Chichester’s ‘Golden Girls’ lift national title

Chichester’s Gold medal winning football team. (Back – left to right): Amber Howden, Lauren Barrow, Molly Thorns. (Middle – left to right): Nicole Robinson, LouLou Robson, Tegan Andrade-Paris. (Front – left to right): Alex Collighan, Alice Walford, Gracie White

A football fairytale come true. That’s how Chichester College’s Female Football Academy’s rise to golden glory at this year’s AoC Sport National Championships has been described.

The Academy, which is only in its second year, saw off competition from eight other college sides – many of them elite category sides with links to The FAWSL – to claim victory and be crowned national champions.

Team captain Gracie White, 18, said: “It is unbelievable.

“The whole weekend was incredible and to wake up as champions is an amazing feeling for all of us.

“Some of the other teams had international players and had experience playing in the Super League, so we knew it was going to be tough. I don’t think any of us could have dreamed that we were going to come away with the championship.

“I just think the reason we won was down to the raw passion, determination and drive that we showed. I think we really wanted it and the whole team was buzzing – we kept each other going.”

Having excelled at the regional stage of the competition back in the autumn, the Chichester team was undefeated in the finals (six wins and two draws), to take a nail-biting victory over Bristol Academy for the gold medal.

Matt Wright, Deputy Head of Learning and manager of the college’s Female Football Academy, said: “This is a very special achievement – I’ve coached a lot of teams, and won a few trophies, but this is right up there as one of the highlights of my career.

“It’s hard to put it into words what this means to us – we were one of only two non-elite sides competing at the competition and I don’t think anyone saw us coming!

“We just kept winning matches against top teams. We were the underdogs but the girls were phenomenal. They played brilliantly and just kept going.”