Interview with Ilkley Town women's manager Claire Armstrong

Club reporter Evan Seaman caught up with women's team manager, Claire Armstrong.

Congratulations on being appointed as Ilkley Town Women’s first team manager. How pleasing is it to be given this opportunity?

Thank you! I’m delighted to have been offered this role. I had watched the majority of the women’s games as a spectator and could see it was very strong group of talented players with lots of potential.

Your previous managerial role was with Ilkley Town women under 17s. Did you enjoy working with this age group?

The U17 girls' team are a very special group of young ladies. Apart from a high overall talent level they a fabulous, very bonded group, who are all wonderfully supportive of each other. I’m still managing them and love working with them. Life is very busy!

Do you hope to use this experience when you manage the first team?

Absolutely. I will expect the women to emulate the core values deeply rooted in the u17’s to ensure that on and off the pitch the squad develop together, respect and value every member.

Have you been able to settle into your new role at the club well?

I’ve felt the transition between manager’s hasn’t caused any disruption within the squad. I met the players shortly after being appointed and I was very clear about my aims and expectations and gave the players the same courtesy. They came up with some bullet points what their expectations are from myself, from each other and the club as a whole. 

 What ambitions do you have with the team?

We have a very young squad on the whole. It’s difficult to set long term targets at the moment as a lot players will move on and go to university when they turn 18.  As we have a strong girl's section at the club, I will be looking to blend players from the younger age groups as they turn 16 but am keeping an eye out and aim to actively recruit more senior players into the squad to provide a platform for long term consistency.

 

Are you looking to promote the u17s you previously worked with into the first team?

We already have at least 6 of the U17’s in the squad and 5 players from the Aire Wharfe football programme at St Mary’s School. They are all very talented girls and have transitioned to senior football well so far. Certainly, there is much to work to do and they are learning quickly the difference between junior and senior football. The differences are not in skill and ability but game management, game intelligence and physical elements.  

Are you hoping to emulate the men’s team and become semi-professional?

The most important thing at present is to focus on managing the squad and fulfilling fixtures with a strong side, as we have several injuries and have had issues with cases of covid.

I am writing a development plan with longer term strategy aims for the women’s team and how best to achieve them, which is coming along well and will be delivered to the committee in the near future. Reaching the semi-professional level in women’s football is a fair way away for us but the journey of progression is underway, just like I say to my U17 team ‘believe it to achieve it’.

 Evan Seaman