Source: Paul Currie for FA

In conversation with Derby County Ladies’ Sheila Rollinson

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The FA is looking to shed light on women and girls’ football as part of its Gameplan for Growth – a pledge to double participation of women and girls in football by 2020.  As part of the promotion they were kind enough to introduce us to Sheila Rollinson and Derby County Ladies Football Club.

Sheila Rollinson (Photo: Paul Currie for FA)

Derby County Ladies Football Club owes its existence and current status thanks to the devotion and hard work of Sheila Rollinson who founded the club back in 1990. She is at the heart of the club and her dedication to Derby County Ladies is a testament to where the club is today.

Sheila has been the recipient of several awards including the FA Community Award for Outstanding Contribution To Football and the UK’s Point of Light Award, which was presented by MP Tracey Crouch.

Commenting on the award then Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The very existence of Derby County Ladies Football Club is testament to Sheila’s incredible passion and commitment. From Club Secretary to physiotherapist, from refreshments to match programmes, no task is too big or too small. Sheila is a leading light in grassroots football and for almost four decades she has given generations of women and girls the chance to play football in the Midlands.”

Sheila Rollinson with Chief Executive Duncan Gibb  (Photo: Paul Currie for FA)

Sheila attended an all-girls school where there was little opportunity to kick a ball around, and it wasn’t until she was 17 that she actually began to play football.  This was in 1973  and consequently it was difficult for girls/women to find a place to play, let alone a referee or pitch but the dedicated found a way.

Four years later she moved to Derby where she eventually started a  new club locally called Burton Wanderers where Sheila took the role of player/manager (although anyone who has been involved with grassroots football will know that this entails far more than).  Burton evolved into Beacon Wanderers and in 1990 Derby County began a Football in the Community initiative and persuaded Sheila to take up the reins: Derby County Ladies FC was born.

Sheila began to take her coaching more seriously and passed her first coaching badges in 1992 and in 2000/2001 got her UEFA B qualification.

Sheila Rollinson with the team (Photo: Paul Currie for FA)

Although playing was obviously her first love there came a time when Sheila realized that she would be of more value to the Club by using her talents to coach and took on the U14s stayed with them as they progressed to U16 and then continued to look after that age group.  As she pointed out, this is a crucial age and  the Club is not just producing and nurturing fine football talent, they are encouraging young women to grow and develop and be the best that they can be is all areas of their lives.

From humble beginnings Derby County now have eleven teams; three senior and eight junior with some great players coming through.

Although the women’s side is run completely separately to the men’s club with separate committee and fundraising they have benefited from grants of kit and coaching help and reciprocal deals on tickets.  There is also a link with the Centre of Excellence.

In the last couple of years they have managed to double the crowd size; for some games of particular interest locally the number grows hugely and some games have even been streamed live.

This is an ambitious club and they are currently preparing their bid for entry into the newly re-vamped FA WSL2.  Sheila told me that if Derby’s bid is not accepted this time around they want to be in the best possible position to get there at the next opportunity in order that they can continue to be the best that they can be.

This Sunday, 14th January, Derby County Ladies will take on Brighouse Town in a re-scheduled third round clash of The SSE Women’s FA Cup. Should the side win they will face side Sunderland in the fourth round where they will relish the opportunity to take on an FA WSL 1 club in the competition.

Sheila said, “The SSE Women’s FA Cup is our one chance to meet teams from outside of the Women’s Premier League and that’s always a good experience. Now we know that a trip to FA WSL1 club Sunderland is the prize for the winning team this weekend takes on even more meaning. We’d love the chance to see how we measure up against a team from the top level in women’s football.”

We look forward to seeing how Derby County Ladies get on on Sunday, throughout the rest of the season and also with their FA WSL2 bid and wish them the very best of luck.  We hope to have more Derby County articles in the future.

The SSE Women’s FA Cup Final will take place at Wembley Stadium connected by EE on Saturday 5 May, 2018. Kids go free and tickets available on www.thefa.com/tickets