"Inspirational": Two women become first at club to complete journey through every football age group together

Two women have become the first at their club to complete a journey through every age group together from U6 to U18 - culminating in a dramatic cup final win this month.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 4:45 pm

Guiseley Juniors FC's girls team were taken on by coach James Todd, 48, when his daughter Charlotte joined in 2009.

At the time, the whole club had less than 40 players.

However, 12 years on, more than 200 girls now compete every week in the club colours following a boom in women's football across the country.

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Hannah Piotrowski (top l) and Charlotte Todd (bottom l) in younger years and the girls together now

In a memorable 7-1 victory in the Shield Final on Saturday June 12, the U18 team became the first to complete the entire series of age groups at the club.

James' daughter Charlotte Todd, 18 and her friend Hannah Piotrowski, also 18, are the two remaining players from the original U6 squad - having competed in more than 270 matches together.

James told the YEP the team had to "beg, steal and borrow" in the early days to get enough players to compete.

During the last few years though, a huge upturn in the coverage of the female game has enabled hundreds of girls of all abilities to play together each weekend.

Hannah Piotrowski (l) and Charlotte Todd (r)

The team - who competed in the West Riding Girls league - had varied success over the years.

In a memorable season, the team secured an unbeaten league title during their U10 campaign and the culmination of their efforts in the shield win earlier this month was described as "incredible" by James.

Speaking to the YEP about the achievements of his team, James said: "I have absolutely loved coaching them.

"It has been so rewarding, I have seen the girls grow up together.

The final U18 squad

"You don't realise how much everyone has changed until you reflect and look back on what we have achieved and old photographs.

"Some of the girls are heading off to university this year and I first met them when they were seven or eight years old.

"They are an inspiration to girls across the city."

James said the success of the England women team in recent years and increase in coverage of the game for girls has had a huge impact on his team and recruiting new players.

Hannah Piotrowski (l) and Charlotte Todd (r)

He said: "There has been an incredible change [in recent years].

"For our numbers to grow from 40 to more than 200 in 12 years is amazing.

"A lot of our players come after seeing a friend playing or spotting someone they know on the team so it is a bit of a snowball effect.

"Many of the girls who come have never even kicked a ball before.

"We don't believe in trials and we take everyone on, everyone is welcome.

"The girls in my team are aware of their achievements and what an effect they have had on the younger age groups as well."

The team secured a memorable final 7-1 victory in their last match together as a group - before many of the girls head off into full time employment or university.

James said: "I think the scoreline did flatter us a little bit to be honest!

"It was a very competitive game.

"From my perspective, it was a bit of a 'wow!' kind of game.

"We couldn't have asked for a better finale in all honesty.

"Charlotte and I didn't get too emotional, instead we feel like we have completed our journey together.

"It is something to be positive about, we did it."

At the final whistle, James gathered together the group to reflect on what they had accomplished.

He said: "A few lips did start trembling at the end of the speech.

"They have all achieved so much."

Hannah and Charlotte told the YEP they had made "friends for life" at the club.

They added: "We've both had an amazing time and made so many memories, like winning 3 cup finals together and playing at "proper" stadiums like Valley Parade.

"It's been quite emotional the last few weeks knowing it was coming to an end.

"The whole experience has been really enjoyable.

"We've made friends for life, learned so much, and are very proud that we're the first girls at our club to play in every age group."

James is so proud of their achievements.

He added: "Girls football wasn't really even a thing when they started in 2009.

"It is not what it is now.

"They have been inspirational to so many girls who look up to them."

James has recently helped as a coaching mentor for the whole girls team section of the club and hopes to continue helping in the near future.

Some of the girls have also expressed an interest in coaching younger groups - something James praised as a major factor in the development of his own group.

In recent years, the club has struggled to find sponsorship to pay for kits and essential items for the team.

However, a unique 'syndicate' style system has allowed a group of 10 of James' friends to share the sponsorship between them and support the club.

James said: "We really struggled to find the money to pay for the kit.

"I had a list of businesses and places who may be able to help.

"Instead, ten friends clubbed together to put money in a hat and reach the full total."

The initials of each contributor is displayed on the team's kit - which attracts many questions by the opposition, James said.

He added: "The questioning is great, as other teams may want to replicate this model going forward.

"It is such a great way of funding it and helps everyone.

"All of my friends, who only know my daughter and I, ask for our results every week and want to be kept in the know.

"It is brilliant."