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Womens Football News Archive - 15th Aug 2003
Interview with Bangor City captain Gill Smith
Bangor City start their Premier League season at home to Manchester City this Sunday and will be looking to put a difficult summer behind them. The North Wales side finished fourth in the Northern Division last term and reached the Welsh Cup Final but captain Gill Smith, who has not played since their Cup defeat to Cardiff City, is advising caution for her side this time around.
"I don't think anyone at Bangor is thinking of a promotion challenge and we are expecting a tough season," Gill told Women's Soccer Scene. "Pre-season has been a difficult time. We had lined up three friendly games against quality opposition but had to cancel as we weren't in a position to give them a competitive game."
Bangor remained just outside the fringes of the promotion race and a huge bonus for Keith Fearns' team was the rise of prominence of Ailsa Orlik who netted 12 goals, two behind leading scorer Cheryl Foster. However, as Gill explains, it will be hard to keep the momentum going: "The squad has been weakened by departures with a number of players quitting football and a handful moving to other clubs. Combined with injuries and players being away on holiday it hasn't been a good start to the season and this is unlikely to improve in the short term.
"That's not to say we don't have quality players like Ceryl Jones, Ailsa Orlik and Tania Jones available but the squad as a whole is much smaller and on the inexperienced side. Our Player of the Year last season (Louise Barlow) and top goalscorer (Cheryl Foster) are both in the USA coaching and haven't yet committed to signing for Bangor. Fingers crossed that they make the right decision on their return!"
On a personal level, Gill has probably been the most frustrated of all due to her long term injury but she is determined to do as much as she can to help a club which, although the largest in North Wales, does not enjoy the huge catchment area of players that some of their Northern Division rivals would do. "Personally it has been very frustrating, as I haven't trained since damaging my ankle ligaments in the Welsh Cup Final. Being on the wrong side of thirty means I'm not part of the long term future of Bangor but I would like to finish playing with the club in a healthy position.
"Bangor is totally self financing and dependent on developing local talent and I don't think many people appreciate the effort put in by the management and players to keep the club going at this level."
So who does Gill feel will be the main contenders in the Northern Division this time? "It is always hard to predict who the contenders for the title will be as players seem to come and go for the offer of a free tracksuit these days! I guess Sunderland will start as favourites but it would be nice to see a club like Oldham Curzon clinch promotion as they don't have a glitzy 'big name' behind them."
Just over a year ago, Gill lifted the Welsh Cup and led Bangor as the first Welsh side to enter the UEFA Women's Cup. Having seen Cardiff acquit themselves well in the competition this summer, could that drive her team on in order to have a second crack next season?
"It was a great experience playing the Champions of Finland, Poland and Switzerland in the space of just five days but it was frighteningly apparent that we would never be able to compete on equal terms. Bangor were pitched against semi professional sides better equipped to handle such an intense tournament and HJK Helsinki were simply the best team we have ever played with the Swiss not far behind! Saying that I couldn't have been more proud of the Bangor performances and I'm sure the girls would love to have another crack at it!"
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