With the season already under way, the Brentford WFC B Team are off to a great start with a stellar opening performance, as they won their first game of the season against East London Ladies FC 9-0. I had the pleasure of catching up with the Head Coach Will Blithing about his excitement for the team in the season ahead.
Toni: How have you found being the head of the women’s team so far?
Will: I’ve been here since the 2017/2018 season, it’s my fourth year going into it and it’s been great. When I first went in. I found it very interesting. It was different for me because I’d never been in a management position before and I went in at such a young age. After my first season, I settled in quickly and three seasons later it just feels great. The progression is great and I’m really enjoying it.
Toni: Does that progression refer to yourself or your team?
Will: Definitely both! For me, I’ve learnt a lot as a coach and as a team, we’ve finally nailed our playing philosophy, that’s how we want to play and it’s now starting to show. Some of the girls have been with the team from the start of my coaching journey and their progression as players has been sensational.
Toni: Brentford WFC B Team got promoted last time. Tell me about how that was achieved and how that felt.
Will: I can’t really describe how good the feeling was, because we always knew we could achieve the promotion, it was just going out and actually proving it to others. We worked out mathematically how we couldn’t be beaten to the top spot, it was a GREAT feeling. It motivated us.
It was a feeling I’d felt as a player, and I’d always wanted to emulate it as a coach, so I ensured to instill that mindset in my players during training sessions. To get there was a lot of hard decisions had to be made, a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears went into it. But the result of winning the league showed that everything was worth it in the end
Toni: You mentioned that you had to make difficult decisions, what did those look like, and what does decision making look like going ahead?
Will: It was mainly squad selection – we had a squad of 20 but could only take 16 players to a game. We also had formation decisions, tactical decisions – we had to think if we were planning right way depending on who we were playing. Sometimes it turned out a bit messy, but in the long run, we won the league. Going forward, decision making is going to be even harder. The squad has grown bigger, but we can still only pick 16 players. Along with that. We don’t know about some of the teams in the division so it might be one of those situations where we are learning as we go, to make what we feel at the time, is the best decision for the team.
Toni: Given the team’s performance last season, and the way pre-season has gone and even the first game of the season, how do you feel the team are shaped up and how prepared are they for the season ahead?
Will: From where the team left of at the end of the season, to pre-season, I feel the squad has bolstered in depth. We’ve got a lot more strength. We’ve grown from a squad of 20 to 25. So, there’s now a lot more competition in the squad and the new additions to the team spruce things up. They’ve added technical ability and brought in a lot of character as well. There’s a greater sense of team cohesion. I feel we are much more prepared as a squad, and I believe we’ll be fine in getting results.
Toni: Saying that, how do you feel about the team’s attitude and spirits going into the season ahead?
Will: Normally going into the season we’d feel nervous and apprehensive even after we’d prepared. There were always ‘if, buts and maybes. But our first game of the season really relaxed us a lot. The way the girls reacted to everything; they’ve proven they are really up to the challenge. They’ve won one league and there’s a drive to win the next. The attitude is currently ‘Why can’t we do it again’.
Toni: You’re definitely confident in your team, but are there any fixtures ahead that you’re nervous about?
Will: There’s a couple of teams we know we’ve got to keep an eye out for e.g Actonians reserves and QPR reserves. We know a bit about them and looking at the way they’ve started the season too, we know they’re top contenders. But we’re taking it week by week.
Toni: What’s your overall goal for the team?
Will: For me, it’s to win back-to-back promotions. For the girls, it’s slightly different. I want them to develop to get into the first team. We’re now being asked to work as a feeder side, developing talent for the first team. As well as having success in the B team, we also want to push our girls to play as high as possible at Brentford.
Toni: There are a lot of teams developing their first teams, and concentration on women’s football in general. What are your thoughts on women’s football currently, and what are your hopes for the future?
Will: The game is expanding. They’ve just signed a deal to get women’s games shown on BBC and Sky, which is a huge step forward. For the game in general, it’s evolving very quickly and it’s one of the best environments to be in.
There’s no shadow of doubt in the way Will speaks of his team, that he truly believes in them. With the spirit they’ve got and the start of the season the team have had, it’s clear they are determined to win this season. Good luck ladies!