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Sheehan: A Really Special Moment for Our Players
Tuesday, 19th Mar 2024 18:14

Ipswich Town Women’s boss Joe Sheehan says his side’s first ever home game at Portman Road on Saturday afternoon against Chatham Town will be special moment for his players with the landmark fixture having an impact on the community for years ahead.

Sheehan, who last month celebrated five years in charge of the Tractor Girls, says he’s not really thought too much about the result of Saturday’s game given the scale of the occasion, although his team, who are fifth in the FAWNL Southern Premier Division, are odds-on to defeat Chatham, who are second bottom having taken only six points from their 18 games this season and are without a win.

“I’ll be honest, I’ve not really thought too much about the result,” Sheehan said at today’s press conference alongside his captain Maria Boswell.

“I think the game’s bigger than the result, for me. Showcasing our level to so many people, being able to be hugely impactful for younger viewers that may not have seen us before, that will know the success of the Lionesses, Arsenal have sold out the Emirates, and I’m sure many children and young girls will have seen that level of interest and support.

“But this is different for us because I think it’s within touching distance for these young girls in our region and I think success for this Saturday will be how many young girls can hopefully go home on Saturday night and look at the sky that night and dream of being another Maria Boswell, as an example, and playing at this stadium one day.

“I think this is really different for us because this is within touching distance, the proximity in which some of our local children live that can potentially come and watch us for the first time will be a unique occasion.

“It’s going to be a really special moment for our players knowing the impact that they can have on so many children. I think that will be absolutely huge for this community over the next five, 10, 15 years.”

Asked what his message to those players ahead of the game, for which the club has already sold 7,000 tickets, will be, he said: “It’ll be showcasing a level that can inspire so many, but it’s playing for the younger version of themselves many years ago and trying to make sure that these young girls that can hopefully come and watch us on Saturday can aspire to playing for a football club at this stadium and have some role models that they can follow along the way.”

The Town Women have waited a long time to step out on the hallowed Portman Road turf with the poor state of the pitch until last summer’s renovation having been among the factors which have delayed their debut at the stadium.

“I think we’ve always been excited to play here but we’ve really valued [the AGL Arena in] Felixstowe, that’s been our home ground and they’ve treated us remarkably and we’re comfortable there,” Sheehan continued.

“We’ve recognised that with the hectic schedule that the men have, the window of opportunity sometimes isn’t always there, it doesn’t always align.

“But it was something we really determined to do this year as a football club and fortunately we’ve got a day and an opposition and a weekend where it’s aligned and we can finally make our Portman Road league debut.”

Sheehan says the levels of participation at grassroots level in Suffolk have grown in the years since he’s been at the club.

“But when I first joined, I remember meeting some people at Suffolk FA at the time and it was quite clear that the grassroots element of football in this county wasn’t as strong as other counties,” he recalled.

“And that really opened my eyes because where I was brought up in Essex and Romford in particular, grassroots football is massive. You couldn’t even get pitches. The number of leagues, A division, B, right down to D, E at times.

“I think when I first joined here, there were age groups that didn’t even have divisions in girls’ football. A U13s league might have only had four or five teams in it and a lot of the more successful grassroots teams were participating in leagues outside this county, and that was really eye-opening for me because straight away it made me realise that there’s not enough participating.

“But I think since our Foundation’s been launched and the access that they provide now for players, I think there has been another spike, which is great, and with the success of our ETC [Emerging Talent Centre] that we do on a Friday, lots of young players are much more local now to Ipswich.

“Hopefully with a real passion and enthusiasm from lots of key people, and staff in particular, we’ll hopefully see many more girls that come through out town into our system that can prosper in our first team one day.”

Full ticketing details for Saturday’s game can be found on the club website.

Photo: TWTD

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ITFC_nostalgia added 18:21 - Mar 19
Let’s make sure we get more to Saturday’s game than the lot up the road got to their game at Carrot Rd.

Dissboyitfc added 19:18 - Mar 19
It’s not their first game, it’s their first league game but they have played there in cup finals!

slade1 added 07:10 - Mar 20
I feel sorry for the girls having to play in a league which is near impossible to get out of.
Even winning the league doesn't give you automatic promotion. Plus if you are nor challenging for top spot then most of the games mean nothing,
The structure really needs to change.

Good luck for Saturday though ladies.

dangerous30 added 12:53 - Mar 20
@slade i think you will find they changed it this season.

I am glad the ladies are getting a game at Portman road and I hope they enjoy it. Good luck Saturday ladies

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