With the 2004 / 2005 domestic football campaign coming to an end, femaleSOCCER.net columnist Katie Holtham has decided to reflect upon how she feels her first experience of the FA Nationwide Women’s Premier League has gone. The influential Bristol Rovers midfielder is more than pleased with her debut season for the Gas Girls and of course, the England under 19’s captain hasn’t gone on her summer holidays quite yet. Katie will jet out to Italy on Friday with the rest of Mo Marley’s under 19’s squad, as England enter group phase two of the qualifying rounds for the 2005 UEFA Under 19’s European Championships.
At Rovers we played our last game of the season at the weekend away to Birmingham and sadly it ended in defeat. Our hopes weren't helped when we lost our goalkeeper in the first half and one of our centre halves had to play play in goal. The Blues are a quality side and it wasn't the start to the game we'd been looking for. Rachel Yankey's delivery from out wide was causing us all sorts of problems and I think two of their goals came from set-pieces, so fair play to them, they really did capitalise on the fact that we were playing without a recognised goalkeeper.
The final result was 3-1, but we can take plenty of heart from our
second half performance when we started to gain a bit of confidence and played much more football. Birmingham have got some very talented
players though and it shows the progress we have made as a team that we returned from a difficult encounter at a top team in the league, disappointed to have not picked up any points.
From a personal perspective, I can’t complain with how the season has gone as a whole. It’s been quite successful in terms of the team doing well in the league and especially reaching the semi-finals stage of the FA Cup. I found it difficult at first adapting to the higher tempo of the football at this level, but I’ve found my feet since then and feel I’ve become more dominant within my midfield role. It’s all about learning and trying to better yourself week in and week out.
Ideally I was hoping that we could have attained a top four league finish, but we failed to beat any of the top four sides and beat Leeds, who are in sixth twice, so a fifth placed finish would be a fair assessment of our season really if you weigh everything up.
Here at Rovers it is the clubs best ever finish, so we can look back at the season with a lot of pride, especially as the team were fighting against relegation just last season. The manager brought a lot of new players in, including myself and we’ve done well to turn things around so quickly.
I can’t wait to get out there to Italy with the under 19’s for our qualifying matches next week. The whole squad realise how important these matches are. This is my last year with the under 19’s squad and it’s been a great experience. However, we missed out on the finals last time out and I don’t want that feeling again. I’ve got faith in the current squad that we have. It has a lot of potential and we need to be in the finals. A lot of the players involved are part of the FA’s National Women’s Player Development Centre here at Loughborough University and we’re all really looking forward to the challenge ahead.
A Captains Role
It’s vitally important that when you’re away from home on international duty that there is a great team spirit within the camp. Being one of the more experienced players at the under 19’s level and especially as captain, I do see it as part of my role to help contribute to that. We’ve got some talented young players, but like anybody playing for their country, you can get nervous and it’s important to help those younger players come through that so they can do themselves justice, not just by encouraging them, but also by leading from example in my own performances.
My next column won’t be until after our qualifying matches are over, so I’ll be updating you all with how the matches went when I get back. Hopefully by then we’ll have qualified for finals set to be held in Hungary this summer!
Katie Holtham is the current captain of the England under 19’s team. She is a central midfielder and plays her club football for Bristol Rovers in the FA Nationwide Women’s Premier League. Katie was also called up for the senior England squad training camp at La Manga in Janurary 2005.
She has also previously played for Lincoln City Ladies in the FA Women’s Premier League Northern Division and is in her first year as a student at the FA’s Loughborough University-based National Women’s Player Development Centre.