The Women's World Cup has given us all the boost and confidence that girls can play football, says Tonbridge Ladies co-founder Chloe Derrick
ENGLAND LIONESSES skipper Steph Houghton said her team-mates wanted to inspire a nation and that is certainly the case in Tonbridge.
Mark Sampson’s Lionesses exceeded all expectations by clinching World Cup bronze in Canada – but more importantly they are inspiring girls to take up playing football.
INSPIRED: Tonbridge Ladies FC were formed during the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada when Mark Sampson's England Lionesses were bronze medal winners
Photo: Dan Couldridge
The Lionesses gripped the nation – men and women stayed up late to watch a heartbreaking semi-final defeat to Japan when defender Laura Bassett scored a last-gasp despairing own-goal to send Japan through to the Final with a 2-1 win.
USA claimed their record third World Cup title after thrashing holders Japan 5-2 in last night’s Final, while England claimed bronze after former Charlton Athletic midfielder Fara Williams scored her third penalty of the tournament as the Lionesses beat foes Germany for the first time 24 hours earlier.
Heartwarming stories came from within the England squad about their past troubles both on and off the pitch and not being paid millions of pounds to play the game brought the team to the hearts of the nation.
“We want to inspire a nation, inspire young girls to go and play football,” Houghton said after hosts Canada were knocked out in the quarter-finals.
Live television coverage from the BBC and online brought the Women’s game into everybody’s homes and inspired girls all over the country to take to their local parks.
England’s personal best in the Women’s World Cup has inspired a group of Tonbridge Angels’ supporters to take up the game and invite their friends along to a kick-about at Tonbridge Farm, which is adjacent to the Ryman Premier League club’s Longmead Stadium ground on Darenth Avenue.
The team, Tonbridge Ladies, haven’t played a competitive game yet, but they have set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account to keep potential players in the loop.
“I have followed Tonbridge Angels over the past few seasons and developed a love for football,” said Tonbridge Ladies FC’s co-founder Chloe Derrick.
“As you probably know, Tonbridge Angels FC has become a community-owned club. As part of the transition to community ownership it was asked ‘why do we not serve all the community by having a ladies’ team as well?’
“It has been assured by the chairman (Steve Churcher) that this is in the pipeline and will happen eventually, which is great news.
“Anyway, it was briefly mentioned during last season to see if there was any interest and was never brought up again so myself and my friend Sarah Hancock became a little impatient and were told if we were that eager to get the ball rolling.
“So we have started having some coaching sessions just to get us started and see what the interest is like.
“In week one we had eight girls come down and this has now increased to 12. The vast majority of these are complete beginners at a range of ages but they have all been enthusiastic and happy to learn.
“We currently have Dan Couldridge who has kindly given up his time to help us train. He is not a coach, however he does run a men’s Sunday football side (Tonbridge Casuals) and has been happy to volunteer to help out for the time being as he also has some equipment.
“We have also had Rob Mardell, who was just passing by one session, join us to help alongside Dan and he has kindly come back every week to continue his help.
“Where do we go from here? We would love Tonbridge Angels to take over the baton when they are ready – from what we have been able to research there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of women’s football in the area and with the enthusiastic response we have had so far, I am sure the team would go on to be a great success.”
Reflecting on the Lionesses World Cup campaign, Derrick said: “Yes, I have enjoyed watching the Women’s World Cup and very proud of how far and well they played.
“I genuinely feel gutted for Laura Bassett’s own goal!
“Yes, I do see the Lionesses as role models as we look up to them and have seen what they can achieve and who knows maybe one of us could be playing for England in the years to come!
“It was before the Women’s World Cup that the idea came about, however, I think it has given us all the boost and confidence that girls can play football!”
Rachel Watson has explained why she has decided to become one of the 12 players at Tonbridge Ladies.
She said: “It’s great to see that Tonbridge Ladies are attracting some interest from local websites!
“The credit for Tonbridge Ladies lies with Chloe and Sarah, who have worked really hard to get the ball rolling (pun intended!) with setting up the sessions.
“I have been attending since the first training session and I’m really enjoying it, plus I help out with the social media side of things as that’s part of what I do in my day job.
“A lot of the girls who come along have been following the World Cup and the Lionesses are certainly an inspiration to everyone, I’m sure you agree!
“However, the idea of the club has been brewing for much longer.
“Personally - and I can only speak for myself here - my inspiration for joining the girls was to improve fitness, meet some new friends and have a bit of fun.
“Playing football with Tonbridge Ladies has certainly delivered on all of those aims and I’m sure any other girls and women who decide to come along and join us will also feel the same.
“We have a friendly, inclusive atmosphere and everyone is welcome, regardless of age or ability.
“It would be lovely if your article encourages more people to come along to our sessions.”
The team meet at 7pm at Tonbridge Farm once a week. Anyone interested in joining them should visit: