The AFC Unity Jets – our newly-created second team – have returned to their “hangar” as the AFC Unity Board of Directors have decided the side will not finish this season in the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s County Football League.
An audacious experiment, the AFC Unity Jets took off last summer when demand was so high that the decision was made to introduce a second team as a way of giving previous first team players more much-needed game time, as well as offer opportunities to others who wanted to experience competitive football with less commitment – resulting in a squad of over 16 registered players throughout the season but not all available for matches.
Despite heavy defeats against much more established teams from far bigger clubs, the AFC Unity Jets kept their spirits high and ran until almost the end of the extended season, after several players moving on lowered matchday numbers further and finally necessitated its winding up.
As part of our upcoming annual spring break – and in the midst of speculation on the league having two divisions, or even with AFC Unity facing a return to Division 3 – the organisation will undergo an exciting restructuring and, as part of that, revert back to having one team next season, so our award-winning, strictly independent women’s football club can focus all of its limited resources on a strong squad of 25 players to get the club focused for further success in the future. This team is sure to be comprised of some current AFC Unity Jets players, as well as most players from the injury-hit first team. Announcements and invitations to try out for the team will be made soon.
The AFC Unity Jets reflect the organisation’s dedication to increasing opportunities in football for women of all backgrounds, at all levels – and alongside the Solidarity Soccer initiative, several other projects will be announced in the near future.
‘Being Head Coach of the AFC Unity Jets has been a great opportunity to help me develop as a coach as well as a player and it’s been a pleasure to work with a great club full of fantastic people’ said Emily Salvin, who took on the role after finding out a serious injury would keep her out of the first team for the whole season. ‘It’s helped me get through my injury as well as see the game from a different perspective. The players from the start have always supported and respected me regardless of me being so young, and they’ve helped the whole experience be so enjoyable.’
‘The AFC Unity Jets have been an inspiration to us all and have been the embodiment of Unity spirit,’ said AFC Unity Chair Anna Cordwell. ‘While we have had to face the fact that we can’t continue with two teams for now, those involved with the Jets have made it a thoroughly positive experience and have helped the club to grow. With the involvement of people like this, who are Unity through and through, we can all look forward to an exciting next season!’
‘The AFC Unity Jets have been awesome this season,’ said AFC Unity director Simone Fenton-Jarvis. ‘Their drive to learn, sheer determination, love for football and the club ethos has all been inspirational – and I say that not just as a director, but as a player; if we could bottle all of that, I’m sure every club in the league would be buying it!’
‘It is something everyone involved should be very proud of,’ said AFC Unity co-founder Jane Watkinson. ‘Emily Salvin has been a fantastic Head Coach and the team’s spirit and ethos has impressed and had a positive impact on many. With several women engaged via the Jets in competitive 11-a-side football for the first time, it’s something the club should be proud of and it’s something we will learn and build from. Thanks to everyone who put in so much hard work and maintained such a positive attitude to achieve what they did.’
‘In the sense of fulfilling what were in many cases decades-long dreams of 11-a-side affiliated league football – and giving other players game time to develop in a relaxed atmosphere without pressures – the AFC Unity Jets more than achieved its aims,’ said AFC Unity co-founder Jay Baker. ‘There are players who endured heavy defeats but kept going, and if you can build character, stay strong, play for that badge, and enjoy your football even without winning, well…for several players, very rewarding times indeed are ahead.’