The growth of women’s football in Mirfield: Could future England World Cup stars be developed in little Lower Hopton?
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Now, inspired by the England Ladies national team, who are on the brink of winning the World Cup in Australia, this little club in Mirfield, from September, will be playing at its highest ever level in the football pyramid.
Following on from yet another promotion at the end of last season from the West Riding County Womens League, Lower Hopton Ladies Football Club, which was established in 2015, will now begin the 2023 season in the North East Regional Football League D1 South.
This is Tier 6 in the FA system.
To put this into context, if they win this league, next season they could be playing against Bradford City. Another promotion after that could see them visit Leeds United. In three years’ time they could be up against Newcastle United and Halifax. The Women’s Championship and then the prestigious Super League follow.
Coach and secretary Wayne Hutchison, who has been involved with the team from the very start, is proud of the progress the club has already made. Progress which also includes the recent formation of a development team at the club, based on Woodend Road.
Wayne said: “We started eight years ago from scratch. Some players have come and gone and helped us along the way but, as we’ve progressed, we have recruited and gained more players.
“I have got a number of players who have been there from day one and are still coming now, nine seasons later. So we must be doing something quite right if we can retain them and keep them and they are happy.
“We have got two really successful teams. The development team got promoted from division four to three in the West Riding league last season and the first team got back-to-back promotions. They also won the league cup in 2022. They are all big achievements.
“I am proud of them. We started with just eight girls on a school football pitch on a Sunday afternoon to now having 40-odd ladies signed on between two teams.
"The development team starts at around 16, when they come out of junior football, and it is that transition to adult football. It’s a steady pace and once they develop and become more confident, the vision is always to try and get them from development to the first team and have that cycle of players.”
And although the quality of opposition in the Tier 6 league will be tougher, Wayne expects his players to continue to rise to the occasion. He said:
“The North East regional football league is a much higher league and teams are from further afield and there’s a higher quality of footballer. To get into that league is a good achievement.
“I’m expecting them to do well and hold their own. There’s no reason why they can’t be successful in that league and continue to develop.”
He added: “Because of the success we have had we have now entered into the FA Cup this season for the first time. For a local football team to get into the FA Cup is an achievement.
“There are a few preliminary rounds before we get to the first round proper but you never know what is going to happen. We could end up with a decent quality football team coming to little Lower Hopton in Mirfield.”
And Wayne believes the current success of the national team is a major assistance in young girls being inspired to not only take up the sport, but to take up the sport in Mirfield.
“It’s incredible to see the England ladies team reach the World Cup Final,” he said. “Their achievements have put ladies and girls football on the map, inspiring so many new players to join the sport.
“For ourselves it has been beneficial with an increase of younger players coming into adult football and ourselves being able to set up a Development Squad, adding to the camaraderie and social aspects between all our squads to have fun.”
Lower Hopton Ladies First Team’s opening league fixture of the new 2023-24 season is at home to Ripon City on Sunday, September 3.
For further information about the club, as well as it’s development squad, visit their Facebook page or email [email protected]