North Wales women’s football greats: No 6 – Hayley Gibson

Hayley Gibson of Llysfaen Lionesses

Hayley Gibson is the sixth player to feature in our North Wales Greats women’s football series.

She follows fellow stars Ceryl Jones, Iona Williams, Emma Fisher, Gail Naylor-Jones and Alison Mummery, who have all been in the spotlight on Grassroots North Wales in recent weeks.

Having stood out playing club football in the past for the likes of Colwyn Bay and Llandudno Junction, Hayley made a welcome comeback with Llysfaen Lionesses in the North Wales Recreational League last season.

At what age did your interest in football start?

I have always enjoyed playing football, I have an older brother who used to play (goalkeeper) so I spent many hours on our local primary school field playing football with him and his friends (when he’d let me!!).

He supported Manchester United so I had no choice but to support them too. He taught me all the names of the players in his Panini Sticker album and football posters on his wall.

What was the name of your first team?

Unfortunately girls/ladies football wasn’t really a thing around Mid-Wales when I was younger apart from in youth clubs or local YFC competitions.

The only girls team I remember playing in was a youth club team where we played in a 5-a-side competition and made it all the way to the finals and won.

It wasn’t until I went to university in Bangor where I tried out for the football team that I really played for a ladies team.

What is your fondest early memory of playing football?

I played for my brother’s 5-a-side team in a local show once and was the only girl, but it didn’t stop me. My friends were all into horses, but I wanted to play football and rounders!

Name the teams you have represented in your career

Bangor University
Llandudno Junction
Colwyn Bay
North Wales Representative Squad
Llysfaen Lionesses

Who was your first senior team?

A Colwyn Bay Ladies cup-winning side

When I moved to Colwyn Bay, I responded to an advertisement in the local press that they were trying to set up a ladies football squad and (ex-Manchester United striker) Deiniol Graham was going to coach and manage us.

I joined to make friends as I had moved here from Newtown, Mid-Wales, for my first teaching post. We played our matches on Conwy’s FC pitch. I made some great friends who made it easy for me to settle here.

What is the most memorable match you have played in?

There are many matches that stick in my mind. Playing against Corwen on a pitch that was swamped in mud, battles with Pwllheli where (at the start) we just could not seem to beat them, but my most memorable has to be in Wrexham where we played in a cup final, I was awarded POM, was fortunate enough to captain the team and to top it all off, we won!
It was the first time I have ever lifted a trophy.

Have you played any representative football (Wales, North Wales, Coast etc)?

I was proud to be selected for the North Wales Representative squad and equally proud to be chosen to captain our first match.

Describe your best ever goal

I didn’t score many goals being a centre half and we used to joke I would get a nose bleed if I crossed the halfway line.

I do remember a ‘quality’ goal playing at the Hotpoint Club in Llandudno Junction and running down the wing, I kept on going for some reason and crossed the ball in which lobbed the goal keeper and went in! I obviously meant it!

How is women’s football in North Wales shaping up now compared to 10 or 20 years ago?

I am very envious of all the opportunities young girls have these days to pursue their dreams and ladies teams playing on Premier League pitches.

Who is the most talented team-mate you have played alongside?

I could choose any of the girls who I played with at Junction and Colwyn Bay. They were all outstanding players: Gail, Emma, Noni to name a few, but I have to say Stacey Tradewell gets my biggest mention.

Stacey Tradewell (pink shirt)

She made it easy to be a centre half when she was playing central in midfield in front of me.

Her touch, drive, speed and strength were outstanding and she could take a quality free-kick.

Who is the best manager you have played under?

It has to be Karl Rigby at Junction. He taught me so much and improved my all round game.

Who is the hardest opponent you have faced?

Pwllheli used to be the biggest battle. We always used to battle for the number one spot in the league. Katie Godfrey, who played up front at the time, used to keep me on my toes as she tried to turn me inside out.

What is/was your greatest strength as a player?

I feel leadership is one of my strengths as I captained the teams I played for. I love to watch players grow in confidence as they receive praise and encouragement.

Greatest weakness?

I am such a bad loser!

Which football ground did you enjoy playing at the most?

Colwyn Bay FC

Llysfaen Lionesses with coach Sean Sheridan

How is the media coverage for women’s football these days compared to say, 10, 20 years ago?

Women’s football has progressed so much and the amount you can now see on the TV is incredible. I wish I could do it all again! If I could I would have joined a ladies team sooner.

What involvement (if any) do you have in football nowadays?

Hayley (left – red) in action for Llysfaen

I joined Llysfaen Lionesses recreational team a few years ago after a mum encouraged me to go as they trained at the same time as my son on the next pitch. I decided to go along and at least try to get fit again instead of freezing on the sidelines watching. I am so glad I did.

Jodie, Amy and the others made me feel so welcome and we managed to get others involved to re-establish the Lionesses team.

Hayley (right) with team-mate Amy Louise

Craig Richards, who was the coach at the time, along with Mike Bodden’s help, managed to mould us into a decent team and I am loving playing again.

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