While women’s football continues to grow and advance, combined with the announcement of the SPFL taking over the SWPL last month, big things are coming towards Motherwell FC’s new girls academy.
The move to the SPFL aims to help clubs become more professional, give them better decision-making powers and greater revenue streams. The Scottish FA has also promised to give the SWPL clubs access to their commercial and broadcast resources to further promote and improve women’s football which the new academy will benefit from.
It’s no secret that the game in Scotland has been under-appreciated at times, but the academy has every ability to become a blazing force in the expansion of the female game.
Led by first team manager Paul Brownlie, the academy will provide young girls the opportunity to rise through the ranks from youth player to first-team player, and will help mould and build their talent.
Brownlie has been coaching both youth and adult teams for the last 17 years, and after joining Motherwell as head coach, he has transformed the side with innovative singings and has earned more points in half of the season than the club garnered across 2020/21.
The Women of Steel currently sit in sixth but have been in and out the top five all season as the rebuild continues to grow and improve.
“When I started in June there had been talks of the SPFL making a pitch to become the new governing body, I was excited,” he said.
“The new resources and opportunities that it brings will make a huge difference to both our first team and for the academy. We want to become a full-time club and show the girls coming through the ranks that they will have every opportunity to become a professional football player.
“The tools that will now become available to us as a result is fantastic.”
Motherwell’s academy is well known for creating exceptional players such as David Turnbull, Chris Cadden, James McFadden, Stephen Pearson, Stevie Hammell and also Allan Campbell. It will be hoping to produce female players of a similar if not even better calibre.
Currently the women’s first team has talented youth players that originated from Motherwell youth squads. One of those being 17-year-old Jemma Hughes, who graduated from Motherwell’s original youth system, and who scored the final goal to seal Motherwell’s first ever Lanarkshire derby win in September while receiving a Scotland call up in January.
She isn’t the only youth club talent in the squad as vice-captain Amy Anderson, who is a die-hard Well fan, started playing for Motherwell as a child and has worn the captain’s band when Gill Inglis has been unavailable to play.
Previously there wasn’t a concrete system for girls to advance into senior playing roles at Motherwell, but the new academy aims to rectify that.
With squads for under 11s, 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s, the academy will revolutionise Motherwell, and will hopefully bring the same levels of success as the boy’s academy.
“With my experience working alongside Steven Hammell, seeing what he has done with the boys and being involved at different clubs all around Europe, we really want to innovate and change the game,” said Brownlie.
“For us, it’s all about who can be the next Amy Anderson in terms of attitude and success.
“We will be asking a lot from our players, and we tell them that if you don’t perform in the classroom, you won’t perform on the pitch and instilling that into the girls from a young age is vital.
“They may need to make sacrifices and put hours in training before and after school, but it will educate them and provide them with not just good footballing skills but also good life skills as well with time keeping and personal responsibility.
“Their overall education is still hugely important and that is why we take this strict stance, we can’t have them excelling on the pitch but falling behind in their studies.
“We have plans to hopefully bring new sports scientists into the fold. We want to educate the girls on things like proper nutrition, and most importantly educate them on how to work as a team and how to grow as a footballer.
“We want to grow their minds and their talent to make them the best they can be.”
As a child, it is majorly important to have as many opportunities as possible to take part in hobbies you enjoy. With scheduled training sessions and regular matches, the girls will be able to develop their hobby into a potential career.
The Scottish FA performance schools have seen an influx of female football players applying and being accepted into the likes of Braidhurst High School in Motherwell. The academy aims to recruit girls from the local area by screening the potential of female footballers, while also being creative with their signings and trialists.
Academy football is a step up from local boys and girls club levels, and academies with links to the SWPL are hugely important in the success of future generations of players, whether it be from watching the first team train or play competitively, or from competing against other SWPL academy teams such as Glasgow City, Rangers, Celtic, Hearts or Hibernian.
“The academy is a long-term investment for the club,” added Brownlie. “What we’ve done at the first team level is crucial as now we have role models for the girls coming through that they can look up to. The goal is to try and bring the academy as close as possible with the first team.
“The girls have aspirations of playing at a top level, and all the girls involved have got the ability and that’s why they are here. Standards are extremely important to me and how they act on and off the pitch as they represent this football club now.
“The rewards of being connected to the club are higher than they have ever been, and we hope that being involved with the club will keep them on the right path, give them stability and a routine they actively want to follow.
“Not every player may be able to graduate into the first team and that’s OK, because the training and tools we have given our players means that they could go on to play for clubs that aren’t Motherwell and still be successful. That is what matters most to me.