*our tickets for the game were complimentary*
I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be a women who knows lots abut football. I would never lie to you like that. I am, however, surrounded by people who are football nuts, and throughout my life, some of that nuts-ness has landed on me. I used to enjoy going to see Newcastle play at St James Park when we had a season ticket, and more importantly, when we won all the time! And I like watching England play in the Euros or World Cup. Basically, when it comes to football, I have a ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em attitude.
I was delighted to be invited down to Maiden Castle near Durham with my mum, dad, niece and nephew to go and watch Durham Women’s FC (www.durhamwfc.co.uk) play Bristol City, and not just because Bristol City relates to my favourite cockney rhyming slang. Darcy and Evan (12 and 10) are as football daft as everyone else around me, Darcy plays for Cramlington Town and Evan knows everything about every player in every team in the premier league right now.
Maiden Castle holds memories for me too as it’s where my dad took me and my my brother to watch Newcastle United train many, many years ago, and we managed to get pictures with Pavel Srnicek, Peter Beardsley and quite a surly Andy Cole (it was boxing day though, he probably had presents he wanted to play with).
Anyway, it was great to see how much the ground has changed and that it’s now home to Durham Women’s FC. Despite it being a very rainy Sunday afternoon in February, we had a great time and was really good to see how family friendly the ground is.
A few practicalities about the ground itself first before I go into the specifics of the match we saw. Maiden Castle is part of Durham University’s Graham Sports centre just outside Durham city centre. It has a small sheltered terraced for spectators (which was handy the day we went as it was absolutely chucking it down!) and there’s hot and cold food available for throughout the game. Tickets are £7 for adults, £5 for students and £3 for under 16s, so in terms of a family day out, it’s only around £20, which is pretty reasonable to me bearing in mind the standard of the facilities (and the players!) Parking is free and there’s on-site toilet facilities.
Durham Women’s FC compete in the FA Womens Championship, where they finished 2nd last season, and are currently 5th at time of writing, the match we saw they were against 4th place Bristol City. Despite a really strong second half where they dominated the pitch, they were unfortunately defeated 3-0, which was partly down to do with some questionable refereeing decisions; something which our little budding terrace hooligan of a nephew was very eager to point out, much to the amusement of the rest of the stand.
What made the match for me though, was the exemplary sportsmanship (sportswomanship?) and camaraderie shown between the players on both teams. Believe me, these women fought hard, but Durham Women’s FC remained noble throughout and Bristol City were humble in victory. Special mention from me particularly for captain Sarah Wilson who never stopped encouraging the team and Becky Salicki who came up against some pretty tough tackles but always seemed to be keeping a close eye on her teammates; helping them up when they were knocked down or consoling missed opportunities.
Despite the disappointing result, the absolute highlight of the day was being able to meet the team afterwards, get some autographs (there’s autograph pages in the programmes – so handy!) and pictures. The weather was shocking and I’m sure the team were all freezing and desperate for a hot shower but they hung around as long as there were people there wanting pictures and they were so friendly and welcoming. Darcy and Evan absolutely loved it and Durham WFC definitely have some new fans!
If you even have a passing interest in football then I can highly recommend a day out at Maiden Castle watching Durham WFC. It’s brilliant to see womans football finally starting to get the recognition it deserves, seeing positive strong female role models for young girls like my niece Darcy is inspirational and the community, family friendly atmosphere that the team in Durham have managed to create is infectious. I’ll definitely be following them more closely myself in future!