‘The future is bright, the future is Vauxhall’.
Those are the words of Chris Bedford when he looks to the future after reflecting on the work he has done at the Ellesmere Port club since October.
Chris is the manager of the U16s side, who next season will be going into U18s and then open age football after two years.
The girls were the first to come to Vauxhall and the manager before Chris set up every age group beneath.
There is an U8s team, U9s team, U10s team, three U11s teams, U12s team and an U13s team at Vauxhall. The club also runs a ‘wildcats’ every September, which builds an U8s side for the next season.
When Vauxhall ladies go into the open age category, the club will compete in tier seven of the Football league structure and that is something to be excited about.
Chris explains ‘We will be six tiers away from the WSL so the progression to grow is certainly there.
Aiding this progression is the use of the great facilities that the women’s team makes use of.
‘The facilities are amazing, we always play our games on the astroturf pitches so we hardly ever get a game called off. We’re looking at getting another all weather pitch now so that’ll be three all weather pitches, I can’t think of other teams in the local area who have that’.
Chris explains that when he was a kid it was a dream to play for Vauxhall, so when he came back to the club he immediately began thinking about how he could install it back into the minds of parents and children.
That progression is happening through both on and off pitch work ‘I’m trying to create a sort of role model structure into the club on the women’s side where our U16s will help out with the U11s, in their matches and in other areas’.
Seeing his plans come to fruition, Chris took a step back from training as he thought ‘this is it’.
Vauxhall will provide the girls with coaching badges, so as soon as the players hit the age of 16, they are able to help out with the wildcat and toddlers sessions. This hopefully will see them become coaches so that they have more than one avenue they can take in the sport.
Chris states his frustrations ‘It’s frustrating that women’s coaches are male dominated, I’m happy that England have Sarina Weigman but Manchester United and Arsenal are both coached by men’.
He had quite a great start in the game playing for Stork before signing for Poulton Vics who had just won the FA Vase.
However, he soon fell out of love with it as he spent most of his time doing what most young lads do.
As a coach, back in football, he took New Ferry Rangers to the Birkenhead Premier League before working down South in Somerset where he worked on a nuclear power plant.
It was here where he put together a team who played, and drew, against Manchester United’s Legends, which included the likes of Wes Brown, and the former pros were quite surprised at the quality of the newly assembled side.
That game was held for Mind Charity and Chris explains how and why he is an advocate of keeping yourself in good condition. If you fail to do so, you could end up suffering from strokes at the age of 39 as he did, an ordeal which left him facing the very real possibility of an untimely death.
Vauxhall Motors U16s ladies are enjoying a fantastic run of form at the moment, going from potentially finishing bottom to staring at fourth place in the table.
“The turnaround is amazing, I left training last night and told my wife that there is a buzz in the air, everyone has bought into the plan and it feels really good to be at Vauxhall now’.
‘The girls believe in the dream and want it to come to fruition, they want to be the first open aged Vauxhall Motors ladies team’.
As they look towards the future, there are games scheduled against U18 teams to ensure that they are comfortable competing at that level.
There will be obstacles in the way such as some of the girls leaving for University, but Chris is certain that new players will want to sign up due to the phenomenal rise the team has enjoyed recently.
There have been obstacles in the past, this is Chris’ first stint at coaching a girls’ team – it is his daughter and his coaches’ daughters that are in the team – and he has had to become that little bit more understanding of certain scenarios.
‘Girls will manage their emotions differently to boys, you need to be there for them when they want a shoulder to cry on at times’.
Touching on women’s football as a whole, I ask if more money needs to be used to make improvements.
Chris replied ‘You can throw money at anything but you need people that are committed and passionate. Money is good to have but you need the right plans. You need people who are experienced, knowledgeable and that care about it’.
As the season draws to a close though, Chris has told his side to treat the games like pre-season. ‘If the teams we face next year say that ‘It’s only Vauxhall’ and we end up battering them it will be a massive shock that no-one sees coming but we know that we have the confidence to be the shock!’.
‘It’s going to be good! It’ll be scary but it will be good! The excitement is why you’re in the game’.