Wildcats and Roses lead the way.

In June 2021, Gosport Borough Youth FC were the first club in the area to launch the Weetabix Wildcats program. Since then, the club has welcome over 200 aspiring girl footballers and as a result have created seven girls football teams who now thrive in their respected leagues and the players continue to develop on their football journey.

Girls coached by Gosport Borough Ladies captain, Charlotte Lindsey, who provides a calm, fun and developmental sessions which allow the girls to grow at their own pace and learn the basic skills to start their own journey into football.

One of the youngest teams created at the time were Gosport Borough Roses. Formed in March 2022 following the success of Wildcats, the first training session was attended by five girls all aspiring to be the next Mary Earps, Leah Williamson or Beth Mead. Over the next few weeks their numbers grew and before they knew it, they had eight.

Having been with the team from the start, Manager, Darren Gooding, stayed in close contact with the Wildcats coach and regularly attended Saturday sessions at HMS Sultan if the coach felt there was a girl that was ready to be part of a team. Another two new Roses joined the growing team to create their team of ten. The Roses spent the next few months learning and developing their ball control and became more confident. Their understanding of the game improved under the guidance of Darren and Assistant Coaches, Dale Fealy and Paul Taylor.

Their time and dedication to promote a fun environment where the girls really enjoyed their football led them to join the Hampshire U8 Girls Football League. In six short months, Darren and his team with the support of the parents, developed a group of girls to be a force to be reckoned with, going unbeaten in the league in their first season and getting to the final of the Hampshire Cup.

Earning respect and a reputation of the team to beat, the Roses flexed their footballing muscles in two summer tournaments in 2023, winning one and losing on penalties in the final of the other. Their reputation also caught the eye of Chelsea FC scouts who had watched a few Roses matches and were present at the Braishfield Summer Tournament and invited two Roses players; Summer Fealy and Esme Gooding to trial as part of their Foundation Programme. The girls impressed and were invited to be part of the Chelsea FC Foundation pathway.

The pathway provides an opportunity for young girl footballers to receive high quality coaching and training and play in competitive fixtures and if they continue to develop, an opportunity to be selected for the Chelsea Academy in a few years’ time. In January 2024, another Roses player, Maia Stevens was invited to trial and joined, Esme and Summer in the Foundation Program after demonstrating her ability.

Another Roses player, Hope Whale is part of the Pompey In The Community program and continues to develop into a stronger player. There are currently six girl’s teams running from under 11 to under 16 and if Hope continues in her development, she will have every chance by the time she is 11 to be part of those teams.

These opportunities would likely not have happened for these four Roses players had it not been for the Wildcats program run by Gosport Borough, who are dedicated to getting as many girls into football as possible. Having a dedicated coaching team in Darren, Dale and Paul at the beginning, they set the girls on their journey. Paul Taylor has since left the Roses to manage his own girls team this season, the Lillies. They are going from strength to strength as they play regular friendlies and will embark on a league challenge next season.

The Roses coaches continue to grow the development of the team and managed an incredible 19 game unbeaten run in the league and on Saturday 30th March 2024 scored their 100th league goal. Scoring a total of 158 goals in league and cup competitions is testament to the young Roses dedication to playing football.

Asked about the league milestone, Manager, Darren Gooding said “This achievement is all down to the girls. They love football and have fun on the way. They have made some great friendships and work for each other. It isn’t always about the goal scorers, it’s the goal keeper making the saves, the players putting in the tackles and creating the opportunities”. Darren also spoke about the Chelsea and Pompey girls. “It is great that young girls are getting these opportunities.

The girls have developed well and bring their learnings to their Roses girls who all aspire to be better. I feel incredibly lucky that I have some wonderful young players of all abilities, a great assistant and wonderful supportive parents who kick every ball with their daughter, it truly is a privilege and a pleasure just to be part of their journey”.

Photo: (left) Summer Fealy, Esme Gooding and Maia Stevens.