Bob Davies sat down with the manager of Shrewsbury Town Women, Tom Peevor, to discuss the women's team's recent success.
Judging by the broad smile which seemed to permanently spread across the face of Tom Peevor, things are moving very much in the right direction for him and his coaches at the Montgomery Waters Meadow.
Tom is the Women’s team manager at Shrewsbury Town and despite being knocked out of the FA Cup by a team who ply their trade in a league above them, he is most pleased to see them achieve their main goal – promotion
We sat down to chat in the Community Hub, alongside the newly laid 3G pitch on which, under floodlights, dozens of girls ranging in age from Under-10 to Under-16 were being put through their paces, watched by admiring parents and friends.
Later, due to arrive for the first of their twice-weekly training sessions, were the 21 players who make up the first-team squad, and their success is the reason for the warm feeling of satisfaction experienced by Tom, his coaches, and the players as the season heads to a close.
They recently secured the division one north of the West Midlands Regional Women’s Football League title – which is very much the target for Tom and his coaches – and they have enjoyed success in the Vitality FA Cup, particularly in the wake of their dramatic 3-2 victory over Wem Town Women, who compete in two divisions above them, in the third round of their qualifying matches.
Tom and I were talking a few days before his team were to enjoy the exciting challenge of facing Lye Town in the first-round proper and, rather than playing on the newly laid artificial 3G pitch, they were rewarded by being allowed to play for the first time on the main pitch at the stadium. Unfortunately, they made their exit in an evenly contested 2-1 defeat against Lye but, they have another chance on the main stage as they welcome Walsall Wood Ladies to Montgomery Waters Meadow this coming Sunday for the final league game of the season.
Tom was working for the Football Association, developing coaches and promoting football in schools when the opportunity arose for him to become an assistant coach to Shrewsbury Town women’s team, having never coached females before.
Three years ago he stepped into the role of manager, which is a part-time position as his full-time job is with Shrewsbury Town in the Community, working with schools to encourage more girls to play sports.
Managing a female team, he said, had been a completely different experience for him. “It is definitely different from coaching males,” he added, “as female players want to know more about what we are doing and what is the point of it. They want to know why we do certain things and that has improved me as a coach.”
Tom explained that the women’s team had been in existence for around ten years, but when he took over they were not faring very well, having been trounced 5-1 by their neighbours from Telford.
“I was asked to come in to steady the ship and that is what we have been trying to do for the past three years.”
Their situation, he said, had taken a significant step forward this year as the Community had sourced a sponsor and that had proved to be a “game-changer”.
Physis Quantum is a local organisation that provides care for vulnerable females who have had a tough experience in life and were trying to get back on track.
“The support we have had from them has meant that none of the players have had to pay a fee to play for us,” he said. “They are also provided with their training and playing kit and the new 3G pitch is the best playing surface by a long way in our league.”
That said Tom, enabled Shrewsbury to attract more talent, and competition for places in the team was now extremely high. “If the girls don’t play well they don’t get into the team, which has been a big factor in their performances this season.”
Part of their success revolved around the experienced players in the team, who talked the youngsters through games, but an important factor was the more professional approach that had been taken with the women’s game at Shrewsbury.
In addition to the manager and coaches, they now have a goalkeeping coach, a social media department to promote the women’s game, a kit man, and an analyst.
When he took over, the players travelled independently to away games, but now they meet at the Montgomery Waters Meadow and travel by coach. They even had access to the football club’s first-team coach, which the players love.
“That is massive for the girls,” said Tom, “as they are a very close-knit group and it boosts the cohesion in the team. They are undoubtedly the best group I’ve ever worked with – they are brilliant,” Tom added.
Another vitally important feature was that they had now installed a camera to record games, which meant they could be watched on social media and used for them to analyse their performances afterward. “It is massive and makes us more professional,” said Tom.
Looking back at his three years in control, Tom said “We have made steps in the right direction. The challenge now is to keep it going and the only way to do that is by working hard.
“The biggest thing from my point of view is they were not a team with a clear direction but now they want to learn and develop, which is fantastic.
“The aim was to work towards securing our place in the league above and pushing on from there, but we have had such an outstanding season by winning all but two of our matches, we hope we can carry the momentum forward,” said Tom.