So the mighty Tigresses are going up!!
During the countless hours travelling the motorways of Northern England following this magnificent team, my FanaticHull colleague and son, Sam and I have had plenty of time to debate who has impressed and delighted us over the last nine months.
It has been extremely difficult to whittle down to a top five players who have shone over the entire season for Hull City Ladies, because to a woman the squad have been absolutely immense and EVERY single one of them deserve all the credit and plaudits we hope they are getting. Undoubtedly Sam will have some different choices to me, but in no particular order here are the five that have caught my eye since last August.
Jo Symington (captain).
Jo exemplifies everything that is needed to be a captain and leader. Put simply she leads from the front, especially in times of adversity when a leader is most needed. As an ever present in the league campaign this season she has been a model of consistency. Her willingness to put 100% in every time she steps onto the pitch sets the perfect example for everyone around her. There has been times this season when Jo has used her experience to get her side through sticky periods in games by calming others around her, encouraging and cajoling them to give that little bit more, either with a comment or leading by example. Like all good leaders Jo is authoritative, assertive and as well as vocal she is willing to listen and learn from others around her. A magnificent season from the Tigresses very own Captain Fantastic!
What an addition to the squad this delightfully talented player has been! Top scorer with 20 goals in all competitions (14 in the league), Hope’s talent was evident from game one when she smashed 4 goals in a 6-1 win over shell shocked Barnsley on the opening day of the season. She has played at a higher level and it shows, she has pace, trickery, toughness, a wicked shot and a bit of the devil about her. In fact Hope is a pest, but she is OUR pest so we love her. She has the footballing ability but coupled with that she as the ability to get under the opposition’s skin and unsettle them, so much so I recently had a chat with Hope who recounted the conversation she had with an opposition manager, who shall remain nameless, who told her “I hate you, because you play the game as I used to and I haven’t got one player in my team like you, you’re a winner”. In her own unique style, I’m sure she took this as a compliment and to be fair to the guy it was probably meant as one. Totally serious about her football (maybe not training though),Hope hates losing and will tell anyone who cares to listen but invariably our little pest has a smile on her face and a glint in her eye.
Another new addition this year making the step up to this league, Liv Jackson has excelled for me in the midfield. Miss Perpetual Motion, Liv just never stops. She covers every blade of grass and then some more. Time and again this season she has popped up at the precise moment to break up an opposition move or at the other end to either create a goal or get on the end of a chance. Not the biggest midfielder in the world she is as hard as nails and never shirks a tackle or 50/50 header, sometimes making grown men (like me) wince. Time and again she as bossed the middle of the park, with a phenomenal work rate, unsettling her opposite number on numerous occasions. Its not just the ‘dirty’ work that Liv excels at, she has a great eye for a pass. Liv hasn’t always been the first name on the team sheet, but when starting or called upon from the bench she has impressed me greatly.
Tash Cooke (Vice Captain).
In a recent FanaticHull interview, centre back Tash Cooke explained that she was in two minds to carry on playing this year. Thankfully Tash signed on and boy has she shown her worth to Hull City Ladies!! Another ever present, she has been exceptional and on more than one occasion saved her side from conceding with a perfectly timed tackle or towering header. The talker of the team she is forever marshalling the troops around her, especially her centre back partners, Ellice Jackman and latterly Amy Kay. Tash a cultured footballer who does on many occasions get the Tigresses moving forward from the back can pick a pass either short or long, she is definitely not a ‘hoof it anywhere’ defender. City Ladies play football with style and it invariably originates from keeper Amy Halloran or any of the back four. A calming and measured woman both on and of the pitch, Tash has been massive for the Tigresses this season! Thank God she decided to play on.
Another one of the new faces at City this year, Rachael Ackroyd has had a brilliant season, leading the line. She has weighed in with 12 goals in all competition (9 in the league) but it’s her willingness to run and run and run that has impressed me. Often playing against more than one defender, Ackers loves nothing better then a battle. She has a great turn of pace that she uses time and again to chase lost causes or balls played into the channels for her. Her ability to hold the ball up and play in her team mates is a massive asset to the Tigresses as she invariably makes the lung bursting runs into the box to meet the deliveries from the likes of the lightening quick Katie Thompson or right back Meg Render. An astute defender from the striking position, Ackers never gives the opposition a moments peace as they try to create something for themselves. She must be a nightmare to defend against. Quietly spoken Ackers definitely lets her feet do the talking and a considerable amount of running!!
The five girls I have highlighted above are by no means they only players that have caught my eye this year. In my next piece I will look at more members of the squad who have played their part in winning the League.
Pictures courtesy of Sam Shepherd & Dave Hare.