability. 

​​​”We have all been open in regards to how hard it initially was to accept the decision the National League made in terms of making Tier 3-7 leagues void, particularly when a points average decision was preferred to Tiers 1-2. However, this is now in the past and we no longer dwell on it. We have set ourselves new targets and are refreshed ready to go this season. A strong core of the team has remained together and the new additions that have come in pre-season have strengthened the squad in all areas. Dan McNamara is up there with the best coaches I have played under, the intensity of his sessions, high demands he has from players, really does get the most out the players and he never wants to settle for anything other than the best. His professionalism is second to none, and the club really has made massive strives, which I feel is due to his drive and passion to want the best for the female set-up at Wolves.”

Wolves Executive Chairman Jeff Shi has spoken on many occasions of his desire for success for the Women’s team and was extremely annoyed at the circumstances in which your season ended. Jeff’s support is certainly appreciated by the team, with there being very little evidence of such senior figures at football clubs being so invested in the success of the women’s side. 

​​​”We are so lucky to have the support we have from the Wolves chairman Jeff Shi. When we didn’t get promoted last season, Jeff Shi wrote to all the staff and players acknowledging our achievements on and off the field, which is a letter I will treasure forever. The changes that have occurred in recent years as stated above have all come about due to the investment Jeff Shi has put into the women’s set up through Steve Cullis working hard behind the scenes being in charge of Girls and Women’s football at the club.”

For the past two seasons, Wolves Women have trained at the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground and have therefore had access to many facilities in which teams in the same level do not have. This is clearly something that has been beneficial for the side as they aim for promotion from the fourth tier, but the state-of-the-art training ground offers far more than just a high-quality football pitch, and it is up to Dan and the team to make the most of the facilities they now have on offer.

“The training ground is an unbelievable facility that we have been fortunate to have access to. We start each session in the classroom for match analysis either reflecting on the previous game or looking ahead to the upcoming game on the weekend. We have access to the physiotherapy room for injured players and the use of the gym to start our practical sessions with pre-hab exercises led by our sports science and fitness coach. We use both the indoor and outdoor 4G’s at Sir Jack Haywards training ground, which allows the staff to put on exactly the sessions they need to, to ensure we are as prepared as possible going into matchday on a Sunday.’’

In recent years, players from Wolves Women including Anna have been involved in club events such as kit launches, something she is incredibly proud of and showcases the increased knowledge and respect for the women’s game,

​​​”It is fantastic to see how the profile of the women’s game has led to female players being involved in the kit launches. For me, it just shows how far the club has come and to be asked to be involved in a kit launch, for example, is an absolute honour. Also having a female player of the year Award being included at the Wolves end of season awards also gives the female players the recognition they deserve, with thousands of Wolves supporters following the Awards.”

In recent weeks the Women’s side has seen the arrival of Anna Renken, Eva Rogers and Alisha Miller. They make a total of six new signings since last season’s curtailment and Anna is excited to start working with them. 

​​​”All the new signings have added strength and depth into what already was a very talented squad of players. We have had seven new signings over pre-season, and all seven of them could play in at least the tier above. This just shows the direction the club is going and how our performances and reputation last year has continued to have an impact on attracting players of this calibre. Alisha, Anna and Eva are all attacking players and will bring a different dimension into the squad, all offering different qualities when going forward.

Defensively we have strengthened too with the signing of Kelly Darby who has previously captained West Bromwich Albion and Nottingham Forest and an additional keeper in Lucy Gardener who played for Coventry United in the Championship last season.  Orla Conlan Has also joined us from Birmingham West Midlands and again adds that extra quality both defensively and going forward having the ability to play in the wing-back role. Lastly having Tammi George re-join us after a season at Tottenham Hotspur has been fantastic, she came through our Wolves RTC set up and is an exciting talent for the future of the club.”

The team got off to a flying start to the season last weekend with a 6-0 victory over Leafield Athletic, a game in which two of the new signings (Tammi George and Anna Renken) scored on their debut and Wolves wore the brand new controversial away kit! Anna insists the side are raring to go for the 2020/2021 season, stating that ‘last season has made us hungrier than ever to get our hands on the league trophy and to also surpass our cup runs.  Any game we play we want to win, whether that’s a league, FA cup or County Cup game and we cannot wait to get our teeth stuck into all the competitions and see what the season brings.’ The team are not getting carried away however and will look to continue this form into the coming fixtures and finally gain the promotion which they richly deserve.

Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.