Excitement in the Harlow Camp

The last time the Lady Hawks entered the field of play, they went up against a strong Ipswich Town Women’s side in the FA Women’s Cup. Although the result was a heavy defeat at the hands of side taking women’s football by storm under the management of Joe Sheehan, no one had expected football to be brought to a complete standstill. Previously, the Hawks had ended their Bowers Blues by beating Bowers & Pitsea Ladies 3-0 at the Len Salmon Stadium at the start of November. That had offered a sense of hope for football continuing but instead, London and Essex entered Tier 4, also bringing a halt to proceedings. After finally being able to return to training and prepare for match action, we caught up with forward Olivia Steele and Midfielder Daisy Jenkins to discuss the return to training, how they kept themselves busy during their time away and the upcoming cup competition.

“It’s really good to be back” stated Liv. “It’s good to see the girls again, especially after not seeing them since last year, and it’s great to be back training.”

That was followed by Jenkins confirming her excitement to be back. “It’s great to be back finally. The return brings back a bit of normality and routine. I’ve loved catching up with the girls in person and meeting the new faces. I just can’t wait to kick on.”

With players only being able to do exercise with limited people during the lockdown, it would have been hard to stay motivated or even stay as fit as each other. The girls found a way to continue working on fitness and staying in touch. “We had a fitness chat with five regular people that tend to use it” Steele joked. “Fran’s [Gamble] been doing at least 5km since the beginning of the year. Personally, I’ve just been doing weights and going on runs when I get the chance.”

“I’ve been doing HIIT workouts” added Daisy before continuing. “A few celebrities have been promoting their fitness routines so I’ve been using them to keep myself fit. On top of that, I’ve been going for walks to clear my mind and although it doesn’t sound like much fitness, it was important to stay active. To be honest, we didn’t expect to be coming back until next season so the fitness I was doing wasn’t as intense.”

The ladies weren’t just returning to training to prepare for the new season and getting fitness in ahead of the pre-season schedule, but had a cup competition to look forward to. The Eastern Region Women’s Football League had organised a Champions League style competition amongst Premier Division and Division One sides to get back to playing football ahead of the summer. The group Harlow were drawn into would see them play Wodson Park and East Bergholt United at the Harlow Arena before travelling on the road to face King’s Lynn Town Ladies and Bedford Ladies, with the prospect of facing more teams in the knockout stage. Both Daisy and Liv were excited to get going again.

“It’s really exciting to be back and playing in the cup. It gives us motivation and aim to win silverware because the last two-seasons have been voided so for that, it will be good to get back playing and trying to win the cup.”

“Both seasons just gone, as Liv said, were disappointing because we had opportunities to lift trophies but due to factors out of our control, we weren’t able to do that. Hopefully, we can kick on in this competition and show teams what we are about. At the same time, this competition allows us to prepare for next season” added Daisy.

There was no doubt that the Hawks would be one of the favourites going into the competition. In the Premier Division, they had remained unbeaten after 15-games and sat top-of-the-league but 6-points. The following season, and the one just gone, the Ladies were one of the favourites to go for the title but were only given the chance to play 5-games. Neither play felt there would be any pressure on the team. “I don’t think there is any pressure because this cup has just been created to allow teams to get back playing and have some fun. It would be lovely to win though” explained Olivia.

“I wouldn’t say there was any pressure, but it will be good to get back to match fitness and get minutes behind us whilst enjoying the social side of playing football again” said Jenkins. “I’m incredibly competitive in general, so personally, I’d like to go all the way and I’m sure all the girls would be the same”.

While the squad from the season has returned, Harlow had been the forefront of interest from players looking to get into a strong side and get back playing. This was a welcomed change to the players already at the club. “It’s really refreshing” explained Daisy. “It shows how far this team has come, that others want to join and it’s good to get to know other players and succeed with them on the pitch.”

Olivia Steele added, “It’s great to see new faces. We are a family at Harlow and had players rolling in and out over the last couple of years, so it’s great to have fresh blood and get to know them as people and what they can do on the pitch.”