IPSWICH Town Women’s success can continue to inspire girls to fall in love with football.
That's the view of manager Joe Sheehan, whose side are preparing to play West Ham United in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup Quarter-Finals this weekend.
It is an incredible achievement for the Suffolk side, who play in the third tier, to reach the last eight of this season’s competition, where they will face the 2019 runners-up.
The Goldstar Ground in Felixstowe, where Ipswich Town play their home matches, is expected to attract a record attendance on Sunday for the tie, which kick-offs at 12.30pm and is being shown live on the BBC Red Button.
Sheehan and his side have been flying the flag for Suffolk with increasing pride in recent seasons, reaching the fifth-round proper of the competition in the 2019-20 season before losing 10-0 to holders Manchester City.
Ipswich have gone one step further already this season, defeating fellow FA WPL Premier Division South side Southampton 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time, in front of 1,167 spectators.
Sheehan summed up the magnitude of his side’s achievement in becoming the first third tier side to make it through to the last eight of the competition.
He said: “It is a huge achievement – the quarter-final is a round we have been determined to reach for a few years now. To reach the last eight of the biggest domestic competition in this country for a team in the third tier really is incredible.
“However, we don't just want to settle for a quarter final place, we know how challenging our game against West Ham will be, but we want to try to cause an upset.”
Ipswich currently top the Premier Division South league table – four points ahead of Oxford United, with the winners earning automatic promotion and the second-placed side entering a play-off tie.
Ipswich Town Women's manager Joe Sheehan reacts after his side's penalty shoot-out win against Southampton in the Vitality Women's FA Cup Fifth Round Proper at the Goldstar Ground. Main photograph: Ipswich Town players celebrate after winning the shoot-out. Photographs: Ross Halls
Sheehan admitted: “Winning promotion would be huge for us, we know how difficult it is to win our division let alone then having to win a play-off against the northern winners.
“We have a lot of work to do but we are applying ourselves as best as we can to finish the final six league games in good form to give ourselves every chance of getting into the Championship.”
As the county’s leading side - Ipswich Town won the Suffolk Women’s Cup for seven years in succession before withdrawing from this season’s competition – Sheehan and his players are conscious of their role as ambassadors for women’s football in the county.
“It is something I am extremely passionate about; I am always conscious that how well we do will very much influence the opportunity aspiring young players have in the future,” he said.
So far as their success this season is concerned, Sheehan said: “I think if anything our success has reiterated how serious we are about progressing in the game.
“Attendances are rising again, and it is fantastic to see so many supporters come and see us up and down the country.”
In terms of the legacy that his side are creating Sheehan said: “I think our success will increase participation, I am confident that it will improve the grassroots game with more players and more teams, and I hope it can continue to inspire young girls in our county to fall in love with the game, to enjoy playing and have dreams of one day becoming a future Ipswich Town player.”
With the Women’s Euro 2022 competition taking place in this country from July 6th until July 31st, Sheehan said his side’s success could have an even greater impact than in previous years.
“Quite possibly, the women’s game is improving every year with it being more accessible on TV. We have seen attendances increase significantly and with our FA Cup games against Southampton and West Ham at home this season, there is a different buzz around in comparison to when we had to travel away to Manchester City,” said Sheehan.