“The future is definitely bright” Wokingham & Emmbrook Ladies have new boss

Oliver Pritchard. Photo Fiona Mair
Oliver Pritchard. Photo Fiona Mair.

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Thames Valley Counties Women’s Football League side Wokingham & Emmbrook Ladies have appointed a new manager for when the 2020/21 season resumes.

Football in Berkshire’s women’s football correspondent Abi Ticehurst caught up with the Sumas newest recruit, coach Oliver Pritchard.

Oliver himself is no stranger to the football pitch having played throughout his youth before making the step up to a Pro:Direct Academy when he reached college. He did a season-long stint at Hayes & Yeading United, before making a move to Wokingham & Emmbrook around four seasons ago and as Oliver says: “I don’t see myself anywhere else really.”

When he’s not playing himself for the Sumas reserve team, he’s busy coaching at Reeves Rangers having qualified as a Level 2 FA Coach back in 2018, as well as working at Reading Community Trust in the foundation academy, and if that wasn’t impressive enough, he’s currently working on his UEFA B license.

Off the pitch, Oliver’s a fully qualified level 3 personal trainer who set up his own business, Opfitness, just over two years ago. Oliver believes “Being a personal trainer helps hugely when it comes to coaching footballers and understanding their physical needs for both training and match days.”

So how has he ended up as coach for the ladies team? Oliver makes no qualms about the fact coaching the women’s team “kind of came out of nowhere.” He explains he trains two of the players 1-2-1 and they’d ask him to go along and take a session when former manager, John Lilley stepped down and just like that “I went along to do a session and it felt like everything clicked quite well and it slowly started to sink in that this would be a good opportunity to be a part of a good team where I can definitely help them progress.”. 

Action from Tilehurst Panthers vs Wokingham & Emmbrook. Photo: Andrew Batt.

The team appears to have made a great first impression on Oliver as he sings their praises: “After a few training sessions and a couple of matches I have caught up very quickly and I feel like I know the squad quite well now. The team has been very warm and welcoming and have been very eager when it comes to training and matches.”

He’s clearly keen to develop a style of play with the squad, likely drawing on his previous experience as he talks about the way he “wants them to play and the kind of physiology/mentality” he wants to see from the players. And he firmly believes that “the team has plenty of talent and a good spirit”, which as a young coach, new to the women’s game makes for a very exciting prospect.

The future

And what does Oliver think about the future of the Sumas ladies? “The future plans will be going back to where we left off. Before we broke up for Christmas we really started to gain confidence and the team was already starting to implement the ideas that I put forward which was very promising.”

They nabbed themselves a point in the final game of the year against tough opponents Woking when the club’s top goalscorer for the season, Sarah Leonard, netted two. Confidence in the squad is high with the new coach too as he believes they “have a lot of young talented ladies as well as some very good experienced players that have played at this standard for some time so I believe we have a perfect blend of players at the club.” But he’s also open to adding to the squad, saying: “It doesn’t mean we won’t be looking to add real quality to the team because like everyone else it’s always a boost getting top players playing for you.”.

Wokingham & Emmbrook at Lowther Road. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

Oliver finds himself at a bit of crossroads at this point having been appointed to an exciting new role at a time when grassroots football has been suspended for the foreseeable future as we enter into our third lockdown of the pandemic. On the subject, “It’s obviously a tough time for all of us and the last thing we want to be doing is taking a break from what we started to build. Frustrating as it is it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to maintain team morale and spirit. We will be doing group zoom fitness sessions and the occasional zoom social which is always nice to do to keep us going in this tough time.”

Interested in becoming a player? Wokingham & Emmbrook were founded back in 1991 as Bracknell Town Ladies and merged with Wokingham & Emmbrook U18s in preparation for the 2017/18 Season. They currently play in Division 1 of the Thames Valley Counties Women’s Football League. Currently, WEFC Ladies are looking for a new goalkeeper for the ongoing 2020/21 season. Playing on Sunday afternoons at WEFC’s home ground at Lowther Road Wokingham and training on Wednesdays at Emmbrook School floodlit 3G facility from 20.00 – 21.30. If you are interested in joining this dynamic team, you can contact Becky Atkins on beckynoice@aol.com or 07876551258.

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