Squad

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘My Dad told me I have played football since I could stand up (around 2-3 years old), where I used to chase him around the house and garden with my twin sister Claire taking a small ball off of him! I then went on to play with several teams including the Sheffield United Community Foundation, Centre of Excellence, and also at West Brom’s stadium The Hawthornes, as captain, with my secondary school team Meadowhead when we became the best girls school team (14-16 years old) in the UK. Sadly, I gave football up when I was 16 years old for around 6 years because I was put off by the pressure and lack of fun that was increasingly becoming part of my experience playing, and instead concentrated on my studies and politics. I got back involved when I was 22 years old and then decided to put my passion for football and community change to co-found AFC Unity with Jay Baker in 2014.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s not just about playing football. At AFC Unity we want to use football as a force for positive social change – this is important, as professional football becomes increasingly corrupted and saturated by money. We want to help bring back what football is supposed to be about – solidarity, having fun, hope, teamwork, and unity (hence the name!) Football can really bring people together and be a powerful tool for social change.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Less pressure and more fun-based environments from a young age – creativity and individual flair needs to be nurtured and mistakes need to be encouraged as learning points not failures. There is still a lot of work with breaking down social conceptions of what a girl or a woman “should” be doing, and so to develop the game we still need to keep challenging this. This requires the media to become considerably better at reporting and covering the women’s game, with there still a considerable amount of sexism in the media’s reporting of women’s sport.’

Random fact: ‘Little did I know I have been playing football without an ACL since I was 15 years old and I have only just got a new one! Go me!’

What she brings to the team: ‘I’ll work hard on and off the pitch to help maintain a 100% positive, inclusive, creative and fun club environment! #InUnity!’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

Soccer background: ‘I started playing football at the age of 10; my dad got me into playing.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘AFC Unity is solely a women-based football club with no ties to any men’s teams. They provide training sessions for beginner level and advanced, creating a positive and inclusive atmosphere for the community.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Support and funding.’

Random fact: ‘I won an Under 13’s cup final!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Positivity and support.’

 

Takeoff Award Winner, 2016/17 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘I started playing on the street with my cousins who are boys and went to football camp with them in school holidays, then once I was too old for that, I joined women’s football.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s very inclusive; everyone is treated the same – other football clubs are not like that.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More publicity and backing like men’s football – it’s getting better!’

Random fact: ‘I love Harry Potter.’

What she brings to the team: ‘I am reliable and think I work well in a team. I am supportive and always there for people.’

 

Unity Award winner, 2015/16 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘I have played football from a young age and played for a variety of teams. After a few years away from the game, I played again at university and then with AFC Unity.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The ethos. A lot of other clubs I have heard of or been involved with didn’t have the positive ethos that this club has. I was also drawn to the openness and approachability that you don’t always find.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Even more coverage to build on the excellent work of the Lionesses in the recent tournaments.’

Random fact: ‘I love Marmite and I eat it every day!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Pressing as a forward and hopefully some goals from free-kicks!’

 

Integrity Award winner, 2015/16 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘I have played within a football team since the age of 8; my mum used to play football so I guess it was her who really inspired me to start playing myself. I have played for several teams with my longest spell at Sheffield United Junior Blades. I also played for my University and for my school team, which came second in the Nationals, and was where I was scouted for the Sheffield United Academy.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The main thing that I think makes this football club alternative is the way that people’s ethos and respect is just as important as a person’s footballing talent. We have a bunch of really lovely, genuine people which makes being a part of this club even more desirable and welcoming. We also organise projects within the community.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘I think women’s football essentially needs more media coverage. The only way to influence people’s views on women’s football is for them to see it for themselves!’

Random fact: ‘Sometimes food comes out of my nose.’

What she brings to the team: ‘I initially came to AFC Unity through Venture Matrix for a project I was doing at Sheffield Hallam University and am now a director and help with the development of the club. I guess I also bring to the club my football experience – and another friendly face I’d like to think!’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

Soccer background: ‘I played football from a young age and at junior school I played in the mixed school team. I continued playing in senior school and was in the girls’ school team and represented Sheffield playing for the Sheffield School Girls. I regularly went to the Tony Currie’s SUFC school holiday camps and eventually became a player for Steel City Wanderers. I played for them for quite a few years in both their U16 and Open Age squads until I suffered an injury and needed surgery. Despite my sheer determination and desire to play, I struggled to recover from it and eventually had to stop and have barely kicked a ball since. Now, 15 years on, and thanks to AFC Unity’s Solidarity Soccer initiative, I have finally got back into the game.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘AFC Unity’s ethos is different to other clubs. They do a lot of work with the wider community such as the Solidarity Soccer initiative which caters for all levels of ability and backgrounds. These sessions are great and without them I would never have got back into playing football again. They have really helped me build my confidence and have given me the opportunity to play again.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Women’s football needs more media coverage and more recognition.’

Random fact: ‘At the age of 9 at the SUFC training camp, I won the open age (U16’s and under) penalty shoot-out!’

What she brings to the team: ‘I am really determined and will always work hard and give 100%. I’d like to think that I will be creative, assist my teammates, create a few goals, and even score one or two!’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

Soccer background: ‘I’ve played football since I was 10 years old; being part of a team gave me a sense of belonging and enjoyment.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘They’re inclusive and welcome people of all backgrounds – which means no cliques!’

What the women’s game needs: ‘To continue to increase exposure and offer more opportunities for young girls to play.’

Random fact: ‘I have volunteered in junior girls’ football for the last 6 years.’

What she brings to the team: ‘I will always keep battling, and love a solid tackle.’

 

Hope Over Fear Award winner, 2016/17 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘I’m not sure what got me into football, but I’ve been a Nottingham Forest fan since the age of 7. I loved playing with the lads at school and finally joined a team at university, where I played for Sheffield Medics women. In 2011 I took a few years out due to work commitments and travelling, but a couple of years ago decided I missed the fun and camaraderie – and AFC Unity seemed like the perfect place to pick it up again.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The focus on qualities other than individual skill – like attitude, teamwork and commitment. And the positive feeling within the team. I’ve never seen anyone blamed for a mistake.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘To keep up the good work! It’s been a great few years for the women’s game, particularly with the World Cup performance – but now we need to capitalise on the coverage the game is starting to get, and encourage more girls to get involved from a younger age.’

Random fact: ‘I’ve done barbershop singing since the age of 11 and have competed in international competitions in Nashville, Texas, and Hawaii!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Good team work and a positive attitude. And hopefully a few more goals!’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I’ve always played football from as early as I can remember. In primary school I was the only girl who played so had to settle with playing with the lads. However, when I moved up to secondary school I was able to join the girls team. Out of school I played for a team called Thorncliffe Girls. I played for them for a few years until unfortunately the team folded. Once I left school I went on to college where I played for The Sheffield College Women’s Football team, who I was with for 3 years. I joined AFC Unity last season.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The fact that everyone gets along. It makes no difference whether you’ve made a mistake or just scored the best goal in the world, every player within the team are always there to support you. AFC Unity don’t play just to win, it’s more of a team effort and that’s rare compared to other teams within the league.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Media coverage is most important when trying to inspire future players. The World Cup gave women’s football the leverage to show that women can in fact play brilliant football.’

Random fact: ‘I have trypophobia which is a phobia of irregular patterns or small clustered holes. For example, I can’t look at crumpets. The holes freak me out!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Strength and composure. Hopefully some great tackles too!’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I got involved in football with the sudden realisation it’s now or never!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘Positive ethos, equality, freedom.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Positive media coverage, more women, more funding and Jay Baker on national TV!’

Random fact: ‘I speak fluent French (sorry, boring – do not include that!)’

What she brings to the team: ‘Enthusiasm.’

 

Hope Over Fear Award winner, 2015/16 season

Unity Award winner, 2016/17 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

Soccer background: ‘I’ve played football for as long as I can remember. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, and always will!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘AFC Unity is a club like no other. It’s positive and does a lot for the wider community. It’s bang-on!’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More exposure and money. Women put just as much into football as men, and deserve more recognition.’

Random fact: ‘I can ride a unicycle and juggle!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Speed, skill, and power.’

 

Integrity Award winner, 2016/17 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘Well it was a bit of an accident; back in 1995, my auntie tried dragging me shopping whilst my uncle went to watch Oldham Athletic. I decided I would prefer to go with him, and we beat Chelmsford 4-1 in the FA Cup and I just got the football bug. As I was enjoying watching football, I began just playing on the street with the lads, and then eventually signed for “Chaddy End Girls U-8s.” (Obviously I didn’t realise at that point that I would undergo years of heartache as an Oldham fan).’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘Well, you can play for a football team as an individual, focus on winning, accept that you will get shouted at, skive training for the Bake-Off final, and spend twenty Sundays of your year feeling a bit frustrated. Alternatively, you can play for Unity and feel valued and part of something bigger, look forward to training and matches, run around with a bunch of people that all respect each other and, win or lose, take something from every game. If that isn’t good enough, you can still even watch the Bake-Off final, because we train on a Monday.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘It needs to learn from the men’s game. Women should play football for the love of the game, and to do this we also need more people like co-founders Jay and Jane to say no to the “football culture” and create opportunities like we have at Unity.’

Random fact: ‘When my beloved Oldham Athletic were in administration in 2003, I wrote to the club and asked if I could do a sponsored walk, 100 times around the pitch. I raised £390, Iain Dowie bought me a McDonalds to say thank you, and I won an award for “outstanding contribution to the local community.” The only downside was that I have now had to endure another 13 years of watching them!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Experience (I’m at that age) and enthusiasm.’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘For me, it’s the game itself that interested me. It’s fast, intriguing, and can be played by both men and women what ever their size, as long as they know the rules and are physically fit. I started playing football during my Primary School years. That’s when we were taught the rules and some simple tricks on how to play the game during our Physical Education Lessons. And so from Primary School through to College I always went for football during sports days. Because I love and enjoy the game so much, I played competitively for my school team in High School and College.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s different from other football clubs. They are so welcoming, and full of positivity; you feel you belong in a team, safe and relaxed. And its focus is not only on football on the pitch, but off the pitch, and the good of the wider community as well as promoting women’s football – coming together and helping the community, helping each other as a team through unity.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Women’s football needs a lot of media coverage and more good sponsors in terms of money.’

Random fact: ‘I’m a Christian.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Colour, a positive attitude, and my competitiveness!’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘I’ve always enjoyed football, just never had the opportunity to play it – and then I just thought, “I’m too old to play now,” and passed it off…then I came across AFC Unity and I got to know about the Saturday introductory training sessions that were taking place at the time so I decided to go along to them. I then got asked to train with the first team, then to register, and played the final few matches of the first season, which was a brilliant feeling to say I hadn’t played for a team before! The rest is history and here I am again ready to play my fourth season. Bring it on!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s a friendly atmosphere, everybody respects each other for who they are, there’s nobody shouting at you from the sidelines unless it’s for encouragement, and there’s never any negativity, just praise, no matter how we have played.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘I think it needs more recognition and more opportunities for women to play, as for me personally I have found it’s a great way to boost my confidence.’

Random fact: ‘I once trained as a mechanic.’

What she brings to the team: ‘A positive attitude and a willingness to win! #neversaynever!’

 

When You’re a Jet Award winner, 2016/17 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I got involved in football because it made me feel happy.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s a club with a social conscience. Although I love watching football, it can be a hostile environment. Along with organisations such as FURD, Football Beyond Borders, Football V Homophobia and clubs such as Republica Internationale, Clapton Ultras etc., AFC Unity opens the possibility of football being associated with socially progressive views. Change may be slow but AFC Unity is part of the solution. It’s also welcomed older women with less footballing experience (like me) and encouraged us to develop our skills until we are ready to register as a player – what other local club does that?’

What the women’s game needs: ‘To not be seen as an add-on to men’s football. You can enjoy both, or just enjoy women’s football. It would be great to see women’s football progress without making the mistakes of the men’s game, so there is investment from grassroots up and fair wages for the professional players without alienating or pricing fans out.’

Random fact: ‘Me and two friends sing in a three part harmony trio called “The Bints.” We have a CD which we sell in aid of a dog rescue charity – let me know if you want one!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Lots of energy, lots of encouragement and, as a developing player, ability to adapt to different positions or formations to help the club’s push for positive, attacking football become a success.’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I have a younger brother and we used to play football out in the street and backyard. Growing up there were no girls’ teams around so I had to play with my brother and his friends, as my friends were not into football. About eighteen years ago I started playing five-a-side football and in a five-a-side league. Earlier this year I played in the FA Peoples Cup, again five-a-side in the female veterans’ league, and we were runners up.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘Everyone is encouraged to try new skills and to never be afraid of making mistakes. It’s such a friendly team to be involved with.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More media coverage. After the Women’s World Cup there was a lot more interest in the women’s game, and that needs to be maintained.’

Random fact: ‘I’ve got an allotment.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Commitment and an ability to keep running till the end of the match – and I want to keep on learning and improving my game.’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘As a child I sometimes played football at the Wallsend Boys club with my older brother (other times, I played arcade games). I was always the only girl there, but I had fun. By secondary school, I played some girls football. I had a few years of no football at university, before picking up mixed six-a-side. I decided from there I wanted to play for a women’s team, and found AFC Unity.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘Positivity, and a sense of community.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘To get more people involved in playing, watching and supporting.’

Random fact: ‘I worked at St James’ Park while I was in sixth form.’

What she brings to the team: ‘A positive attitude, and a willingness to give it my all.’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I played for Sheffield Wednesday Ladies at the age of 14 and left when I was 16. I’ve been involved in football from a young age when I played for the school team.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘Most clubs want results week in week out, managers constantly telling you off, but with AFC Unity all we do is get praised for our efforts – and practice hard the things we could improve on.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More women taking part!’

Random fact: ‘I have a Jack Russell called Jaffa Cake!’

What she brings to the team: ‘I like to think I bring courage and commitment to the team.’

 

CFM Award winner, 2016/17 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘My granddad encouraged me from a young age to enjoy football and my parents carried this on for me. I played for SUFC Community Ladies right from the age of 11 to 18.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘They’re very accepting and don’t judge people. They encourage you to learn new things.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Women’s football needs the same publicity as men’s football. As it’s an amazing game.’

Random fact: ‘I worked for Sheffield Wednesday for a couple of years and got to be Ozzie Owl with the big costume!’

What she brings to the team: ‘I bring banter, apparently. I definitely bring sarcasm and plenty of it. I also bring encouragement and hopefully laughs and calmness.’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘Unfortunately for me there weren’t many girls/ladies football teams around when I was young. I didn’t start playing until I was 19. It all started with a letter to Rotherham Borough Council. I was put in touch with the Manager at Rotherham United LFC. I trained every week and helped out in friendlies, although I didn’t break into the 1st team for a couple of seasons. I was Captain of the reserve side for a couple of seasons and was then called up into the first team. I played for RULFC for a good 15 years when I made the decision to leave to start a family. In the meantime I signed for Dinnington Town LFC and enjoyed a good few seasons there (one season off to have a baby). I then made the move to Ossett Albion LFC who played in a higher league (I decided I had enough left in the old engine to compete at a higher level). After making the decision to leave Ossett I trained with AFC Unity and the rest is history in the making.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘I like the fact that no matter how good or old you are, you feel welcome and part of a team.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More financial support and maybe a little more media coverage.’

Random fact: ‘I once played in a testimonial match and crossed the ball in for Karen Walker (ex-Belles and England striker) to head the ball in the top of the net! Result!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Gosh, I don’t know what to say. I’m not one for bigging myself up! I think I bring hard work, experience and hopefully a friendly nature to the team. I’m hoping my football speaks for itself – only you can decide!’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I’ve always played football with my friends and with my cousins when I was younger, but was too shy to try and join a proper girls’ team. I ended up playing netball through school to county level, but always regretted not joining a girls’ football team. As I got into my 20’s, I really thought I’d missed my chance, and then heard about Unity. I joined the development side, and have since played for the Jets, and now the first team!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘I love how inclusive the club is. They give everyone the chance to play the game at the level they feel comfortable with, and provide amazing support in developing skills. I don’t think I’d have been made to feel as welcome as a novice 28 year-old at any other club! The social and community aspect of the club is amazing.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Definitely more investment, more exposure, and a more positive commentary. It’s forever being compared to the men’s game when it should be promoted and celebrated in its own right.’

Random fact: ‘I stood on a wooden cocktail stick when I was 9…and age 13 I had to have 3cm of it surgically removed after not realising how much was still embedded! I still have a massive scar on my right foot!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Energy and enthusiasm, I never stop running!’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

Soccer background: ‘Going to Hillsborough to watch Sheffield Wednesday started my passion. I then just played at school until I was 15 when I played 11-a-side.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s very inclusive and provides lots of different opportunities.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More support, money, and equality!’

Random fact: ‘I used to compete at international level in karate.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Energy, and support.’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I played football all throughout my childhood, playing out on the street and at school with my friends at all opportunities. I started playing for a team at the age of 10 and played for them until I was 16. I then stopped playing for the team, and barely touched a ball for 8 years. Now I’ve finally gotten back into the game, and believe I’ve chosen the best place to get back involved.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The ethos of the club isn’t simply about playing football, it’s about engaging with the community and bringing people together through football, trying to get as many women involved as possible.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More television coverage. It seems that only tournament England Ladies games are televised. This should be extended to all international fixtures and select domestic games.’

Random fact: ‘A photograph of me was once in the SWFC matchday programme for around 8 issues. The same photograph was then temporarily placed all over the SWFC club shop as part of a sale they had on. I was around 9 at the time.’

What she brings to the team: ‘I’m composed on the ball and can pick a decisive pass. I can also contribute goals from midfield with a decent long range shot and good heading ability.’

 

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I’ve grown up with two brothers and a father who played every sport going. He’s 70 this year and still playing every week – it’s in the genes.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘I think what makes AFC Unity alternative is their focus on positivity. Enjoyment and positivity go hand in hand…what’s not to like?’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More media coverage and respect. Why should we be second best?’

Random fact: ‘I used to live next door to a lighthouse.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Speed and determination. I might lose the ball – but I’ll chase it down after!’

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