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Mark Worthington “The girls have been a revelation, and we’re really pleased with the standard of what they’re producing”
Monday 21st November 2016 @ 16:20 by Mark Phillip
Football Hyde Sports

Hyde United’s Ewen Fields Stadium has undertaken a major transformation in the last few months.

Thanks to a £400,000 investment from Tameside Council, the stadium now boasts a state-of-the-art FIFA 2* pitch and new classroom facilities.

The facilities are part of a wider £20 million investment in leisure provision by Tameside Council which includes a 25-metre swimming pool at Active Hyde.

The major renovations have enabled the club to become a real focal point of the community, as the stadium now caters for a variety of teams on a daily basis, including Hyde’s first team squad and academy setup, as well as casual footballers during the evening.

What’s more, the ground is also the adopted home of Rochdale’s Academy and Tameside United Ladies FC.

The latter, created less than four months ago, continues to go from strength-to-strength, with their latest scalp coming in a 2-1 friendly victory over the Great British Jewish Girls Under 18 squad last weekend.

Established in conjunction with Tameside Council and Denton Girls FC, Tameside United is regarded by Hyde United chief executive, Mark Worthington, as a revelation.

Speaking to Reporter Sport, Mark described how the team – which competes in the South Manchester Girls League – was initially formed. He said: “We’ve been looking to set up a girls’ team for a couple of years, but it came to fruition with the new pitch this year.

“The ability to play our games, train and develop a ladies offering, based at the ground, came as soon as we got confirmation from TMBC that they were going to put the pitch down.

“Tameside Council were really keen to offer ladies and girls football within the borough, based at the ground, as part of their investment in the new facilities.

“There’s one team at the moment, registered under the Denton Girls FC banner, which is playing in the South Manchester Under 17 girls League.”

The creation of a ladies team has been a long held ambition at the club, but due to the academy’s previous location in Knutsford, it was a dream that went unfulfilled – until now that is. Mark said: “We’ve been interested in getting a girls programme up and running as part of the Hyde United academy offering for a number of years, but being based over in Knutsford for the past four years made that almost impossible.

“As soon as we relocated to Hyde, we began to advertise it and we now have nine girls who are full-time on the programme who all play on the Tameside United ladies team.”

Despite being a fairly new team, Mark is impressed with the way in which the girls have conducted themselves during the opening period of the season: “The response has been fantastic really” he said.

“They play their home games on Saturday morning on the artificial pitch at Ewen Fields.

“The last home game ended 4-4 against Longford Girls – it was fantastic game of football and we had about 120 fans in the ground watching.

“A lot of Hyde fans have embraced it and been surprised and pleased at the standard of football on offer.

“The girls have been a revelation in the academy, and we’re really pleased with the standard of what they’re producing.”

Despite being in its very early stages, Mark believes that Tameside United could one day compete in the highest echelons of women’s football.

However, he did state that this would be based on long-term project: “We have ambitions to run a semi-professional ladies team at Ewen Fields” Mark said.

“The South Manchester Girls League doesn’t run an under 18’s division, so we’ll be offering players within the league with an opportunity to step up and join us.”

Those willing to oblige can expect an action packed season in the Manchester League. Mark added: “Next year will be the first time we enter the Manchester League, which is the same level as Curzon Ashton Ladies, with a further view to competing at semi-professional level.

“There will be nothing stopping us from doing the same as what we’ve done with the first team, which is to develop it into a full, semi-pro offering in the same league as Manchester City.

“I would think that’s probably a six to ten year project to reach that level.”

Such is the quality within the squad that goalkeeper, Chloe Dunn, trains everyday with her male counterparts in the Under 17, Under 18 and Under 21 sides. Mark added: “Chloe is trained by Chris Shaw who’s now the full-time academy goalkeeping coach – her growth and development has been unbelievable!”

Like the rest of her team, Chloe is put through her paces on a regular basis. “The girls are coached by the coaching staff at the academy” Mark said.

“They’re asked to do the same as the boys in terms of physical fitness, and also in terms of focus and attention to detail in games.

“That’s now transferred onto the pitch, and the results we’ve seen have been phenomenal.”

Although the club have already made inroads into the local community, Mark has no plans to stop.

In fact, there are plans in place over the next few months to make the club bigger and better. He said: “There’s going to be a lot of work done over the next two to three months to expand the development.

“We’ll be going into schools, speaking to current year 11’s and given them the option of coming to the academy to do their A-Levels and BTEC level 3’s, as well as learning and training as a semi-professional footballer.

“We’re essentially offering the same qualifications that they can get at any college, but we’re offering it within an elite football environment.”

You can listen back to the full interview with Mark at the following link: