On the back of a number of seasons of success, that has seen the club come within a whisker of promotion to the FA Women’s Championship and official professional status, Derby County Football Club Women enter the new campaign with a different feel both on and off the pitch. In terms of the former First Team Manager, Sam Griffiths is excited at the prospect of the challenges that lie ahead and working with a more youthful squad of players in comparison to previous seasons.
“In terms of consistency, we’ve probably been the stand out side in the FA Women’s National League, having delivered top four finishes in each of the last four campaigns. We’ve achieved that through a squad mixed with high profile players that have played at Championship level and above and young players that have either come through our collaborative academy and regional talent centre system or been recruited with a view to realising promising potential.”
“It’s a model that has seen us progress from being an established National League side to one that has come very close to wining the title, and in doing so being considered for promotion to the Championship; However, with the well documented issues that led to a protracted takeover of the main club, we’ve had to re-adjust our strategy and focus more on youth as opposed to experience. In some ways the situation mirrors the one seen with the men’s arm last season, albeit without a points deduction, and it’s a challenge that we are looking forward to. The average age of the squad is lower than in previous seasons, however the hunger and desire to succeed within the group is there for all to see and in some ways its brought a freshness to the management team and myself.”
Off the pitch, the clubs General Manager, Duncan Gibb is proud of how the club dealt with the main clubs period of administration and is looking forward to the new season with optimism. “As a club we operate a hybrid model that has long been championed as an example of best practice within the female game. We develop significant levels of revenue ourselves, which in recent seasons up to the point of administration were complemented by additional investment from the main club. As a result, when administration came we were able to re-align ourselves accordingly and in hindsight made an excellent early decision to adopt a worse case scenario approach and view the administration as a season long challenge, which subsequently proved accurate to the exact day!”
“As a club, we’ve prided ourselves on being open in terms of communication both internally and externally, which ultimately made things a lot easier than most expected and allowed us to deliver the highest ever league position in clubs 32 year history. In addition to that we also became an official stakeholder in the redeveloped stadium at Mickleover, our home for the past five seasons. With a new ownership group only recently taking over the club, we accept that there will be a period of prioritisation and familiarisation, which will include the women’s arm of the club. Delivering progress at the right pace has been the cornerstone of our own success in recent years, so we are more than comfortable in terms of doing things a bit differently this season in terms of playing personnel.”
A strong sponsorship base has been key to much of the clubs success and stability, and Gibb is delighted with the clubs pre-season partner campaign. “The main club was still in administration when we came to setting our budget for the current season, so in order to be competitive we set ourselves a highly ambitious 35% increase in sponsorship revenues against what had been our best season to date in this area of our delivery. I’m delighted to say that we’ve achieved that objective on the back of our existing partners continuing to buy into what we do and how we do it, and new partners buying into our vision.”
Last season, the Ewe Rams were one of the best supported clubs in the National League and Gibb is hopeful that a combination of the England Lionesses success and a renewed feel good factor around the main club will only enhance that. “The media spotlight on female football in the UK has never been greater than it is now, with football fans recognising the standard of the product. In addition to that there is a real buoyancy in the city when it comes to all things Derby County and we hope to capitalise on both.”
Derby County Football Club Women open their campaign against Burnley at 2pm on Sunday 21stAugust at Mickleover. Derby County season ticket holders enjoy free admission on production of their season ticket cards, whilst general admission is just £5 for adults and £2 for juniors.