Durham and star Hepple studying the way forward
UNIVERSITY degrees may be few and far between amongst male footballers but they are positively abundant in the women’s game.
And the unique link-up that WSL 2 side Durham have with a local university is doing even more to safeguard their players’ future, according to midfielder Beth Hepple.
Numerous England internationals are university educated – Eniola Aluko has a Law degree from Brunel, Karen Carney and Siobhan Chamberlain studied Sports Science at Loughborough, Corinne Yorston is a Biochemistry graduate while Claire Rafferty read Economics.
But Durham have taken the meshing of education and football one step further by offering a masters degree scholarship enabling players to play Women’s Super League football for the club while completing a fullypaid for, part-time masters degree at Durham University.
The likes of Amelia Pereira, Caroline Dixon and current captain Sarah Wilson have all been part of the scheme while the club are also accommodating to players wanting to study at other universities in the area.
And 18-year-old Hepple, who will study Business Management from September, believes the focus on education is one of the best things about the club.
“Quite a few of our players are students or do a masters and there’s a masters scholarship, so a couple of the girls play for the University such as Amelia Pereira,” explained Hepple.
“We’re mostly quite a young squad, so we can still improve a lot on the pitch but there’s a lot of potential for the club as a whole – the link with Durham University is great.
“It can attract a lot of players and the education side of things is very good. With money still being a bit of an issue within the women’s game, education is even more important.
“That’s especially true for people like me – I still want to go to Uni and get my degree, and the club is really good for that.”
The youthful nature of Durham’s squad has not held them back this year as they lie in a creditable sixth place in WSL 2 and recorded a hardfought 1-0 away win to Aston Villa last weekend.
Nicki Gears netted her first goal for the club in the win but is still three behind midfield dynamo Hepple in the charts.
Hepple has rediscovered her form following a sticky run just before the mid-season break and is now desperate for her purple patch to continue and help her side improve on last year’s sixth-place finish in the league.
“After the mid-season break my performances have improved a lot,” added Hepple, who has represented England at U19 level.
“Individually I went through a bit of a rough patch around May-time but I’ve scored a couple of goals recently, so I’m back where I want to be.
“We want to finish as high in the league as we possibly can. We’ve got to be realistic because we’ve got some tough games coming up but I definitely think we can finish higher than we did last season – that has to be the aim.”
PROMISING FUTURE: Beth Hepple and her Durham teammates are aiming high