Simp­kins first Belle on ball to com­mit to full-time

WSL 1 new­com­ers feel they can ‘do a Sun­der­land’

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Joshua Richards

EMILY SIMP­KINS reck­ons life be­gins at 25 af­ter this week be­com­ing Don­caster Rovers Belles’ first-ever pro­fes­sional player – and it’s al­lowed the mid­fielder to ditch her day job.

Simp­kins, who orig­i­nally played for Don­caster in 2009-10, has ap­peared in the Cham­pi­ons League for Birm­ing­ham and won the Women’s Premier Di­vi­sion ti­tle with Not­ting­ham For­est.

She has al­ways com­bined play­ing with her work as an FA skills coach, men­tor­ing five to 11-year-olds in Stafford­shire – a stone’s throw from St Ge­orge’s Park.

She failed to set the world alight at Birm­ing­ham, start­ing just 11 games in four sea­sons, but gained a new lease of life last term with Don­caster where she helped the Belles achieve pro­mo­tion to WSL 1.

Now, the club have given her a big vote of con­fi­dence by re­ward­ing her with a full-time con­tract.

The fact that it’s the first deal of its kind to be of­fered by Don­caster is a land­mark mo­ment for the club. For the player, though, it’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say it is life-chang­ing.

“This feels like the start for me,” said Simp­kins, who also counts Coven­try and Le­ices­ter among her for­mer clubs.

“It feels very se­ri­ous now. I had so many set­backs at Birm­ing­ham. I was vir­tu­ally bench-bound, but this has come around be­cause I stuck at it.

Con­fi­dence

“Things weren’t go­ing great at Birm­ing­ham and I needed a change of scene.

“There was an op­por­tu­nity to come back to Don­caster and get my con­fi­dence back up. Get­ting pro­moted has been a huge bonus and now there’s no look­ing back for us.

“It’s a real hon­our to sign the first full­time con­tract, es­pe­cially hav­ing al­ready been here.The club has a big place in my heart.

“Be­ing a full-time player has not really sunk in yet. I can’t wait to get the ball rolling when train­ing be­gins in Jan­uary. I’ve al­ways trained around my full-time job and now I’m get­ting paid to be a foot­baller.”

Simp­kins is the first of ten play­ers due to be re­warded with full-time deals, though she is opt­ing to err on the side of cau­tion, spend­ing her win­ter com­plet­ing a per­sonal train­ing course as some­thing ‘to fall back on’.

Since pro­mo­tion from WSL 2 was se­cured, Don­caster have also re­vealed plans to build a new train­ing com­plex – the first ded­i­cated elite women’s train­ing cen­tre in the coun­try.

Man­ager Glen Har­ris has reaf­firmed his in­ten­tion to stay on at the Keep­moat Sta­dium and the next task on the agenda for Don­caster is to prove them­selves on the pitch in WSL 1.

Sun­der­land, WSL 2 cham­pi­ons 12 months ear­lier, fin­ished fourth in their maiden top-flight cam­paign.

They claimed the scalps of Liver­pool and even­tual cham­pi­ons Chelsea along the way.

And Simp­kins has no doubt Don­caster are ca­pa­ble of do­ing the same.

“The club are putting in the foun­da­tions to build from,” she said. “There is great am­bi­tion here, no back­wards steps.The train­ing ground, es­pe­cially, is a huge de­vel­op­ment.

“This sea­son we’ve got qual­ity in­di­vid­u­als like Sue Smith, who can drive us through.

“And, just like Sun­der­land last year, we are not here to make up the num­bers. We feel we can be com­pet­i­tive.”

PIC­TURE: The FA

BUB­BLING UP: Emily Simp­kins cel­e­brates pro­mo­tion af­ter Don­caster fin­ished sec­ond in WSL 2

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