Shrewsbury Town: Shrewsbury Ladies dreaming of the WSL

By Josh HarbourneBBC Sport Kick-Off Reporter
Shrewsbury Town Ladies
This is Shrewsbury Town's second iteration of a women's team, with the previous side folding in 2007

Sparks famously once sang "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us", but that is not a sentiment that is shared by Shrewsbury Town Football Club.

In June 2013, Shrewsbury Town's Community Trust programme reformed the Shrewsbury Town Ladies team and it has been a growing success story since.

Managed by lifelong Shrewsbury fan Sean Evans, the club achieved their first promotion last season to the West Midlands Division One league.

The club are now in the sixth tier and are four potential promotions away from the Women's Super League - the pinnacle of women's football in England.

Shrewsbury Town Ladies
The average age of the Shrewsbury Town Ladies squad is just 20

"I've got my own ideas where I want to be in five years," Evans told BBC Sport. "I'm a believer in a good work ethic, and if everyone works hard then I firmly believe we can get to Women's Super League standard."

The manager is very aware that work must be done with the side before they can achieve those lofty ambitions, with teams looking to enter the Women's Super League needing to first meet sufficient licensing requirements.

"We feel lucky that we have use of the badge and club colours," he said. "We want to become self-sufficient and self-funded, and over time it will improve. I'm just proud to be involved with the club."

"One of the best moments of my life"

Greenhous Meadow
Shrewsbury Town chief executive Matt Williams has said that the club "wouldn't discount" hosting Shrewsbury Ladies games at the Greenhous Meadow in the future

Evans, 27, works full-time in I.T. for the National Health Service at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. He and his staff - composed of Tom Leather, Penny Owen, Alun Owen, Chris Bradshaw and others - all work for free in their spare time for Shrewsbury's community programme.

"I absolutely love what I do," he said. "I don't get paid, but I don't expect to or want to at the moment.

"Winning promotion was probably one of the best moments of my life. With Shrewsbury Town winning promotion and me being manager of the ladies team, it was brilliant."

Shrewsbury Town Ladies factfile
Founded in June 2013 by the Shrewsbury 'In the Community' programme
They are managed by lifelong Shrewsbury Town fan Sean Evans
Midfielder Daisy Bradshaw is the sister of current Walsall and ex-Shrewsbury striker Tom Bradshaw
They play their home games at Shrewsbury College of Arts & Technology

Shrewsbury Town chief executive Matt Williams says he has been delighted by the progress made by the ladies team.

"I'm grateful to Sean, the coaches and the community team for delivering these projects, in their own time for no money," he said.

"We will support Shrewsbury Ladies in the sense of letting them tap into the kit deals, and we give them free advertising in the programme and on the website.

"But we can't afford to subsidise a ladies team. Every penny we generate goes into the first team - it must be likewise with the women's team.

"In the short-term, they have to be a standalone business. From an accounting point of view and a committee point of view, they need to be kept separate. We will apply the same principles that are used running the first team to the running of the women's team."

"The women's game is growing"

Following England's third-place finish at the Women's World Cup in Canada last month, attendances in the WSL have increased, with the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Notts County played out in front of a record crowd of 30,710 at Wembley.

"The women's game is growing," said Williams. "The days of it being all women are gone, and the fact that England did so well in Canada speaks volumes for how much the game is growing.

"I believe it will result in male ex-players with UEFA B licences running women's teams."

Tania Prior, a former Portugal international, who now plays for Shrewsbury Ladies after spells with Portuguese sides Sequeirense and Fonte Boa, says that women's football has greater status in England than in her homeland.

"It's definitely more appreciated in England than in Portugal," she said. "Portugal doesn't appreciate women's football that much. There's more developing teams now, but nothing compared to England."

"Every pro club should have a women's team"

Shrewsbury Town Ladies
From left to right: Tania Prior (centre forward), Chris Bradshaw (coach), Sean Evans (manager), and Daisy Bradshaw (midfielder)

Despite Prior's positive assessment, Evans believes the perception of women's football in England still needs to alter.

"The mindset needs to be changed," he said. "Some haven't watched a game of women's football and there needs to be a 'have a go' attitude. It's enjoyable and we will be grateful for any support we get.

"I really believe every professional football club should have a women's team. It baffles me that so many clubs such as Manchester United do not."

"Our aspiration is to play at the top level"

Shrewsbury Town Ladies
Shrewsbury Town Ladies celebrated their first ever promotion last season

Shrewsbury Town Ladies' are now set to begin their first-ever campaign in the sixth tier, with their first league game of the season away to Stone Dominoes on 20 September.

"To represent the town is really good," said midfielder Daisy Bradshaw, sister of Walsall striker Tom Bradshaw. "My brother made it a big deal because he played for Shrewsbury and it made me realise how big the club is.

"This season we will take it bit by bit. We have better players and we have grown as a team. It's definitely possible that we can get higher up the leagues."

When asked about his hopes the ladies team, Williams added: "I want the number of girls and ladies playing football under the Shrewsbury Town banner to have increased.

"We want our players to enjoy the experience of playing and being involved in football. We want them to become better people because they have been involved with Shrewsbury Town.

"It really is a growth area that we can tap into. Yes, our aspiration is to play at the top level, but let's be realistic - we are at the very bottom of the ladder."

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