In the first of a new series we interview managers and coaches of women’s football teams in North Wales.
We start with Connah’s Quay Nomads head coach Stephen Boyes, who takes over from Sara Hilton this season.
Grassroots North Wales
Your first season in charge of Connah’s Quay Nomads women will hopefully start soon. How are preparations going? Do you have the squad you need?
It hasn’t been the best season to take a new team on. It’s had its challenges to say the least.
I think I’m right in saying we’ve gone through more lockdowns than had games this pre-season.
The local lockdowns have caused major issues as many of our players couldn’t travel into Flintshire.
Other clubs with more localised teams had the ability to still train under FAW guidelines while we were missing well over half our team.
This latest lockdown happened just as the squad was finding its feet and having fun on the pitch. As we were starting to get the ball rolling and had penned in a few friendlies to play, the third lockdown began.
I haven’t actually had that much contact with the girls yet apart from a handful of sessions, two friendlies and countless What’s App messages.
It’s been hard to prepare for a season that looks ever more likely that it won’t happen this year, but we’ve put in the applications for the league licenses and are ready to build for the 21/22 season.
To answer the last part of that question, no I don’t think we have the squad yet and we are definitely looking for players who buy into the club’s ambitions. Geographically speaking sitting right next to the border and a few minutes from the A55, the club sits in an ideal place that should be able to attract players from both North Wales and England, and if any players reading this are looking for a new challenge this year and want to know what the Nomads can offer them I’d love nothing more for them to give me a message on social media or e-mail me so we can share our vision.
You will be in the top North Wales League Premier Division. Do you feel this is where you belong and how confident are you of doing well?
With the season’s preparations temporarily halted I really couldn’t hazard a guess as so much changes in the ladies game over a season.
Our long-term ambition will always be to win any league we’re competing in and get promoted until we reach Europe. We’ve seen what long term investment, stability and development has done with the male side of the club and we’re looking to replicate it with the ladies arm of the club.
How much of an inspiration have the successes of the men’s teams at Nomads in recent times been to the ladies?
It’s been great and a massive beacon of what can be done.
It’s been no secret that the club’s success isn’t a fluke and just happened overnight. The work has been put in for years to build a great foundation from academy to first team.
The club always has great support from its owner, staff and volunteers. They always recruit the right coaches and staff in every position.
The support structure at the club is fantastic with how many great coaches are in and about the clubhouse, it’s such a great tool to have. When your spit-balling ideas on sessions the bank of knowledge is immense and was definitely one of the main reasons I have taken the role on.
More importantly though after having some great meetings with the club, Jay Catton, Jord Parry… they all acknowledge that’s how you build a successful team. One of the questions raised was what can we put in place to support the ladies side and emulate the success of the men’s and we identified that if we can provide the most professional settings, a quality pathway from children to scholarship and the best facilities we would hope that will be enough to attract the best players, create stability and build a strong squad.
It’s honestly great to see a club offer a gym membership at Lifestyle Fitness located next to the club at Deeside College to its players completely free.
More importantly, we think it’s imperative that the girls shouldn’t have to pay subs to play in the first team. We provide the team with a physio and share a lot of the staff that the men have.
The girls will be given all their kit for free in the same deal that the men receive. The facilities that the girls train on at the Quay 3G is first class with a renewed promise from the club that the games will be held there so no games will be called off due to unplayable surfaces.
Even down to eventually when we get into the Welsh Premier all travel will be provided buses and coaches paid for. I think it’s this type of planning that we will hopefully soon emulate the success of the men’s team and even up to the chance to play in Europe just like the men’s.
We are unsure what will happen this season (2020-21). However, the FAW have earmarked 2021-22 as a season of big change for women’s football in Wales. Do you intend to apply for tier 2 and have an under-19’s development side set up too?
Yes the paperwork has gone in for tier 2 and I believe the club is currently in talks with Deeside College to create a scholarship team to act as the u19’s.
Looking at the success of the academy and the lads’ scholarship programme that was set up by Jay Catton and aided by Dan Reece and currently being run by coaches like Gaz, Rich and Del, the club is really pulling no punches on trying to improve the women’s and girls game.
The club aren’t just stopping at u19’s, Jord Parry has been tasked to set up a full pathway and is currently looking for new players and coaches to join the team.
There are no North Wales teams in the Welsh Premier Women’s League. Do you intend to change that? How determined are you to make sure Nomads get into the top league and – more importantly – compete? Would you need to add to the quality of the current squad to achieve this?
I think I’ve answered this question in previous answers but I think one point that is needed to be said is that to play in the ladies’ Welsh Prem it won’t be just the quality of players that will be needed to compete but the league will be a war of attrition if you count in the travel commitments.
I do understand the fact that if we have to go down to them they also have to come up here to play us but so many of their away games may just be a 20 – 30 minutes car journey and for any team in the North all of their away games will be a long journey, especially as there aren’t any decent roads or railways to get to the South.
It will be easier for ourselves to play in the North West and personally I believe the FAW should be granting extra support to help teams in the North to give a fair representation of the whole country, especially if they want to build an all-Wales league.
Also I believe that for any team to compete in the league you need a group of players that all buy into the vision of playing in the Prem – willing to travel, commit to the whole day and more importantly the funds to make all the travel arrangements possible.
With some of the teams down south attached to Universities they also have a massive advantage in recruitment almost like the American College Football leagues.
Do you feel Nomads’ amazing Welsh Cup win over Port Talbot last season will make the big teams down south take more notice of your side?
I wasn’t actually in attendance of that game but it definitely made a few ripples around social media and definitely stamped the club’s intentions on the league.
Do you have any young players coming through who can be first team material in the not too distant future?
Currently we don’t have any teams in the junior section but as mentioned before Jordan Parry is currently in the middle of setting up teams.
We run a development centre for players who want that extra hour of football for girls of all ages and there is some real talent coming through who have gone on and joined county squads. There’s definitely the odd one or two that are running the show at their grassroots clubs.
What do you think needs to be done to get more North Wales teams moving forward, with a chance of competing against the south in seasons to come?
I’ve jumped the gun again by answering this question previously but I think investment, college teams in the u19’s league is a great incentive as there seems to be a massive drop off in players from the age of 16.
I’ve even heard the FAW are planning on stopping the performance centre in the North West (Llandrillo) and this will put the girls in the North at a massive disadvantage to the south.
Over the last few years girls football in North Wales has improved massively with the introduction of the new NEWFA Girls League and the introduction of loads of new teams popping out of nowhere, but not just that they are getting gold/ platinum charters from the FAW so hopefully as these girls age into the adults game it will create more talented players and teams to compete.
As the country is clearly cut into two parts with a massive mountain situated in the middle of it personally I think the FAW should allow dispensation for ladies adult teams to play in England as-well as Wales, similar to the TNS ladies team.
What is your main aim as manager of Connah’s Quay Nomads women? Where do you want to get to?
This is a great question that I’m going to try and answer as simply as I can. My main aim as manager is to build a professional environment for players that no other club can match.
Hopefully with this aim in mind it will naturally attract the best players and help build the strongest team to compete at the highest level. These are definitely the same ambitions as the club and I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into the role and really put my stamp on the women’s game.