Jessy Parker Humphreys speaks to Millwall Lionesses manager Colin Reid about their new direction as an independent club.
As Bury and Bolton face their own financial issues running into the new season, the Millwall Lionesses have had to turn over a new leaf just to have even made it into this one themselves.
Last year, the team, associated with the men’s team, only managed to stay out of administration thanks to a crowdfunding campaign that raised £17,500. Frustrated with the perceived difficulties of working with Millwall as a club, the Lionesses set up independently as the London City Lionesses, taking their WSL accreditation with them.
While it is still unclear as to how exactly the gap between the clubs grew to the point of departure, the London City Lionesses made an ideal start to the Women’s Championship season with a 2-0 win over London Bees. Meanwhile, the newly formed Millwall Lionesses are getting ready to begin life in the Eastern Women’s Region League, the sixth step of women’s football.
Having appointed Colin Reid as manager, the Millwall Lionesses have had to recruit an entirely new squad.
“It’s a challenge that I’m really really looking forward to and the players are as well”, he said.
Reid, who has coached right across English football from Premier League youth set-ups to non-league first teams, didn’t seem phased by the level they were playing at and how that might affect attendances.
“You’ve got no rights in football, so for us, we’ve got to earn the right to be where we want to be”
“I think over the next two, three years, you’re going to see a rise of certainly the quality, which I’ve seen, and certainly in attendances”
And he seemed confident in being associated with Millwall despite their past difficulties
“I think [being associated with a men’s team] can be a big advantage…Millwall are supporting us fully…I think it’s good to be associated with a professional [men’s] football club”
It remains to be seen how Millwall will interact with their new women’s team now they have dropped down the divisions. In an immediate sense, the pressure of working with a team in the sixth tier of women’s football as opposed to the second seems like a much lighter load for the club, even in terms of the expectations of the Football Association. But their manager seems committed to make sure that the club, the men’s team and the women’s team all stay on the same page.
“Millwall have got to promote [women’s football] and jump on the bandwagon”
In the meantime, London City Lionesses will be finding out what it looks like to be able to stand on your own two feet. Certainly, it’ll be interesting to see what happens if they ever end up meeting.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph