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The pride of women’s football? Ex-Arsenal boss in dream team

Club joins forces with Millwall and sets out on mission to discover hidden talent

04 October, 2018 — By Steve Barnett

Pedro Martinez Losa and Chris Phillips host a special training session for players from Hampstead FC and Millwall Lionesses, including, from left, former Hampstead player Asanteni Charles who, after impressing in an open trial, now plays for Millwall, Bora Cela, Gabby Ravenscroft, Georgie Douglass, Evie Clarke and Maddie McGuire

A NEW dream team has been forged with one very clear goal: building better pathways for women and girls to get involved in football.

The chairwoman of Hampstead Football Club, Diane Culligan, took over the same role at Millwall Lionesses this summer, and one of her first acts was reuniting former Arsenal Women’s manager Pedro Martinez Losa with Chris Phillips, who was a key part of the development of many talented young players during his time with the Gunners.

In his new role as director of football with the Lionesses, Pedro will work with Chris, who is managing the Women’s Super League 2 side, and Diane to not only help the first team roar their way to glory, but also establish Millwall as “the best community-based club” in the country.

In an exclusive ­interview with the New Journal at Hampstead’s Chase Lodge training ground in Barnet on Thursday, Pedro revealed what attracted him to the job and what the future has in store.

“Our first priority was to rebuild the first team,” said the Spaniard.

“In record time we signed something like 15 players in 10 days.

“But that was not the foundation of our project, the foundation is to give opportunities to girls and to women to play, and to be part of the sport – not just at the elite level, but all levels.

Pedro Martinez Losa, Diane Culligan and Chris Phillips

“We want to help develop players, and coaches, who will come to the club – not just for one or two years, but to build careers.

“I’ve always been a builder. At Rayo Vallecano Femenino we only had a first team when I arrived, so we created the girls’ youth system. When I left after six years we had a first team and a B team, and we had four Under-16s teams, plus a school with over 100 girls.”

Looking at just how Hampstead FC and the Lionesses can join forces to “fill a unique space” within the beautiful game, Pedro, 42, added: “Sport is all about connecting people. We want to be the best club in London to provide opportunities for women and young girls with education, coaching and a lot of different pathways.

“Other clubs prioritise only elite performance, which I understand. But there’s space to develop a stronger relationship with the community. Our future success will come through that. Obviously there’s Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham, but in a city of nine million people there is space for all of us.

“Even with all the hard work going on behind the scenes there is still a lot of talent missing out – women and young girls who don’t play football because they don’t have the opportunity, or they work and study and it just doesn’t fit into their schedule. That is something that we really want to change.

“In the men’s game it will never be the case that someone is 23 years old and working in a petrol station, who can jump in and play at the highest level.

“In this stage of the women’s game, however, there’s still a chance for that to happen. If not to play, maybe to coach, or to manage.

“Every club has an identity – at Millwall it is all about the community, and ­having contact with the people, and the fans. We have ­created three ­values, to fight like a lioness, behave with pride, and stay connected with the community.”

Bringing her experience of more than 15 years’ involvement with the grassroots game, Diane explained the “individual touch” that the Hampstead FC and Lionesses merger will bring with it.

“It’s about looking at players as individuals, treating them like people first, and footballers ­second,” she said. “We’re looking at players, not just from an elite level, but several levels, and giving them the opportunity to grow and be the best that they can be.

“Some players are ­simply never going to be able to play in the top flight, but they might be very good in WSL 2, for example, or playing for Hampstead in the Greater London League.

“We want to be able to offer them a pathway, and give women and young girls all the ­support they need.”

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