Club of the week
A Rutherglen-based girls football team are proving that success is not confined to the men’s game in the Royal Burgh.
Rutherglen Girls FC was founded in 2012 when father Brian O’Neill, from Croftfoot, was left unhappy about the game-time his daughter got when playing for another side.
Since deciding to set up his own club, the girls have picked up two trophies and compete at two different age groups - under 13 and under 17 - in the Ayrshire League.
A scorching start to this season is stark contrast to the first evertraining session when just five girls took part. Of those five, four are still part of the under 17 squad and it is this togetherness that makes the local outfit such a tight-knit group.
Brian said: “We’re a community club.
“We had five girls that first night and had to recruit a couple to have enough to play a game. We played our first competitive game at Fernhill and despite being 2-0 up we lost 3-2.
“At the start and even now we got a lot of help from South Lanarkshire Council Sport and Leisure.
“They gave us our training and games free for the first few years and that really helped because financially it’s a big commitment but we also have good sponsors that help us there too money-wise.
“Martin Kiely is our club chairman and he is the managing director of WH Malcolm construction and they sponsor us.
“He has also got us a couple of other sponsors and we wouldn’t be able to function without them.”
The team train two nights each week with the under 13s playing matches on Saturday mornings and the under 17s on Sunday mornings.
Although there are currently two age groups, Brian and assistant coach Neil Paterson have aspirations to set up an academy structure right through the age groups.
Brian said: “Next year we have to go to the women’s league because more than half the team will be too old for the under 17s.
“So next year it’s looking like there will be a women’s development team, an under 15s team and if we can get an under 11s that would be good. It all depends, if we can attract some new players.”
Coaching the team is a big commitment for Brian and Neil, who admit Rutherglen Girls has essentially taken over theirs and their family’s lives.
From arranging matches to taking training and games, both men agree that the rewards outweigh the disadvantages as they see girls develop into match winners, even when it means losing the girls to another team.
Brian added: “We lost a couple of girls to Glasgow City and although they weren’t with us for long one of the girls sent me a card saying if it wasn’t for me they would have stopped playing football, and she has gone on to win the Scottish Cup so it means a lot to us.”
Neil said: “It has been a struggle but we’re getting there. We have 32 girls now across both teams.
“I would say that Rutherglen Girls is now a huge part of my life, even my wife has to arrange her life around the team.
“I believe it is just a really good place for the girls to play football.
“At some of the bigger clubs like Celtic and Glasgow City they have squads of 20 and a lot of the girls don’t get to play much and for me that is just a crying shame.”
The under 13 side have made a blistering start to the season and currently sit top of the league having only lost to Kilmarnock ( blues) away who they still need to play at home at Fernhill.
They knocked the current league champions, Clarke Drive, out at the quarter final stage of the League Cup with an impressive 8-0 victory at Toryglen, before seeing off Hamilton Girls in the semis at the same venue.
Despite being knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Celtic and losing the League Cup to Kilmarnock, the under 13s still have a chance of winning the league this season but face stiff competition from a very strong Kilmarnock side.
To do this they will have to beat the Ayrshire side and force a playoff.
Building the club from grassroots level is the main agenda for the club and they are currently recruiting with a view to setting up teams at different age groups over the next few seasons.
The club are looking to players and anyone interested should contact Brian on 07983885398 or Neil on 07947890633.
One of the girls sent me a card saying if itwasn’tformethey wouldhavestopped playing football
Moving up The under 17 squad are set to move up to development level next season