The squad went from the highs of clinching promotion from the South East Counties League in March to having their season expunged and declared null and void just a few days later.
That means Worthing will have to do it all over again and manager Michelle Lawrence is already planning for the new campaign. She hopes to keep together last season’s squad, who won all 14 of their league games, but hopes to bring in some new faces.
While there is obvious frustration their efforts of last season were not rewarded, Lawrence has praised her squad’s reaction: “Of course, I am disappointed. The teams sitting top of their respective leagues may well have gone on to gain promotion but mathematically still could have been caught; we had actually secured the points prior to curtailment of the league. For me, The FA should have found a way to reward that achievement but they haven’t so we have to pick ourselves up and be ready to go again.
“We look on course to bring in some new signings but the priority was always to secure the signatures of the existing squad. Every indication is that they are staying, and I have been really impressed with their reaction to news that we would not be going up. They too are disappointed but remain determined to challenge again for promotion.”
“The league is operating as it ordinarily would, so we are working hard behind the scenes as they target a commencement date of September 6. The players will be issued fitness programmes to do during the off-season to ensure they are ready for a return to training from July 12, with the first of our pre-season matches planned for July 26.”
Exciting times are in the offing at Woodside Road. The club raised £43,000 from crowdfunding last month and that will be added to £107,000 already secured from a national football grant scheme and a business donor, to make up the £150,000 needed to pay for LED floodlights, a new food bar, and toilet block in one corner of the ground as well as improvements to the home changing room.
The work is being done to help the club’s men’s team in their aim to reach and stay in the National League but the women’s side are looking to progress too and the ground improvements will support their push for promotion and longer term goal of reaching the The FA Women’s National League.
Lawrence left her role with The Football Association in 2014 to take on the respite care of her nephew who has learning and physical disabilities and lockdown has certainly kept her busy: “I can’t deny it, I am exhausted! With Ryan being off school, it’s been a challenge finding things to occupy him – we are doing a lot of walking!”
With a professional background in football development, Lawrence was encouraged back into the game by Worthing and it is evident to see the impact she has had during her first 12 months at the helm. Aside from improved results, she set about raising the profile of the team and now wants to develop the infrastructure to ensure the long-term sustainability of the team.
Lawrence said: “We have just skimmed the surface of what the club can achieve. Women’s football has such growth potential and Worthing Football Club is well positioned to maximise the opportunities that exist, but it won’t happen overnight and there is much work to be done.”
It is likely the team will be financially impacted because of the Coronavirus pandemic but everyone at the club remain committed to developing the women’s programme.
Michelle is happy to hear from anyone interested in joining the team and from anyone whose interest lie in roles off the pitch. For more information about playing or volunteering roles, please email firstname.lastname@example.org