THE ROAD TO WEMBLEY
THE EFL GIRLS CUP 2019
Not many people can claim that they have played on the hallowed turf at Wembley Stadium. An experience that alludes many professional footballers, let alone the thousands of those who play grassroots football every week. For seven girls from Mangotsfield Secondary School, that dream of playing the game they love under the 'Wembley Arch' came true in the spring of 2019. This is their journey from Lockleaze to Wembley Way.
The EFL Girls Cup is for U13 girls that culminates in a grand final prior to the EFL Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium. The tournament is open for year 7/8 girls at all secondary schools. Bristol Rovers Community Trust and Bristol Rovers Women's (along with every CCO in the EFL) host a local round for girls within the local community. Our local rounds attract up to 120 girls to Lockleaze Sports Centre, where the winning school will represent Bristol Rovers Women's in the Area Finals.
LOCKLEAZE SPORTS CENTRE - NOVEMBER 2018
On a chilly day in November, Bristol Rovers Community Trust and Bristol Rovers Women's welcomed 120 girls to the opening round of the EFL Girls Cup. With an impressive display of football on display from the 15 schools taking part, it was Mangotsfield Secondary School who came out on top to win the Tournament and represent Bristol Rovers Women's in the Area Finals at Newport.
NEWPORT - JANUARY 2019
The girls from Mangotsfield School were now able to travel to South Wales, wearing the famous blue & white quarters representing Bristol Rovers. The 'Area Finals' saw other schools from across the South West region, representing the likes of Swansea City, Bristol City, Exeter City, Newport County and Forest Green, making the journey Newport. Despite a faltering start, the girls from Mangotsfield didn't look back. Rovers managed to top their group and went all the way to qualify for the 'Regional Finals' after a tense penalty shoot-out victory against Bristol City in the semi-final and a hard thought win against Exeter City in the Final.
Bristol Rovers Women's FC and Mangotsfield School, 'Area Finals' winners
NORTHAMPTON - FEBRUARY 2019
The girls then travelled to Northampton University to take part in the Southern Regional Finals to compete with other school's representing Reading, Colchester United and Gillingham. It didn't get off to the best starts, with Rovers falling to Colchester 5-3, although a convincing 4-2 victory against Gillingham kept the girls in the hunt of qualifying for the final. A win against Reading would give the girls a superb opportunity to finish second in the group and it couldn't have started better. Rovers took a 3-0 lead before half time and managed to cling onto the win with a 3-2 victory and ensure a place in the final against group winners Reading. In the final, Rovers pressed high and took advantage by taking an early 2-0 lead. For the remaining 15 minutes, Rovers held back a strong Reading team and despite conceding a late goal, the girls did enough to clinch the win and a date at Wembley for the EFL Girl's Cup Final.
The girls from Mangotsfield School representing Bristol Rovers earn their place at EFL Girls Cup Final
THE BUILD-UP TO WEMBLEY
BRISTOL - MARCH 2019
As luck would have it, Bristol Rovers were also planning to join the girls at Wembley for the Checkatrade Trophy Final if they could overcome a tough semi-final against Sunderland. With Mangotsfield already having booked their place in the Final, the girls were thrown into the spotlight with their story being covered by Sky Sports News, BBC Points West, ITV West Country and a huge host of other media. Sadly, Bristol Rovers were unable to join the girls at Wembley but they would be safe in the knowledge that the army of 'Gas Heads' would be behind them.
WEMBLEY - MARCH 2019
As finalists, the girls would be treated to an overnight stay in London before a full day of activities including an exclusive tour of Wembley Stadium. Before the 'Gas Girls' took the famous walk onto the hallowed turf, Arsenal and England midfielder Jordan Nobbs made a surprise visit to offer the girls some advice and support ahead of the match. The prolific centre-midfielders said ""It’s incredible, 6,000 girls take part in this competition every year, and the fact that these girls get to play on a pitch that women and men dream of, it’s amazing. It was great to go into the dressing room and hopefully give them a bit of inspiration. Hopefully, young girls will see this and be inspired to play football and dream of playing in an amazing stadium like Wembley."
After a nervous wait, the time had come to walk out of the tunnel at Wembley Stadium and give it their all in front of a crowd, building up for a sell-out Final later in the afternoon. An experience that nobody will forget.
The game itself was the perfect precursor to the Checkatrade Trophy Final, with fans of both Sunderland and Portsmouth getting behind the girls. Jess Harvey gave Bristol Rovers Women's the lead with a superb finish, but another well-taken goal, this time from St Joseph’s representing Sunderland, meant it was level at the break. Sadly for the 'Gas Girls' it was Sunderland who found an extra gear and slotted home two well worked goal to claim a 3-1 win over Bristol Rovers Women's. Both sides received medals in the Royal Box after the game in recognition of their fantastic achievements in the 2018/19 Girls Cup while the girls from Mangotsfield received a plate in recognition of their amazing journey from Lockleaze to Wembley Stadium.
It truly was a memorable day for all of the girls, the teachers and the staff and one that they will never forget. The run the EFL Girls Cup certainly highlighted the improvement in development and growth within the women's and girls game. A month after the EFL Girls Cup Final, Bristol Rovers Women's was launched, giving us an opportunity to help girls within our community to play football and offer them experiences they won't forget. Who knows, maybe one day we'll have another group of girls make the famous trip to Wembley Way.
Jess Harvey puts Bristol Rovers Women's FC into the lead in the EFL Girls Cup Final at Wembley Stadium