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Girls' football teams in the Black Country your kids can join off back of Euro 2022

England are in a football final - the Lionesses blew Sweden away 4-0 in the Euro 2022 semifinal this week to qualify for a first final in more than 10 years.

England's Alessia Russo scores their side's third goal of the game during the semifinal against Sweden. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
England's Alessia Russo scores their side's third goal of the game during the semifinal against Sweden. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Their opponents? Germany - the same team that beat them 6-2 in the Euro finals in 2009 to deny them a first major tournament win.

But England have come a long way since that bruising defeat - and the country has come along with them. The unprecedented coverage of a home tournament, coupled with England's barnstorming results so far (conceding one goal all tournament, to Spain), has sparked a new wave of interest in the girls' game.

The Express & Star spoke to a number of the volunteers who help make girls' football happen all over the West Midlands every weekend, on whether the Lionesses' success has prompted more enthusiasm.

Keith Hardy MBE

Keith Hardy is the chair of Wryley Juniors FC, one of the region's best-developed youth football clubs. He first got involved more than 20 years ago, and his children, boys and girls, have played for the club.

He said: "We set up our first [female] team in 2000, we set up a girls' soccer school in 2001.

"Our ladies team was set up in 2004 - we were the first club in the Midlands to set up a Veterans team in 2015 and then others followed and a league was created in the county in 2018."

The club now has 18 girls' teams, a ladies' first team and three midweek women's teams.

The club also throws a lot of weight behind its FA Wildcats sessions for girls aged four to 11, which are held on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and seek to get girls involved in football from a young age, even if it is in a more casual setting than a league system.

Keith said: "We have provided free coaching in local primary schools as a means of sparking interest - the Euros have now given us player opportunities without looking for them.

"Before the Euros I would get approximately two enquiries a week from parents looking for a team for their daughter - I am now getting approximately three a day.

"It's a nice problem to have, but other teams may have to set up their own female sections - or we will take them, we're happy to!

"We've had enquiries in the last few weeks from 15-year-old girls which is great - that's when the interest comes in boyfriends, girlfriends, GCSEs.

"We have nearly 300 females playing under our banner.

"The challenge now is the same as it is on the boys' side of the club - getting parents willing to manage a team."

Girls from the team have even participated in Euro 2022 as ball girls, or have gone along as spectators in their own right.

Speaking on the differences between girls' and boys' sessions, Keith said: "Girls tend to listen more than boys. You ask questions in a session and girls will stick their hands up, you ask for volunteers and there will be a lot of hands going up.

"As with boys, you can give them a bit of stick and a bit of banter and you'll get it double back!

"The difficult part is finding willing parents to be coaches."

Keith also hopes that whatever happens with girls' football, the next step for development is disability football.

"Our ethos has always been 'football for all'. Our girls section is well-established, and that gives us the confidence to keep growing.

"Our next growth area will be disability football - we already put on two autistic sessions."

Contact Wyrley Juniors and learn more about coaching or playing at wyrleyjuniors.net.

Lauren Hughes is just getting to grips with running things at Wednesbury Sports Union, having taken over the reigns as secretary earlier this summer.

She said: "Currently we have one full girls' team and we've got a number of our younger teams that are mixed between boys and girls.

"Our girls' team is under-13 - they're going into their second season now. Their first season went quite well in their league and they have managed quite well."

The impact of the Euros is already being felt, she said.

"Just in the last couple of days I've had a couple of emails about girls wanting to start with our club.

"[Girls' football] has become much more of a norm - it's talked about much more regularly. There's been a lot more talk about it.

"I work in a school, and it's very much encouraged more for girls to like football now.

"I think it's going in the right direction."

Contact Lauren to learn more about Wednesbury Sports Union at laurenhugheswsu@gmail.com.

Adam Bunce-Sweeney is the secretary at Silverdale FC, a Walsall club with a commitment to developing the girls' game.

"We've got two girls' teams at the moment, we have our under-16s team and we have our under-15s, who are called the Lionesses, believe it or not!

"We run two academies for girls' teams too - when I say academies, it is starter sessions for girls that want to play with girls and get into football. Basic sessions, getting girls involved in football.

"We've been trying to grow our girls' game, there is an under-10s team which we're still getting set up."

Adam was glued to the screen for the semi-final against Sweden, and was thrilled by the quality of football on display.

"It was fantastic to watch - it was a bit nervy to start with when the Swedes had a chance but we took control.

"[Alessia] Russo's goal will go down in history - a backheel nutmeg!

"I love the way the whole nation has got behind the Lionesses, it's great for the ladies' game and long may it continue."

Learn more and see contact details at silverdalejfc.co.uk/.

This is just a small selection of the clubs in the West Midlands that offer football for girls - visit the FA's website for a handy way to find clubs near you that offer, football for girls, boys, men and women. Visit englandfootball.com/play/womens-and-girls-football.

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