Squad

 

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AKA: “Tommo”

Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

Soccer background: ‘Since I was young I was always trying to prove myself as one of the boys, as I was always around my older brother and his friends. I got involved in every sport at school, and football quickly became one of my favourites. However, outside of school there weren’t any girls clubs in my area as I lived in a tiny village far form anything – until I was around 12, when the village created a team called Purbeck Panthers…and that’s where it started!’

How Unity is an “Alternative Football Club”: ‘The ethos that surrounds every decision that is made. Although the primary purpose of the club is to get girls into football, it is much wider than that and there is a huge emphasis placed on the impact that the club can make with in the community. The club places its focus on always making positive choices and trying to make that positivity catch on, and spread – this is what makes AFC Unity an alternative football club.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Women’s football needs the same platform that men’s football is given – it needs to be seen as an equal.’

Random fact: ‘I met Aaron Paul when I was in New York – he was totally cool and I was 100% freaked out. I completely blanked, and have no memory of meeting him. Good job I have a picture!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Surprising defending, since I’m 5’2″ and not all that big! But I am really determined, and despite my size I guess I’m pretty strong. I’m pretty relaxed, so if something doesn’t go quite our way, that’s okay, because there’s always next time! (However I am competitive and I do like to win…so let’s win!)’

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

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 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: ‘I am a vegan.’

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! #Unity!’

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I’d come to the end of the hockey season just before my 30th birthday in 2006, and decided that I needed to try something new. So I tried soccer!’

How Unity is an “Alternative Football Club”: ‘It’s about fun and good football. Positive talk all the time, and always trying to get the best out of players. Refreshing!’

What the women’s game needs: ‘See point 2 above!’

Random fact: ‘I have c.o.d. tendencies and think patterns and structures are powerful.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Colour!’

 

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

Soccer background: ‘I have watched and played football all my life. I started playing 7 a side from the age of 8 up until about 15. I then had a few years away from playing during my teenage years before getting back to playing at uni. Since then I have played in a number of five a side teams, but I always missed 11-a-side, which is why I joined AFC Unity!’

How Unity is an “Alternative Football Club”: ‘For a number of years after leaving university, I put off playing for a women’s 11-a-side team as in the past I have found them to be quite cliquey and difficult to approach. AFC Unity were the opposite of that and were extremely welcoming and approachable, and it is nice to feel part of a team again!’

What the women’s game needs: ‘It was excellent to see the excitement that surrounded the recent World Cup, and as a teacher, it was really pleasing to see the children in my class talking about the women’s national team. That is down to exposure, and the fact that the media gave the tournament a lot of attention. It would be nice to see more regular broadcasts of games and more media attention given to the Women’s Super League to heighten awareness and inspire more young girls to play.’

Random fact: ‘I sort of hold a World Record – for playing in the world’s longest continuous 5 a side match.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Assists (hopefully!)’

 

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

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!’

 

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

Soccer background: ‘At age 7 I became the only girl in the Chapeltown boy’s team – my first girls team was Loxley Ladies, now known as Steel City Wanderers. The next move took me to Barnsley Ladies, where I spent many years “laikin” and through this I was selected for South Yorkshire. I was completely obsessed with football until real life and new interests dampened my enthusiasm, though I have dabbled, playing for the university football team and in several 5 a side leagues.’

How Unity is an “Alternative Football Club”: ‘We aren’t just a football team; we have many facets, which collectively represent the fundamental values of society, as it should be.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Women’s football needs to remain grounded and sincere. It is a different game, not a lesser game, and should be recognised in its own right as one of exceptional skill and talent, to be resilient to those that constantly compare and patronise. Of course, investment and publicity is vital – as is a really good sports bra.’

Random fact: ‘I tattooed my own finger in Copenhagen.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Composure, and energy (just keep running!)’

 

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AKA: “Hirsty”

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I played football since I was 10 years old playing for Handsworth throughout the Junior age groups. I then played for both Killamarsh Ladies, followed by Socrates FC. I have also been coaching football for 5 years, and completed my Level 2 last year, before managing Sheffield United under Community Ladies 10’s. I have always enjoyed football and the positive affect it has on people’s confidence and development, which is what led me into coaching.’

How Unity is an “Alternative Football Club”: ‘I’m excited to be part of the project at AFC Unity and can already feel a difference, which I haven’t felt in many teams. At AFC Unity, people of all backgrounds and abilities are given the opportunity to play football. There are no cliques within the team, and I feel everyone is approachable.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘After the women’s World Cup, the game needs continued exposure and promotion to help it develop and grow. It also needs more energy from the FA on developing good women coaches and referees.’

Random fact: ‘4 years ago I did Killamanjaro and raised £500 for charity.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Solid defending – I love to tackle opponents!’

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AKA: “Millsy”

Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

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!’

 

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AKA: “The Beast”

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I’ve played football for as long as I can remember – it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed and always will. I was really shy when I was younger and never really spoke that much, so being able to play football with the lads at dinner time at school kind of gave me a voice without me saying much, which was a good thing for me – and I embarrassed a few of the lads on the way. I love football, and love playing it even more.’

How Unity is an “Alternative Football Club”: ‘They’re not pushy; if you do something wrong, you just get up and brush yourself off with no negativity – and they let you be you without trying to change your style of playing, which I think makes this club different to any other. Everyone’s different in the team, and I think the relaxed attitude makes you want to play the best you can for them, and makes the team gel and play really well.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘I think women’s football needs a bigger platform and more recognition. There are women playing football with just as much heart and passion as the men, which seems to go unnoticed and this really bugs me. Hopefully the success of the England team in the women’s World Cup will start to get the women’s game noticed more, and show young girls and women that you can play football and make a success of yourself.’

Random fact: ‘I was once a mascot for the Doncaster Belles when I was 9, which was the first time I watched a full women’s football match; I think they won 2-1, and I got to give the players their trophies at their presentation afterwards. It’s something I’ll always remember.’

What she brings to the team: ‘I hope my attitude and ability can help the team grow and get better. I hope to try and help get this team to where they belong – and that’s the top.’

 

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

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.’

 

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

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 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 third 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!’

 

33Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

Soccer background: ‘I got involved in football many years ago with Sheffield Wednesday Ladies, left for ten years, and came back to join AFC Unity.’

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 playing and more coverage of women’s matches on TV.’

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.’

 

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

Soccer background: ‘I started playing football with friends as a kid and developed a love of the game. From there I played for White Rose Ladies for nine years. Throughout those years I represented my county (Yorkshire) for four consecutive years, followed by a final two years with Leeds United Ladies.’

How Unity is an “Alternative Football Club”: ‘Integrity, diversity, determination and unity. We never give up.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘A platform. Everyone is aware women’s football exists but aren’t always aware of where to find a club or what to expect. More press coverage and marketing is needed to help get the word out there!’

Random fact: ‘I am a drummer – in my career I have toured the UK and Europe, played Leeds & Reading festival, been single of the week on Radio 1, got to number 6 in the Indie charts, gigged with bands such as The Jam, Kaiser Chiefs, The Zutons, Milburn, plus many other major bands, and released albums in the UK, Europe and Japan.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Experience, knowledge and good old British fight. My passion and love of the game is stronger than ever having not played for ten years. I’m an old school player, I’m strong, a wicked slide tackler, great vision, and I’ve got a killer left foot!’

 

36Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

Soccer background: ‘I have had a love for football for as long as I can remember and for that I owe massive thanks to my late Granddad. My parents then helped me keep my love for football by taking me week in week out to my matches. I trained at Sheffield United Girls Centre of Excellence and I played for Sheffield United Ladies for around 7 years but then had to retire after breaking and dislocating my ankle in a freak slide tackling accident at the age of 18. After around 4 years out I then tried to get back into football with Hasland FC and then New Bohemians.’

How Unity is an “Alternative Football Club”: ‘AFC Unity are a very friendly approachable football team. There is no judgement and nobody pulls you down if you make mistake. After all, we are all human aren’t we?!’

What the women’s game needs: ‘I think women’s football needs the publicity that men’s football receives. It’s a growing sport and the word needs to be put out there.’

Random fact: ‘I won a tournament with Sheffield United Ladies. I decided I was going to take my Sheffield United shirt off and collect my trophy in front of all the players and parents in my Sheffield Wednesday shirt of course! “WAWAW”!’

What she brings to the team: ‘I think I can bring calmness as I rarely lose my cool or panic when on the pitch. Once over my shyness I can also bring positivity and a laugh!’

 

42Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

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.’