Sprowston

From zero to heroes!

Just Regional
Apr 12, 2024 3 mins read

So with inquiries coming in thick and fast, and the existing squads already full, coach Dean Sheppard worked with the club to launch the Under-11 Wolves girls’ team.

“The club were brilliant with us,” said Dean. “They backed us to get things up and running and they convinced the Norfolk Women’s and Girls’ Football League to let us enter the team, even though the season had already started.

“We had zero kit and zero players initially, with just five weeks before our first fixture, so it was a bit manic. But the new girls coming in each week settled so well and all came in willing to listen and learn.”

Having arranged a couple of friendlies to prepare the girls, the Wolves were drawn alongside more established teams in the League Cup competition, and their first proper match was a group game away to Red Rose in Cawston at the end of November.

“We were honest with the parents,” said Dean. “Every team we were going to play was more experienced than us, and whilst they were all so excited to see their girls play we wanted to manage their expectations. We knew it would be a tough learning curve and we honestly thought we’d struggle to win a game.”

As it turned out, the girls hadn’t listened to their coaches’ caution, scoring with almost their first chance and then adding a second just after half-time to seal a 2-0 win.

After winning their first match, the team managed another win and a draw in their first five matches before getting a bit of a football lesson at Thetford in January in a 5-1 defeat. But the result acted as a turning point.

“We didn’t play badly at Thetford, we were just up against some really talented individual players,” said Dean.

“But something clicked that day with the girls about playing as a team and they haven’t looked back, winning eight games in a row since then, including a stunning 2-1 win at previously unbeaten leaders Mulbarton.”

The results ensured the Wolves qualified for the knockout stages, and having seen off Fakenham Town in the quarter-finals, they were reunited with Thetford in the semis.

“They are all still so new to football that to the girls it was just another match. I think there were definitely more nerves amongst the parents than there were with the players,” said Dean.

But the nerves proved unnecessary as the girls produced a thoroughly professional performance.

“They just go out and play and enjoy it. They don’t have the foggiest clue what they have achieved and they probably won’t do until they look back on this season in years to come, but as coaches we know exactly what they have done and we couldn’t be more proud of every single one of them,” he said.

The girls will be massive underdogs against Attleborough Town, the top team in the league above, in the final at Aylsham FC. But after exceeding every possible expectation just to get this far, the girls are already heroes whatever the outcome on May 11.

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