Barnsley are due to host Newcastle United in their first game of the season on Sunday from 2pm at Oakwell in the National League Division One North – which is the fourth tier in English women’s football. The Reds lost their first three league matches of last season but still finished fourth, two points off second and 15 away from the only promotion place – which was a significant improvement from the previous season when they only avoided relegation on goal difference.
They have won four out of five pre-season friendlies, drawing one, but manager Chris Hamilton knows that form must translate into competitive games if they are to challenge for the one promotion place. Hamilton, who has been at the club for a year, said: “The girls have done really well in pre-season, they have been getting wins and clean sheets and playing as we want them to. But we are a bit cautious because it was exactly the same last season then we lost our first three games.
“I had only just arrived at the club and there were lots of new staff and players. If last season started from the fifth game, we could have won the league. This time we are a lot more settled and we really need to start well. “We have set some targets in-house for wins, points and individual targets as well. If we hit them, then we should do better than last season and be competing for the title. At the moment, we are just focusing on a good start then we will take it from there.”
The club has changed name from Barnsley FC Ladies to Barnsley Women’s FC and changed their crest which used to be the same as Barnsley FC men’s team. Barnsley FC Ladies are still operating up to under 16s level and are a separate club to BWFC. Last month, Barnsley Women’s FC announced they had submitted plans to Barnsley Council to build a £4-5million stadium in Kingstone which would be the first women’s facility of its kind in the UK.
Hamilton said: “It shows we have a lot of ambition as a club. The board are working really hard off the pitch to give us an exciting future and we need to make sure we have a good season to match that. To build the first female facility in the country is a great idea and something I would love to lead the team into.
“If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be through a lack of effort by our chairman and board – they put everything into it. We don’t want to play second fiddle to men’s teams all the time and be told when and where to train, that isn’t the way the women’s game is going.”
Chairman Steve Maddock added: “We have a meeting with the council soon regarding our plans for our own home venue which we are excited about. We have already come a long way in a short time. We know there is still a lot to do but we will meet every challenge head on until we make Barnsley Women’s Football Club one of the best in the country and make our town proud. This season is a big year for us. Obviously we want promotion, but so does every other team in the league.
“Chris Hamilton has also brought new additions in to the back room staff which now helps us with psychology and physiotherapy. We have a new match analyst and things are as you would expect at any professional club. We have just made available our first ever season tickets and replica kits and will try to make our match day experience for fans a good one.”
The Reds have signed goalkeeper Bethan Davies from Guiseley – who was wanted by Championship clubs Sheffield United and Blackburn Rovers – as well as Blades duo Jordan Spur, a central midfielder, and full-back Kim Brown. Jade Butcher, a 17-year-old centre-back, has also arrived from Sheffield FC.
Hamilton said: “We haven’t lost any first team regulars and we’ve added some quality to the squad. We have a lot more competition now and some players are being pushed for their place for the first time.”