Interview With Claire Armstrong

Evan Seaman spoke to Claire Armstrong about Ilkley women first team’s achievements last season, and creating a pathway for girls getting into football.

You’ve just completed your first season as manager of Ilkley women’s first team. What’s it been like for you so far?

I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope the players have too. 

The team finished in a highly respectable 4th place last campaign. How pleased are you about finishing in the top half of the table so soon?

I was appointed 4 games into the season with no points on the board and we have cracked on, worked hard, and have overcome and dealt with injuries, covid and playing on away pitches for the first time. I’m delighted to have finished 4th. It is the highest ever finish for a Women’s team at Ilkley and demonstrates that the standard of football is ever increasing 

Your home form has been slightly better than on the road, picking up 21 points as hosts while getting 15 as visitors. How pleased are you with this?

Like I said each time we have played away it has been on a pitch we have not played on before so in a first season, in a new league this can be disadvantageous. We have shown resilience and battled well most of the time in these games. 

How will you look to improve away form for next season?

I’m hoping now with a season under our belts we can become more consistent in our away performances. We now have an idea how our opposition try to use their pitches to help gain home advantage and we have analysed the match videos and have put ideas in place to hopefully not only raise our performances but to make things difficult for our opposition. 

Eva Curran and finished the season as top goal scorer for Ilkley and the league’s joint 5th top goal scorer with 19 goals. How impressed have you been with her?

Eva has done fine job at striker for the latter part of the season. She’s tenacious, strong young lady who gives 100 % until the final whistle.

 Your team scored the 4th most overall goals in the league last season, with 65. Do you think this is something to build on for next year?

There are a lot of statistics that I am looking at along with goals scored. We need to be improving our goals conceded considerably and yes it would be fantastic to use this a benchmark to push on and score more next season. It is certainly attainable in my opinion

 A lot of your players are young who have just broken into the first team from the U17s. Do you think its testament to the work being done behind the scenes at the club that so many players are coming through the ranks?

 As I also manager the U17’s at Ilkley it probably has helped the players with the transition to Women’s league football as they know me very well. The girl’s section at the club hassome fantastic coaches in the younger groups who actively promote and encourage the girls to support our Women’s team and likewise if I can and am free, I go along to watch some younger age group fixtures. 

Do you think this will create a pathway for other girls wanting to get into football?

I am deeply passionate about encouraging and aiding any girl that wishes to play football. I think the exit route of a senior team playing a good standard of football is certainly appealing. We need to keep pushing on and continue to evolve and develop our pathway with perhaps a senior development / reserve team being the next step to run alongside the first team.

 Do you have any updates / plans you would like to share for next season?

I actually have quite an exciting announcement. I have been looking for a new coach for the last few months to relieve some pressure off myself managing two team. I am delighted to announce that Simon Armstrong will be head coach for the Women this season. Simon is highly experienced B license coach with many years of experience in coaching and managing. He recently stepped down from managing the Men’s team at Ilkley after 10 years gaining numerous promotions and succeeded in them reaching step 6 football. He has played professionally, semi professionally and to have a coach of this caliber working with the Women is absolutely fantastic and will without a doubt have an impact on the teamand their performances in the upcoming season.