I n years to come March 2016 could be seen as one of the biggest months in West Ham Ladies’ history and the dawn of an exciting new era for the club. Their game against Tottenham Hotspur Ladies at the Boleyn Ground on March 8 showed just how far they’ve come from some pretty awful and depressing lows in the four years that Blowing Bubbles has covered the club.
They had hoped to break the Women’s Premier League attendance record of 3,256, which was set at the Amex by Brighton & Hove Albion and Charlton Athletic back in December 2015. As Blowing Bubbles went to press, I had every confidence leading up to the game that they would be able to break it for several reasons, including the fact that it gave West Ham fans another game to watch under the lights in the final season at the Boleyn Ground. But whether they have or they haven’t, the fact West Ham United gave permission to the Ladies to use the Boleyn in the first place speaks volumes to someone on the outside for how the Ladies are seen in the men’s club hierarchy
It’s also testament to the drive, determination and enthusiasm of the club’s two chairmen, in particularly Stephen Hunt. Ever since they arrived at the club, the focus has been on transforming the Ladies with a focus on getting them into the Women’s Super League by 2017. Is this game at the home of West Ham United a sign of things to come? Will there be chances to see the Ladies playing at the Olympic Stadium? It looks promising, even if the results on the pitch haven’t been.
This season was always going to be a transition. Players have left, including a few senior players such as Stacey Little, new recruits have been brought in, and youngsters have been promoted into the first team.
The results have reflected the journey the club is on – last month’s hammerings against Blackburn, Charlton and Coventry were key examples – but the bigger picture of what the future could hold for the Ladies must stay in the forefront of the minds of the players, coaches and everyone else associated with the club. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this month’s clash against Spurs impacts the Ladies’ attendances for the remainder of the season, and into next season.
No doubt there will be plenty of young girls in the stadium – possibly experiencing their first (and last) live game at the Boleyn. The Ladies will be seen as heroes with some of the youngsters walking away from the game dreaming of perhaps one day playing for the West Ham Ladies. Whether or not this will translate in them wanting to pitch up come rain, wind or sun every Sunday to watch the latest Ladies league game remains to be seen, but the club cannot be faulted for doing everything in its power to appeal to the West Ham community and position itself as another avenue for supporters to enjoy another XI proud to wear the badge.
I’d personally like to see the Ladies get the chance to play after the men – something that happens on a regular basis at Twickenham after England men’s play. We’ve always enjoyed a wonderfully successful and positive relationship with the club even during the rough times and look forward to continuing our coverage of the West Ham Ladies. We will continue to report independently and ask the awkward questions, but we will never be negative, we will continue to support them, and we envisage being able to report on more highs than lows over the next four seasons.