After providing support to over 800 players from Under 9s all the way through to Under 17s, the Regional Talent Club has held its final session.
The RTC was originally set up with the aim to provide players with elite potential the opportunity to access elite levels of coaching and support. Since the initial set up, the Women’s and Girls game has seen growth season on season throughout Essex, as well as nationally.
The FA strategy pledged to create a sustainable future for women’s and girls’ football in England and with many of these opportunities growing within grassroots, semi and professional club environments and with complete pathway changes happening / on the horizon, and with the positive position the female game is now in, it is the correct time to reflect on our position within this space and, with the planned changes by the FA and the continued development and progression of elite level club pathways, understand if we are still the right custodians of delivery, of the female talent pathway here in Essex.
After an incredible 10 seasons of holding an RTC licence, and with careful consideration of the direction of travel the FA have identified, we believe now is the right time to pass the baton of elite female football delivery to our local football clubs to immerse themselves in the new pathway.
Since holding the licence, the programme has supported over 800 players, from U9s through to U17s. 22 of those have directly represented our nation, through English Schools, Talent Camps and England Youth Squads. Away from national preentation, there were five alumni, in Maddie Biggs, Paige Peake, Eloise King, Lucy Egan and Blue Wilson, who represented Ipswich Town Women FC, when they faced their highest opposition to date in Manchester City, during the Women’s FA Cup 5th round, in February 2020. Bringing it back to the present moment, other previous alumni in Alex Hennessey, Maddie Earl and Paige Peake, continue to represent their respective clubs in the top two tiers of the Women’s Pyramid.
Recent England successes from the RTC
There have also been successes in previous staff who have grown and developed within our programme both on and off the pitch. On the pitch, Lucy Faraday led our oldest age groups at the start of the programme and is now the England Women's National Assistant Coach (16-17). Joe Sheehan led a number of age groups over the five seasons he was with us and is now the Ipswich Town Women’s First Team Manager, and Nikita Runnacles who again led a number of age groups/roles over an extensive period of time and is currently the interim Head Coach of London City Lionesses and the Women’s Youth National GK Coach. Away from the pitch Sharon Brownlie who oversaw all off field responsibilities over a four season period went on to become the current National RTC Clubs Manager at The FA.
Sharon Brownlie spoke about the RTC programme. "Over the 10 years of evolution of the RTC, we assembled a fantastic team of staff many of which remain today. Although it was an ‘elite’ programme the importance of players as people and as children was paramount and the desire to create great people was the focus. Over the last ten seasons the team of staff, with the support of the parents and carers went on to create a truly special environment where the players flourished in a friendly but professional environment."
"I speak to many players and their parents who have since left the programme and they always remember Essex RTC as the place they enjoyed the most. There have been many success stories on the pitch for both players and staff that have travelled through the doors at Shrub End but most importantly there are hundreds more that have used the skills and experiences to go onto become great people."
Essex FA would like to put on record our gratitude to all partners and staff who have supported the programme over the last 10 years. To past and present parents/carers who have entrusted us to play a positive role in their daughter/child footballing journey. To all the individuals who have given up their time, energy, experience and love for the female game we will be forever grateful for the experiences you have given all the young athletes that have been a part of the programme and we'd like to say thank you to:
Sharon Brownlie, Steve Downey, Mark Cousins, Christa Osman, Carla Dickinson, Danny Parker, Daniel Morton, Kevin DeKeijzer, Paige Wakefield, Joe Sheehan, Paige Shorten, Cion Wren, Ian Kershaw, Nikita Runnacles, Rachel Ellis, Amy McMillan, Andy Gibbons, Adam Firman, Stefano Russo, Abigail Saxon, Kelly Bent, Ian Bent, Charlotte O'Malley, Lucy Faraday, Emma Manning, Chris Isted, Rosi Webb, Justine Ballard, Shelia Macauley, Helen Hever, Susan Dorrell, Georgia Maxwell-Jones.
And a special thank you to Simon King, Kevin Baker, Randeep Samra, Alan Ackrell, Matt Johnstone, Matthew Gibbs, Aaron Runnacles, Tracy Lewis, Alex Barker and Dani Warnes, who have continued to deliver a fantastic programme in the final season.
Essex County FA 2022/23 Girls Regional Talent Centre Coaches
Whilst the RTC programme is concluding, the Women’s and Girls game is in a better place than ever and with the guidance and direction from the FA, the local football clubs have the full support of Essex FA in the delivery of elite female football. We want to wish everyone involved in this season’s RTC the best of luck for the future and hope they enjoy their upcoming end of season get together.