How the league was won.

Ten months in the doing but four years in the planning, has seen Hull City Ladies win the FAWPL Northern Division 1 title and promotion to the Northern Division and history made.

The Tigresses did it in style, thumping Mossley Hill 4-0 in front of their own adoring supporters, playing with confidence, style and panache that was worthy of any Champion side.

Johnson and Gay deserve a tremendous amount of credit for a near perfect season.

Under the tutelage of manager Rachel Gay and head coach Danny Johnson the Tigresses have come of age this season and gotten the rewards they richly deserve. The management duo have instilled in this squad of very highly talented individuals an unbreakable team spirit and cast iron work ethic that has seen them play football of the highest quality and still have a dogged determination to get through some rough patches.

After last week’s disappointment at Newcastle there was a palpable sense of anger within the squad that they had performed way below the standards that they had set themselves and let slip a chance to win the league then, but has with all top teams in any sport in the world, this anger was transformed into a positive during the week and transferred onto the pitch yesterday. The team along with Rachel and Danny though obviously didn’t dwell on it for too long and in the few moments of adversity this season this as always been the case.

Negativity and recriminations are not traits you will find at Hull City Ladies, instead a willingness to learn and improve from each training session or match are paramount in the thinking of Gay and Johnson, and this season is a prime example of that. After tailing off badly towards the end of last season and ultimately finishing 3rd, lessons were learned quickly and implemented from the 1st day of preseason.

Quality additions to the squad have obviously helped but also the squad already assembled have improved and learnt from previous seasons which has resulted in winning the league.

New blood and the old guard have blended seamlessly over this season. (Hope Knight & Jo Symington)

One thing that has shone through this season has been the tenacity of the team to carry on regardless, backs to the wall performances such has Brighouse away and Mossley Hill away are prime examples of this in different ways. Brighouse was a classic smash and grab win, scoring a 1st half goal from the exemplary all season,Tash Cooke and defending heroically for the remainder of the game against their biggest rivals to ‘grind’ out a win early in the season.

tasha cooke 2
Defensive rock: Tash Cooke.

Mossley Hill away was an indifferent performance on the day but the never say die attitude came to the fore and the Tigresses got a draw to maintain their unbeaten run on their march to the title.

Rachael Ackroyd scored the crucial equaliser at Mossley Hill


The players must take immense credit for buying into what Rachel and Danny have tasked them with, but special praise has to be given to the management duo who had a vision for Hull City Ladies starting four years ago and has Danny told our reporter, Sam in his post match interview on Sunday. “The whole club are only four years into a six year plan to get to where we are now.” A remarkable achievement, then you’d think but not according to Danny, who in his own meticulous way will already be planning beyond the next season to take the club even further.

Next year will not be easy and the step up to the Northern Division is a considerable one, but it is one Gay and Johnson are not afraid to take and meet the challenge head on.

Realistic targets will already be formulated in the minds of the duo and they will know where they need to improve to be competitive. There are some big teams with big finance (for this level) behind them such as Nottingham Forest, Middlesborough and Derby County some of whom are in the fold of their men’s football league sides something the Tigresses unfortunately don’t have.

It’s not only the on field side that the duo work tirelessly on, along with countless others at the club generating finance is also of paramount importance and in a number of ways more important than the end product on the pitch, which makes this title even more impressive.

One thing is for sure if this club can sustain it’s current rise in the next four years as the last four under Gay and Johnson then it’s not inconceivable that WSL will become a reality.


Photos courtesy of Dave Hare & Sam Shepherd.

Main Graphic: Scott Gay (Hull City Ladies)





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