Women have the World at their feet

Belles' Aine O'Gorman tries to get past Arsenal's Steph Houghton. Picture: Andrew Roe
Belles' Aine O'Gorman tries to get past Arsenal's Steph Houghton. Picture: Andrew Roe

PRIOR to a few months ago, the prospect of watching England Women play New Zealand is not something that would have had me scrambling for the remote control, writes Paul Goodwin

But the new FA Women’s Super League has changed everything - and tomorrow evening I’ll be tuning in for England’s latest World Cup group game against the Kiwis.

Women’s football hadn’t previously pushed any of my buttons.

I was a young whipper snapper when star striker Marianne Spacey and the rest of the England team turned out for an international at Sunderland’s old Roker Park ground.

Not for the want of trying from the girls, it was a solemn and fairly unsatisfying occasion for the sparse crowd.

There was a distinct lack of speed and skill.

But the game has come a long way in a relatively short space of time.

And the FA WSL - together with the obvious progress that Doncaster Rovers Belles are making through their involvement in the new set-up - has really lured me in.

One of the league’s main goals was to generate more interest in the sport.

Tick. Crowds are up and the FA have also delivered a very effective media strategy, utilising social networking websites and satellite station ESPN.

It was also meant to improve the standard of play and increase the competition between England’s top clubs.

Tick. Some of the football I’ve seen the Belles play this season has been a joy to watch and they appear to have closed the gap on the likes of Arsenal and Everton.

And, perhaps most crucially, the WSL should ultimately provide an England team capable of winning the World Cup - I’ll get a better idea on that one after tomorrow night’s viewing.

Belles restart their WSL campaign on July 23 at leaders Birmingham.

The whopping mid-season break, caused by the World Cup, is one of the few negatives of WSL.

It’s resulted in fixtures being crammed into three or four week periods either side of the break, in what is already a very short season.

But the WSL has had an impact.

And it’s changed people’s mindsets when it comes to women’s football.

WSL is a good product.

With a little bit of tinkering the sport in this country could have a very rosy future.