Rossvale FC; their promotion into SPL2 & the future of community club football. – Scottish Women in Sport

    Rossvale is a community club a step ahead of the rest, ahead of even their own expectations.

    In 1976, John Grey wanted to give the children of East Dumbartonshire a safe place to play football where they have an aim and a proper set of goalposts rather than kicking the ball around the streets. Today, the club has over 1000 young people participating and 200 coaches, with at least one female coach at each level. As John’s son, Ian Grey took over the club, he set up girl’s and women’s teams to participate in the club as well. It was roughly around 2008 that Mick Docherty took over the women’s section but he had one condition; That there be a pathway program established so that girls could progress into the women’s teams rather than going to play for other clubs who already had a similar scheme.

    At the time, Rossvale were not playing in the league. But after a short time, they were accepted into the championship league through the coaches’ and players’ hard work and dedication. The club now has a clear and complete full pathway from rhinos, tiny tots, fun 4s, under 8s, under 10s, under 12s, under 14s, under 16s, under 18s, and a development squad, as well as a first team and a walking football team.

    All of the work behind the scenes and on the pitch has paid off with the First Team (ladies) being promoted to SPL2 not only before the end of the season but about 18 months ahead of Rossvale’s own timeline.

    The sheer size and success of Rossvale FC isn’t something we see often in Scottish football so I wanted to understand how they have achieved this. First Team Manager, Julie McSherry explains, the formula the club has been using since its founding days: “For me, it’s the ‘family’ feel of the club, sticking by its roots and principles. But being brave enough to keep trying to improve and go to the next level.”

    Having people like Julie leading a team that continues to exceed expectations and smash their own goals gives players the motivation to keep going, to work hard and to stick with a team that to anyone spectating is something that is really special. Sarah Rhind has been playing football her whole life, at 41 she brings an immense level of experience in the sport: “From the very first time I went to training at the tail end of 2022, I felt a sense of belonging and that I fitted into this team both on and off the pitch. Very early on it was a place where I could just be me, unapologetically myself,

    “It was a real turning point for me to come into the team. I was provided the platform to as a player and to build confidence and belief in my teammates. My experience counted for a lot and being surrounded by the other players and coaches supporting me helped me get to where I am now and to the team’s success.”

    As a coach, Julie’s approach is a growth mindset. There is room to make mistakes without feeling like it’s going to be career-ending. There is the freedom and support to try new things, even if they don’t work out, it’s okay.

    “We have built everything we have done around ‘together’. From the team to the coaching staff it has been all about facing every obstacle together”, explains Julie.

    There hasn’t been a training session with less than 15 players this season, ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for all of the players, means they want to put their best foot forward. Regardless of what was happening in their own lives. Both the players and coaches see the importance of teamwork and the end goal that once was only a pipedream has come to fruition.

    There is a desire to do things the right way, to be professional but also to support one another across the board: “That’s where we can make the biggest difference”, finished Julie.

    Rossvale welcomes players from all backgrounds of experience. Megan Whiteford came back into football after six years away and made an impact from day one. Not only as a player but as a person too. Her commitment to wanting to be the best and her desire to work hard and learn is second to none. Amy Allan was in a similar boat. She was out for some time but came back and took the club and the players around her under her wing and every week challenges herself and those around her to be the best.

    Lynne Jackson and Lauren Coleman have been there since the team was formed and when it might have been easier to walk away and play elsewhere they have stuck by the club, to bring the success that they have now achieved.

    Lauren Coleman who played in the SPFL, and left after injury, shares why playing for Rossvale FC means so much to her: “Having played for the club from the very beginning and narrowly missing out on promotion two years in a row, this season, personally has been more special. To go out and complete the double which has never been done at our level before has been incredible. The togetherness and work of this group of girls is second to none. We’ve backed each other through the highs and lows which has brought us closer together to get it over the line.”

    Megan Whiteford was released from Rangers, taking time out of the game but returned a few years ago to play with Rossvale FC, she shares what it means to play for a team where she feels welcomed and how it has allowed them as a team to progress into SPL2: “This season for me has been one I’ll never forget. We knew from the start what it would take for us to win the league and week in and week out all of the girls and coaches have worked hard to make sure we succeed at that. The spirit amongst the team has been second to none and for me personally, it has been amazing to be able to contribute to the team as much as I could.”

    Volunteers as we have mentioned so many times here at SW/S, are an integral part of the process and success of a team. The wealth of support and work that the Bishopbriggs-based team have seen is an essential part of the team’s success. With hundreds of locals volunteering to help with the operation, backroom teams, and local business sponsorship are the lifeline of the club, it wouldn’t be possible without them.

    Rossvale is not immune to the rising running costs and lack of coverage that many clubs like theirs face. With a seeming lack of interest in covering such a momentous achievement, it is really disheartening for them to be pushed back when trying to get that mainstream coverage. Although things are improving, there is still a long way to go: “Increased social media and TV coverage, more school and education involvement, and better promotion around the sport. The continuation and participation from the grassroots upwards will be the driving force of what we achieve at the top level”, explains Billy Stevenson, head of club development and operations.

    The women’s section, has already made history, they are the flag bearers at the club moving forward, and whilst the aspirations of the club may be getting bigger and better, the club does not drift too far away from its ethos and makes sure that first and foremost to create a friendly and happy environment for all the players, coaches, and managers. It’s all in the numbers who are getting involved year on year, the more success the more kids want to be involved.

    The outlook is bright, however, the rising cost of facilities and in general cost will always be a hindrance, Billy closed our interview with: “The success we use as a benchmark isn’t just about winning and promotion, it’s the making memories and making a difference and allowing kids to enjoy being a part of a big group of happy healthy friends enjoying firstly what they love doing, the rest is easy when you love what you do it brings its own rewards.”

    Photo Copyright: Kelly Neilson

    If you’d like to follow Rossvale FC on their journey you can reach out through their social media and if you’re interested in participating with a local team, contacts can be found through Sportscotland.

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