Lionesses plan to grow with ‘pathway’ vision

After FA Cup exit to Arsenal, club reveal bold plan for expansion

Thursday, 3rd February — By Catherine Etoe

London City Lionesses A54A5043

London City Lionesses meet young Hampstead FC players after narrowly losing their FA Cup fourth-round tie against the Gunners at Meadow Park

THEY lost the contest, but London City Lionesses – one of the newest independent clubs in the women’s game – won many fans this week after their FA Cup exit at the hands of Arsenal.

And Diane Culligan, their Camden-based chairwoman, hopes the growth of the fully professional Championship club will ultimately benefit north London’s female footballers and aspiring coaches.

Hampstead FC founder Culligan watched with pride from the stands at Meadow Park as London City saw their cup dreams ended by the FA Women’s Super League leaders.

Netherlands hotshot Vivianne Miedema capitalised on a defensive mistake to score the only goal in the fourth-round tie as the underdogs frustrated a Gunners side packed with internationals.

“I was completely proud of them, the whole group,” Culligan said. “We’re less than three years old and two of the seasons we’ve been operating in have been Covid-ravaged.

“It was a great advert for what we’re doing at the club, for our head coach Mel Phillips, our set-up and the way we’re trying to do things.”

London City were formed after a breakaway from Millwall in May 2019 and this season they have come into their own, with Conti Cup wins over WSL sides Brighton and Birmingham.

Right now, they sit second in the Championship and are locked in a battle for promotion to the WSL with Liverpool.

Their current base is Princes Park in Dartford, with their youth side formed mainly from girls in Kent. But Hampstead FC are a sister club, and grassroots champion Culligan hopes to take a new approach to recruitment that will open the door to other youngsters in the area, too.

“The wider thing with London City is we don’t want to restrict ourselves to one particular area,” she said. “We want to develop our community links and sister club programme, so we can build a pathway for girls to go through to our development team and first team.

“We want to grow that more locally and we’ll be doing some LCL-branded trials and open sessions in north London.

“We could have more than one pathway, we could have a north London pathway for kids that are north London based.

“The idea would be to have maybe four centres and all of those girls could feed into the pathway for the first team. That also means finding more coaches.”

Visit www.londoncitylionesses.com

Arsenal, meanwhile, host Manchester United in the WSL on Saturday, with Chelsea welcoming Manchester City and Spurs at home to Brighton on Sunday.

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