Poole Town Ladies’ head coach believes that the club’s youth system could be an essential factor in the Dolphins’ future. But what exactly makes the prospect of a new generation so exciting…?
With financial concern and facility funding being a frequent issue for many clubs in the lower professional tiers, the method of generating hometown talent through the club’s youth teams is certainly an intriguing one. Shane Terry, head coach at Poole Town Ladies, has taken a keen interest in the development system. He believes that the women’s game can produce the quality needed to improve the image of the sport.
“Back in the days of the ’90s, football used to be all about your hometown club,” Shane explained. “You had the likes of Alan Shearer, Steven Gerrard, John Terry. Players who gave everything for their hometown team and in the women’s game.
“It’s getting to that stage where players are coming through the youth system and staying at the team. You won’t see the £200 million transfer fees like you do in the men’s game. But you will see the passion growing from the players, which is really great.”
The Importance of Youth Development
Alongside improving the image of the game, Terry emphasised how important the youth system is to Poole and their development-focused strategy. He commented, “We had two of our first under-18s coming through into the team for a permanent basis”.
“This year, we’re looking at continuing that progress in the under-18s; we now have three or four players who are right on the verge of playing for the first team. So it could be that, by the end of the year, we have half a team aged under 18. That would really solidify our youth model of getting new people into the club. We also have some of our older players who have been here for ten or fifteen years, but have stayed with us because of their love of the club.
“Hopefully, that’s the model we can continue. Hopefully we can carry on bringing in young players who can really kick on with the game.”
A Growing Fanbase
As well as integrating an exciting new crop of young footballers, the Dolphins’ head coach also commented on the improvement in match attendance, which has the potential to benefit the club in other areas of operation.
Terry explained, “It’s really cool to see the fan base growing. We played Southampton and we had nearly 500 fans in the stadium, which is almost unheard of in our league. It’s going to be a deciding factor — the clubs that can touch base with their fans the most and get people through the doors are going to be the ones who are the most financially stable to kick forward.
“In terms of Poole Town, more attendance means we can afford better facilities, better equipment and we can place our coaches on more licensing courses to improve the level of education we have at the club. In order to make that happen, we need money coming in from somewhere.
“We’re trying to move away from the model that players need to pay subs, and more towards an actual revenue stream for Match Days. That would be crucial to any club’s future, even when we look down the line of three-to-five years, where most teams in the top four leagues could be growing their revenue stream.”
Pushing Forward with Social Media
Technology development is one of the most important factors in football’s growth. With this in mind, Poole Town Ladies has also adapted to a more direct social media strategy to maximise the club’s potential fanbase.
“We’ve been in contact with other coaches and we’ve really been trying to drive through social media. We’ve had people who aren’t even located in the Poole area wanting to sponsor us because they see us posting stories, admire what we’re achieving on the pitch, and they enjoy watching our team spirit when we play.
“Without that social media support, we wouldn’t have access to that revenue stream. Hopefully that can continue to grow and we can use that to gain more sponsorship from companies and drive fan attendance up even more. We may even be able to get extra technology in the future, such as live streaming for games, if possible.”
Other Beneficial Factors
Whilst player development appears to be an impressive quality at Poole, Terry revealed that changes in the league structure could also be a big benefit for the sports’ overall growth.
“From the top level, there’s been a bit of a restructure. There seems to be more money going into the top level; a bit more support in increasing the branding and awareness.
“It’s interesting, because you can look down through the league to where we are. You’re seeing teams like Southampton who have some financial backing. Swindon are playing matches at their actual stadium and teams like Cheltenham are picking up players from the WSL.
“We’re now at the point at Poole Town Ladies where the youth players are coming in and other existing pro players are moving into other areas of the football pyramid. You’re starting to see an almost continuous cycle of improvement coming from years of development taking place.”
As the women’s game continues to grow, the emergence of young talent will certainly be an important factor at Poole Town Ladies Football Club. Meanwhile managers such as Terry will, no doubt, look to further develop the youngsters aiming to begin their professional careers.
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