Lionesses end their season on a high

Club ‘share success with young fans’ as they finish runners-up after winning final four matches

Thursday, 5th May — By Steve Barnett

Melis Mehmet Rianna Jarrett - Credit Edward Payne Sports Photography

Full-back Melis Mehmet, who was on loan from Arsenal, and Ireland international Rianna Jarrett with a young fan. Photos: Edward Payne Sports Photography

THE curtain came down on the FA Women’s Championship on Sunday with Liverpool long having confirmed that they will be the ones tackling the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham next season.

The Reds’ ladies are more than worthy of their place in the Women’s Super League having finished a whopping 11 points clear of the chasing pack.

But they weren’t the only club celebrating at the weekend. Despite missing out on promotion, the London City Lionesses can reflect on a fantastic campaign that saw them finish as runners-up – ending the season with four successive victories.

And the players were keen to “share their success” on the pitch with the people that matter most – their young supporters.

“We do all that we can to make sure that our players are accessible to our fans – it’s important to our club and our players,” explained Diane Culligan, the Lionesses’ Camden-based chairwoman.

“The players are always more than happy to sign autographs and take pictures with the young supporters. OK, so some of them might not be seen as superstars, but they are to the kids.

“Meeting and talking to a player can be so inspirational for a kid, and that’s really important to us.”

London City Lionesses pose with their fans on the final day of the season

The Lionesses are currently based at Princes Park in Dartford, with their youth ranks mainly formed from girls in Kent.

Grassroots champion Culligan, who founded youth club Hampstead FC, has spoken of her desire to have a training base for girls in north London, too.

Such plans will, however, “take time and patience”, and Diane says in the meantime it’s important to still encourage youngsters in any way possible.

She added: “At Hampstead FC we would send our match reports to the CNJ because the kids really enjoyed seeing their achievements in the newspaper – it makes them think, ‘If I’m important enough to be in the CNJ, what else can I achieve?’

“Knowing that other people care about their success, and want to share in their achieve­ments, is the type of thing that can encourage a kid to believe in themselves even more and give them confidence.

“Getting to meet the players who they’re cheering on has the same effect. It makes them happy. And that’s why, as a club, we want to share our successes with our young fans.”

Jamie-Lee Napier bagged a brace, while Amy Rodger was also on target as the Lionesses ended their season with a 3-1 home victory over Blackburn Rovers on Sunday.

Offering an honest assessment on the campaign, Diane said: “We’re all absolutely ecstatic with how well things went. If we were to be micro-critical, we’re a little disappointed, too.

“We would have liked to be a little closer to Liverpool, but we had some slip-ups along the way. Those slip-ups gave us the opportunity to learn and grow, which I felt we did.

“There is certainly a lot to be proud of, and we’re confident that next season we can go one better!”

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