Tag Archives: Women’s Football

Spurs Ladies captain Jenna Schillaci on three cup finals, life as a women’s footballer, and her love of THFC

Tottenham Hotspur Ladies v Charlton Athletic WFC: FA WPL South

She’s one of our own: Spurs Ladies captain Jenna Schillaci. Photo by Getty Images

In what is shaping to be a season to remember for Tottenham Hotspur, the feel-good factor isn’t limited to Mauricio Pochettino’s title chasers. Our women’s team also face a crucial month, one which offers the chance of glory.

In the weeks ahead, Spurs Ladies have not one, but THREE cup finals. This seemed like a lot of cup finals, so I wanted to find out more.

Spurs Ladies play in the Women’s Premier League Southern Division, the third tier of the women’s football pyramid in England. With just two games to play this season, the team is firmly in mid-table — sitting sixth out of 12th.

But if the league campaign is almost over, it’s a different story in the cups. We play Charlton in the Ryman Cup final on April 14, and Charlton again in the Capital Women’s Cup final on April 27. On May 8, the team travels to Kidderminster for the FA Premier League Cup final against Cardiff.

I got in touch with Jenna Schillaci, the captain of the team and a lifelong Spurs fan, to learn more about the big month ahead, and what life is like as a member of Spurs Ladies. She kindly agreed to answer my questions.

First, some links: You can find out more about Spurs Ladies here, and follow the official account on Twitter here. Ticket details for the Ryman Cup final (kick-off 7.45pm) are here, and you can follow Jenna on Twitter here.

Let’s talk about you. You are captain of Spurs Ladies: how did this come about, first in terms of getting into elite women’s football, and then joining Spurs?

Tottenham Hotspur Players Deliver Christmas Presents to Local Hospitals

Jenna on visit to North Middlesex hospital before Christmas. Photo by Getty Images

I started when I was around six years old. My dad set up a team that consisted of me and all my friends. I went to a Spurs trial in 2000 I think and went into the Ladies team when I was 16, I think I was the youngest at the time. I left to go to university and came back in 2009 when Karen (Hills, the manager) joined and have been here ever since. Three years ago I was made captain which is something I’m very proud of.

You play centre back and left back. You’re basically Jan Vertonghen, right? Tell me about your strengths as a player, and heaven forbid, any weaknesses?

I think I read the game well and have a good understanding of the game. I’m calm on the ball. My only weakness is I guess I’m getting a bit older and my hamstrings aren’t quite what they were!

From you bio, it is clear you are a proper Spurs fan. When did it start, who is your favourite player, and how often do you get to White Hart Lane?

I’ve grown up in a Spurs-mad family. My mum lived in Tottenham when she moved over from Ireland. I had a season ticket for six years when I was younger and sat in the Paxton Road behind the goal. My favourite player has to be David Ginola.

Spurs Ladies are in the Premier League Southern Division: for those who don’t know, where exactly is this in the women’s football pyramid?

So the Premier League Southern Division is the highest tier in the winter game. It’s been a progression for Spurs Ladies, when I first joined in 2000 we were in the Greater London League. We got promotion in 2012 and since then we’ve just been building and getting stronger and now we are a well established club in our league.

Looking at the league standings, Spurs are firmly in mid-table. How do you view the campaign? The record shows nine wins, eight losses and just one draw — is consistency an issue?

This season we have been playing some of the best football I’ve known since being here but we’ve dropped points against the teams above us just by odd goals which is something we want to work on. It’s not due to being inferior, it’s just small details we’ve been punished for against the bigger teams and we are looking to work on that.

In the cup competitions, it is a different story. We’re in not one, but three, cup finals — the Ryman Cup, the Capital Women’s Cup and the FA Premier League Cup. Tell us about these competitions: is one “bigger” than the others? And how big an achievement would it be to win them? Feel free to give the games a plug….

It’s an amazing achievement. The main competition that stuck out at the start of the season was the one we have just got through in, the FA Premier League Cup. We find out who we are playing this weekend but the final will be on May 8 at Kidderminster. (Update: we play Cardiff)

The Ryman Cup we were in last year against Charlton and have them again this year. Unfortunately we lost last year in extra time and that’s something we want to put right this season. It’s on April 14 at Cheshunt.

The Capital Women’s Cup — again we have Charlton! That is on the April 27 at Wingate & Finchley.

It would be amazing to come away with some silverware from those games and it would be great to have as much support as possible.

Let’s talk about life as a women’s football player. Spurs Ladies are not professional: how do you balance your work and sporting commitments?

We aren’t professional. We all have full-time jobs and there’s a few students. We fit the training in three nights a week around it. We all mainly do it for the love of the game and we have a great group, there’s a family feel to the club. It doesn’t feel like making an effort as we enjoy it so much and it’s worth it when we get three points. It’s a big commitment but definitely worth it.

How often do you train, and are you finding the training is becoming more demanding as more focus is placed on the women’s game?

We have a certain style of play with lots of pace going forwards. Our forward line would scare anyone on their day. The training is tough but it pays off. This season is the first we’ve done three nights a week, it’s more demanding but it’s paying off.

How much interaction do you have with the men’s team? Is there ever the opportunity to train together, or spend time together?

We see them on appearances with things like the hospital visits at Christmas time. They all seem really nice. Sometimes we watch them train and they are always very welcoming.

How do Spurs Ladies go about finding players?

We have trials at the start of every year. There’s a circuit of players in our League and Karen has a great knowledge and network of contacts when it comes to finding new players.

Talk me through the matchday experience. Where are the games played? How many people attend? Do you feel interest is rising? And do you ever get the chance to play at White Hart Lane?

We play our games at Cheshunt FC and they are 2pm kick-offs on a Sunday. The attendance can vary but this year we’ve seen a big rise and are grateful for the support of the main Club in helping with that. The big games we can get over 200, which is great. We’ve also noticed a huge rise in our social media followings from fans who follow the Men’s team. We haven’t played at White Hart Lane yet but do train at the Training Centre now, which is a great experience.

Thanks to Jenna for taking the time to answer my questions. Please do follow Spurs Ladies and Jenna on Twitter for all the latest in this crucial month. And while you are at it, give me a follow as well.

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The Boys Club: Less than 10 percent of Premier League directors are women

caplehorn

Rebecca Caplehorn, Spurs’ Director of Football Operations, with Mauricio Pochettino

*Update: This article was written and published before Margaret Byrne left Sunderland… Timing

When Spurs appointed Rebecca Caplehorn as Director of Football Operations in March 2015, she became the second woman on the club’s board, alongside Executive Director Donna-Maria Cullen.

This got me wondering: with two women out of six people in total, how do Spurs stack up with other Premier League clubs in terms of gender balance in the boardroom?

As regular readers of this blog know, my mind goes to pretty random things, and I love nothing more than setting off on a tangent. So I spent a little time researching this, using club websites and Companies House as the sources of information.*

So here’s what I found:

  • Out of 115 people listed as directors at Premier League clubs, 11 are women. That is 9.57 percent.
  • Just three clubs — Leicester, Sunderland and Tottenham (all 2) — have more than one woman director. No club has three.
  • No club has a majority of women in its boardroom. Sunderland is closest with 2 out of 5. Spurs are next with 2 out of 6. Southampton’s three-person board includes owner Katharina Liebherr.
  • Of the 20 current Premier League clubs, 12 have no women in the boardroom.

Here is the basic table, and I’ll add the full spreadsheet with all directors below.

Screenshot 2016-03-08 at 8.23.55 AM

By way of contrast, 26 percent of directors at FTSE 100 companies are women — up from 12.5 percent in 2011. There are now zero all-male boards. But less than 10% of executive directors are women, per Board Watch.

To me, these numbers seemed low, but predictable — football has long been a boys club.

This is starting to change as women such as Karren Brady, Marina Granovskaia and Margaret Byrne have assumed top roles at Premier League clubs. But clearly, the numbers show that the boardrooms remain overwhelmingly male. (I daresay a study of the racial makeup of Premier League boardrooms would show them also to be overwhelming white.)

Football remains a challenging environment for women, as this survey published to mark International Women’s Day shows.

The circus surrounding the employment tribunal involving Eva Carneiro, the former Chelsea team doctor, has been excruciating to witness. Even the most desperate C-list celebrity wannabe would find the attention piled on this woman over the top.

The media (or the shoutier parts of it, at least) don’t help in the portrayal of women in football. This is from the Daily Mail on the appointment of Granovskaia as new Chelsea CEO:

Her glamorous good looks will inevitably draw comparisons with the outspoken, perfectly groomed ‘first lady of football’ and Apprentice star Karren Brady.

But anyone ready to dismiss Ms Granovskaia as merely a pretty face should be aware of a core of steel behind the megawatt smile.

I’m guessing, if it had been a Russian bloke, we’d not be talking about his “megawatt smile”. This article was written by a female journalist, by the way, so this really is more a case of the Daily Mail being moronic, not men in general (and I’ve justified it all by reading it).

In keeping with the low-key, drama-free Tottenham 2.0, both Donna-Maria Cullen and Rebecca Caplehorn have kept their heads below the parapet since assuming their positions at Spurs. What little I’ve read or heard about their work has been entirely positive.

Cullen received rave reviews for her representation of the club at the Haringey planning sub-committee meeting when the new stadium scheme was given approval. Caplehorn has received praise in various articles concerning an improvement in how Spurs are going about the business of player trading and football operations — although this could be as much a dig at Daniel Levy as anything else.

So does the number of women running football clubs in England matter? It depends on your view of things. My guess, if you’ve read this far, it is because you feel this issue is either interesting, or important. But for many it will seem like a fairly trivial matter in the broader scheme of things.

My research was more a case of journalistic curiosity than some Guardianista attempt at being “right on”. I didn’t know it was International Women’s Day until yesterday, such is my high level of awareness — although I’ll admit I subsequently brought this piece forward so that it would be timely.

But I’ll add, from a personal point of view, I believe balance in all things is good, and if we had more women running companies, government departments and, yes, football clubs, the standard of decision-making would be higher. I’m sure there are thousands of studies that show the benefit of gender balance in the workplace and in management teams.

Certainly, less than 10% of women in Premier League boardrooms seems very low, and personally I hope that number increases in the years to come.

 

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat (and other random stuff).

 

*The primary source was Companies House. However, where club websites appeared more up-to-date, or provided more clarity, I used them to get the information. I counted all directors, but did not include club secretaries. Full data below.

 

Some love for the Women’s World Cup

I found myself watching Sweden v Nigeria in the Women’s World Cup last night — the weird new Kevin McCloud programme on C4 didn’t keep my interest and I was casting around on the iPad for alternative viewing.

I must say I loved it, and I’ll definitely be watching the England women tonight and a few more matches as well. I haven’t previously watched Women’s football — not for reasons of sexism, it’s just that there is a ton of sport on all the time and I can only watch so much. And in the summer, I watch cricket, which takes up an awful lot of viewing time. You can’t fake interest in something — you need something that hooks you, and Sweden v Nigeria had me from the moment I switched over (when Sweden were already ahead).

Sweden and Nigeria just went at each other, hurling themselves forward in attack with utter abandon and none of the tedious, sub-Catenaccio that seems to pass for most international men’s football at the moment.

Nigeria had one player, Asisat Oshoala, who looked like she was from another planet — she had incredible pace and power, and was also seriously skilled. She was constantly on the move, a bit like Luis Suarez, and looked totally world class. It was quite thrilling to see. I’d strongly recommend watching Sweden’s third goal — it was a beautiful move, the sort that you’d salivate over if it was by a Wenger or Guardiola team…one touch play, good movement, smart positioning.

Certainly, in this game at least, the attacking play was far better than the defending. The keepers in particular weren’t great. But you know what, it was better for it. It reminded me, more than anything, of watching my favourite Spurs teams of old. It was like being back when when scoring goals was more important than preventing them, and shaky centrebacks and missing fullbacks were welcomed as contributing to the entertainment, rather than sparking days of social media fury, blogs seething with recrimination after three more dropped points, and angry letters to the F365 inbox.

I really enjoyed this because, unlike much in the high-stakes modern men’s game, this actually was fun to watch. Come on England tonight!

(Originally published as a letter on Football 365 on June 9)