Manager Lee Sanders is looking ahead with optimism as Durham Women prepare to look to build-on a positive 2018 as the new year begins.
With the first fixture of 2019 just days away, Sanders has offered his thanks to several key parties who played their part in a successful previous twelve months.
2018 saw the Wildcats break their all-time attendance record as 912 fans flocked into New Ferens Park to watch Durham beat Manchester United.
And Sanders has praised fans who have pledged their support to the club – and is keen to see crowds like that against the Red Devils regularly replicated.
“I think it’s just a big thank you to everyone who has come and put their hand in their pocket to buy a season ticket or a ticket on the day,” he said.
“The girls appreciate it and the staff appreciate it, but we need people to keep continuing to come.
“We need crowds like we had against Manchester United on a regular basis because we want people to come and see Durham, not just the opposition.
“We’ve got a lot to offer and, aside from the County Cricket Club, we’re probably the largest sporting club in the County, specifically for female sport.
“We’ve got to be proud and we want people in the county and in the North East to be proud of that.
“It’s a great day out and there’s a lot of great female role models for youngsters to look up to.”
Key also to the club’s successful year have been a number of club partners – who have provided all levels of support to Durham in 2018.
And Sanders was keen to thank a number of long-standing partners of the club who continue to aid our on-field fortunes.
“We go on about the success of the team and we can’t do that without these partners,” he added.
“We recently announced a partnership with the Marriott Hotel in Durham City which is great for the players’ recovery after games and relaxation “
“Vision for Education have been with us since day one and we could never thank them enough.
“Liam Roberts, who is the CEO there, always tells me they ‘do it for the right reasons’ and it’s great to see sponsors not necessarily thinking about what they’re going to get out of it but just doing it because they think it’s the right thing to do.
“Team Durham and Durham University are a huge part of everything we do.
“They’re massive supporters of the club in every way and allow us to access tremendous facilities and a tremendous support network and in particular recruitment for players wanting a dual career”
“Durham Sixth Form Centre – our working relationship with them just goes from strength-to-strength every year and we’ve just announced recruitment for our 16-19 Academy where they can be educated at an ‘outstanding’ OFSTED facility and continue to develop their football”
And the Durham boss also lavished praise on his staff, who have provided vital support over the last 12 months.
“All the staff have been excellent this year,” said Sanders.
“We’ve welcomed in some new members of staff – Simon Fairbairn who has taken on the sports’ science role thanks to a partnership we have with New College Durham, and Steve Rafferty who helps with the key nutritional side of things and Tom who looks after the physical performance coaching.
“Steph Libbey, who made the step up from development coach into the first team coaching role, has done an absolutely brilliant job alongside Chris Sewell who has been helping to develop us in front of goal, with Mark Bell again ensuring we keep things tight at the back.
“Dawn Hepple – who oversees the financial management of the club as well as the ongoing welfare of the players – and Mark Donnelly on the marketing and social media side do so well in delivering a great match day experience.
“And then the medics, Dave Irvine – who has been absolutely fantastic for us for six years now, and although it isn’t widely known, Nat Gutteridge has switched over to that side from playing which is great for the club and she’s a fantastic person to have around, alongside the Dougal Southward, the Club Doctor and the rest of the match day doctors Colin and Graeme.
“There’s other people like Susan Gutteridge and George Ledger who take match day photos and Andy Sixsmith who comes to film and host the games with Kyle Wilkinson. They all do a great job.
“Then there’s the volunteers who help us to run our match days and do an excellent job each week. Any club, no matter how big or small, cannot underestimate the value that these people bring.
“Everyone has played a fantastic part this year.”
And with a new year on the horizon, Sanders is looking ahead with optimism ahead of another busy year.
While the first team continue their battle for promotion, a number of other developments across the whole club leave the manager excited for 2019.
“The first thing we’ve done is established a second 16-19 academy, based in the Tees Valley area,” he explained.
“That’s really exciting for us and that will be announced fully in the next few weeks.
“Players from the Tees Valley, North Yorkshire and Teesside area will be able to access to a similar model to that which we run here in Durham where they will receive coaching as well as studying for A-Levels and BTECs.
“That’s really exciting for us.
“Staying on the youth side of things, we’re entering the FA WSL Youth Academy Cup in February with some of our best under-20 players, which will be a great experience for them.
“Hopefully the reserves will keep their form and can gain promotion to the National League.
“The RTC have a really important four months ahead of them and we’re looking to grow even stronger in the first half of the 2019”
“From a first team perspective, we need to grow the club and grow investment in the club with a view to hopefully gaining a promotion place.
“That’s going to be difficult and we have to respect all those clubs that are in and around ourselves.
“But that’s ultimately what we’re here for and that’s the ambition.
“We want to enjoy it at the same time and be mindful that we aren’t putting too many people under too much pressure.
“What will be, will be and we just need to go out there and do our best week in, week out.
“Who knows what will happen come May.”