The Gazette’s news editor, Neil Henty, talks to Courtney Cassar, manager of Salisbury FC’s Women
It’s fair to say, Salisbury FC Women’s team is having a good season. Sitting third in the Wiltshire Ladies Premier League with seven wins, the team’s only defeats have come against the two teams above them in the table.
The team most recently beat visited Westbury Youth FC Ladies, coming away with an excellent 3-1 victory thanks to goals from Zoe Alcock, Ellen Clark and Rachel Lang.
There is a justified optimism within the management team and the playing squad, not just for the rest of this season but for the years ahead.
Part of the optimism comes from the huge boost the Lionesses provided women’s football in this country by winning the Euros, last summer.
“Not just the win, but the way they played and how the players and staff conducted themselves on and off the pitch.
The game is booming, from grassroots girl’s football through the adult leagues and the international game.
While icons like Leah Williamson and Beth Mead provide inspiration for all, it is the five-year-plan of Salisbury FC Women’s manager, Courtney Cassar, that is driving her team and the club forward.
The Gazette caught up with Courtney recently to find out more about the team, her managerial style and ambitions for the years ahead.
When was Salisbury FC Women founded and what has changed the most between now and then?
“Salisbury FC Women was founded in 2016. There was a great interest, but no real development or progression, it was a team people could come join for fitness and socialising with the competitive footballing aspect not being as high a priority.
“The latter is what’s changed the most, I’ve put together the most amazing coaching team and between us all we’ve implemented a more professional environment, where players have healthy competition between themselves to fight for their place on the pitch, and in the Wiltshire league.”
When did you first join Salisbury FC Women?
“I joined Salisbury for the 2017/18 season.
I had been playing as a centre back since the age of seven and had spent a decade playing for Wolversdene FC, my local team, before suffering a hip injury.
“This kept me out of the game for a few years. After I recovered, I joined Salisbury, once again, playing as a centre back.”
And when did you make the move into management?
“I retired from playing and became manager a few weeks before the start of this season.”
What is your main role as manager?
“My duties this season have been more commercial.
“I have been sourcing and agreeing contracts with sponsors, negotiating with the board of Salisbury FC to get the Ray Mac stadium as our home ground and getting new kit and equipment in.
“I’ve also been responsible for player, staff and coach recruitment and engaging with the media.
“I share tactical decisions with my coaching team. I trust their input entirely. My head coach, Jase (Musselwhite) and assistant coach, Mitch (Root) have brought so much knowledge to the table and provide valuable experience when it comes to developing players and helping me choose match day line-ups.”
You took over at the start of the season, what were your ambitions at the time?
“I actually scribbled a five year plan in the back of a notebook when I agreed to move from player to manager.
“During the first season, I wanted to get sponsors in place for both home and away kits. Getting into the Ray Mac Stadium was a year two goal.
“Both of these I achieved in the first four months and I’m immensely proud of the effort and outcome.
“Beyond these goals, I’m looking to set up a development team for the women, as well as a fully-staffed girls pathway for Salisbury FC in order to be able to offer football to girls of all ages.”
What about tactical style and footballing philosophy?
“Our tactical style changes based on different variables, for example, what players are available, what injuries we need to account for, the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses. So our style is fluid.
“My personal philosophy for the squad is ‘no cliques’. I’ve done the best I can to avoid cliques being created to ensure that the team is exactly that, one team, without upset or drama and with a focus purely on football.”
Who has inspired you most during your career?
“The Lionesses have definitely triggered the effort I’ve put into setting and achieving goals, however, most of my inspiration comes from my old Wolversdene coach, Steve.
“He instilled value, dedication and respect into the game of football for me at a young age and was a prominent figure I looked up to.”
Talking of the Lionesses, what boost has their success had on participation?
“I 100% believe the Lionesses victory is a huge reason why I’ve had such success with sponsors. The game is getting more popular, something we see most prominently in the support we receive from the sidelines.
“We’ve also seen an increase in player referrals where women across Salisbury and the surrounding areas are wanting to get into football. More girls youth teams are being created, which has also had a considerable increase in player referrals.
“I hope to utilise this popularity to create a thriving footballing pathway for girls in Salisbury and the local area, and really put Salisbury FC Women on the map.”
What has pleased you the most about the team’s progression this season?
“Overall, I’m proud of how far the team has improved when it comes to link up play.
“It shows they’re really gelling as a squad and becoming a family, learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and accommodating accordingly in the way that they play.”
And what of that five-year-plan? What can we look forward to from Salisbury Women’s FC?
“The short-term plan is simply about gaining promotions and climbing the league ladders, obtaining more sponsors so the squad can be fully kitted out with training kit and to set up a development team.
“Long-term, the plan is to have all of this running smoothly with the girls pathway creating an ecosystem where they can move up the age groups into the development team, before progressing to the women’s first team.
“Ideally, they would then complete coaching qualifications and start the cycle again.
“In terms of promotions, there is a league pyramid, consisting officially of seven tiers – tier 7 being county leagues, while tier 1 is the Women’s Super League. There is lots of progression to be had!
“I’m proud of what we’ve become and we’ll keep getting bigger and better.”
What advice would you give for girls or women who want to play football?
“Get involved and be consistent, no one is amazing immediately, it takes time and practice and even then, you’ll make mistakes. But your team will always have your back.”