England and Notts County defender Laura Bassett was on hand last night, to help at the launch of the first women’s only football night in Nottinghamshire. Nottingham City of Football’s ‘Reclaim the Pitch’ event marked the start of their brand new Girls Only Football nights as
Forest Sports Zone on Forest Recreation Ground was taken over by women from all over Notts, with football activities, comedians, live music, dance, Footy Fit and the fastest growing female five aside league, Female Football Fives.

We caught up with Bass, as the evening kicked off, to have a chat about #reclaimthepitch and a bit about the season ahead:

SK: Hiya Laura, thanks for joining us to have a chat, how are you?
LB: I’m good, thanks. We’re into pre-season now. We played our first friendly against Everton on Sunday but prior to that it was just training and training. One of our earlier pre-season friendlies got cancelled and you just think, ‘Awww come on!’ You feel like you’ve just been training and training for weeks. But we’ve got that under our belt now and we have two more games before the England girls go away to the USA, so that’s good. It’s about finding that balance between still pushing in training and playing games. You’re just aching all of the time.

SK: Well, you aren’t getting any younger… (We know, VERY RUDE! But we’re only joking and we’re ‘ancient’ so we’re allowed to say that!)
LB: You can’t say that! I’m trying to persuade everyone at Notts that I’m still their side of 30.

SK: You’re at City of Football’s ‘first Reclaim the Pitch’ night in Nottingham, at the Forest Sports Zone, is there a nice buzz about the event?
LB: Yeah. There’s loads of girls turning up now and registering and excited to get going.

SK: What are your important responsibilities for the evening?
LB: Oh, I wouldn’t say ‘important’. I’m just here to help and inspire, speak to the girls to see where their enjoyment lies within football – whether it’s playing or doing the ‘Footy Fit’ exercise – anything that can help, if they need any advice, or just encouragement or support. I’m delighted to be able to show an interest and to be asked to do so.

SK: Nottingham is a really football-friendly and sport-friendly city isn’t it?
LB: It is. Since joining two years ago – I think it’s not only football, just sport – I was so surprised how much Nottingham people just love their sport. Every sport gets behind each other, whether that be the ice hockey team, the cricket or the football (Nottingham Forest is situated so close next to Notts County) and the women’s team is encompassed within that. The football fever that goes on in Nottingham is absolutely brilliant.

SK: Do you think the ‘Reclaim the Pitch’ concept is an idea that could and should be copied in other cities in the future?
LB: I really do. I think it’s a great idea. Hopefully this can set a successful precedence to encourage women, whether that’s through playing in the women’s veteran’s league or just girls and women who want to come down and have a look and see what’s going on in your area. It’s a great way to get everyone together and if females don’t feel as comfortable going to other events to get involved, then a female’s only night is a great catalyst to get them to come down and share their experiences of playing and just being involved in football.

SK: Does it look fun – is there anything you fancy joining in?
LB: Yeah! When I first arrived I couldn’t hear anything because the music was so loud, the Beautiful Game girls’ music was playing. [The girls from NextDoorDance were there to perform extracts from their recent Nottingham Playhouse production, The Beautiful Game.] So, hopefully I’ll get to have a little bop along to that when they start any minute. It all looks fun. I’ve done a double session in training today though, but I do want to join in, so we will see!

SK: Are you excited about the season ahead? Is it a sort of fresh start for you, where people like us might finally stop asking you about some of the dramas of last year?
LB: I think that people will always want to ask me questions about that, especially if they didn’t get the opportunity to ask those questions before. It’s part and parcel of the game and I expect that. But for us as a club, we had some great experiences in 2015, in the cup finals, and we learnt some really crucial lessons, so I think as a whole we’re just really excited to get going and see if we can replicate it and take it one step further this season.

SK: There’s a lot of talent at County and everyone is aware that in such a small league a good start is fairly crucial, does that bring pressure with it over the next month or so in the build up to kick off or do you let others worry about that?
LB: I think you have to let others worry about it. All you can do yourself is to ‘control the controllables’ as a player, keep working hard and try to keep yourself injury free and fresh and recover as best you can. I think as Notts County, we started the league really well last year and it’s brilliant that we’ve kept so many players that we have done, and so hopefully we can do that again.

SK: The Forest girls beat Preston on Sunday [2-0] to set up an SSE Women’s FA Cup 4th Rd tie against Everton on the 28th, do you fancy meeting them in the 5th Round for a Nottingham derby?
LB: That would be lovely. Since playing in Nottingham I’ve not really played a derby, whereas at Birmingham and Chelsea you were always playing derbies. At Nottingham we haven’t really had that yet, the closest has been a Birmingham or a maybe a Donny [Rovers Belles]. So Nottingham Forest v Notts County would be ace. 

Katie Gibson, Programme and Partner Coordinator at Nottingham City of Football was very excited to have Laura along to support the initiative and is very enthusiastic about the opportunities presented by the #reclaimthepitch event and ongoing ‘Girls Only’ nights. She said: “It’s a great way for females of all ages and abilities to find their football, as well as celebrating those out there that play, ref or coach.

 “These nights will also provide an opportunity to turn up and play football in any format. We didn’t want to just launch a standard football night, there’s something for everyone and we’ll be setting up a Women’s Veteran League and Women’s walking football sessions on the night too.

 “Nottingham City of Football recognises that not everyone is going to love football and we don’t expect you to, what we do differently is try football in different elements – for example football through dance, creative movement and of course Footy Fit, which is football through exercise.”

Nottingham was crowned England’s City of Football by Sport England and will receive £1.6million of National Lottery funding over the next two years. Nottingham City of Football encourages women and girls to participate at all levels and has had a fantastic impact on women’s football across the City, find your football at

IMAGES: Alexandra Johnson

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