Gas Girls Diaries - A Chat With Nath (and Mavis)
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
With the new season underway for the Gassy Lassies, I caught up with manager Nathan Hallett-Young and club secretary Matt "Mavis" Davies to gauge their feelings on another campaign at the helm of Bristol's finest women's team.
Hi Nathan. Obviously you'll be pleased to have started off the season with such a convincing win (a 6-0 home win over Bristol & West in the FA Women's Cup at time of writing). Were you ever worried about the girls being rusty over the long lockdown break? How far are you aiming to get in our first FA Cup since the club was reformed?
"Not really, no, I was quite confident that our preparation prior to the game would benefit the girls. Despite not having any scheduled pre-season friendlies and only being able to play in-house matches there's been a lot of hours put into our pre-season. The girls have been training almost six hours a week since the start of July and that's on top of a 15 week programme that we ran throughout lockdown with our PT Paul. This been a lot of hard work across our preseason and I was confident that the girls were more than ready to compete.
I think for us being in such a prestigious competition means everything, obviously we want to get as far as we can and as a club we're just going to be taking each round as it comes."
For anyone who might not know you: did you coach anywhere else before taking the reins at Rovers?
"I've been at rovers for almost nine years now, the main bulk of my experience has come through the Community Trust as a community coach. My time here has given me the opportunity to live and breathe the club's and trust's core values and with that I feel I understand what it means to be a Gashead and understand the importance of the Women's team being back playing and being successful. Along with the Trust I've have managed at Bristol University working with their women's second team, I was there for two years and oversaw us have an unbeaten league winning season in the first year and coming third in the league above in the second. I also had a two game interim management with Western League side Westbury United, two games two wins before moving aside."
Who did you support growing up?
"I'm an Arsenal fan, I suppose this is why I enjoy watching total football. I grew up watching the Invincibles, the football they played had a massive influence on my love for the game."
How did you keep sane during lockdown?
"Lockdown was pretty kind to me in all fairness, it gave me the opportunity to plan and prepare for the season ahead. We managed to bring in some new coaching staff which will be invaluable for this coming season and to set up for hopefully years to come. We were in regular contact with the squad and were able to prepare for this season with the 15 week programme set up by Paul, being able to work with the squad and Paul on this was probably a key part in keeping everyone ticking over and has really helped us with the girls coming back into pre-season training, they were all physically ready for the season ahead prior to our 8 week pre-season."
You've added a few to the squad already. Are you looking to add any more?
"Naturally we want to utilise the development team to promote players internally, this season will see the likes of Jess Lumber playing in the first team, she had a brilliant season with the development team and fully deserved her place in the first team squad this season.
Our open sessions provide a interesting approach to 'transfers', it's a system that goes against the conventional process that the avid football fan is used too. We openly invite any player of any ability to join in with our sessions for a number of weeks, giving a brief overview of their playing history. These sessions provide a brilliant community feel where anyone can come in and play in the quarters and that's what we want, we want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have access to our coaching, facilities and everything as a club we have to offer.
Obviously with the sessions there's specifics we're looking at and if we find the players we think would be a good fit for our squads then we invite them into our squad based sessions and look to sign them on from there.
This seasons open sessions were brilliant again with over 60 players coming in to train and I'm delighted with the players we have added to both squads. There are still a few players who signed up for our open sessions who we're hoping will be coming in to train, so it'll be intriguing to see how they work with the squad."
Obviously the aim for the team will be to repeat last seasons performance and win the league but how far do you think the Gas Girls can go?
"Obviously last season was very successful and it was gutting the way it ended.
This season we're looking to build on what we have achieved from last season, aim for bigger and better on and off the pitch.
In a playing sense we're looking to compete in every competition we're in and to do the best we can. We have our targets set out and hopefully we'll achieve them. I don't want to be presumptuous on specific results, I think for me and I'm sure the squad would agree we want to build on our positive performance in the FA Cup and on our performances last season. Our big emphasis this season is on consistency, we want everyone in squad competing at the highest levels and pushing each other to that next level.
Off the field we working hard to make sure that our infrastructure is ready for the levels we as a club want to reach. This season we're hopeful to build on our fan base. We've had brilliant support since our launch and we're looking on expanding this with the supporters club."
And lastly, what would you say to otherwise passionate Rovers fans who are still lukewarm about women's football?
Nathan: "Hmm, I think this is a Mavis question so I'll pass it to him!"
Mavis: "I think you just have to try it. It's too easy to compare it to the men's game but people need to remember that in terms of development, the very top of the Women's game has only been professional for just over two years, so it's only going to improve in quality in the years and decades to come.
If it's not for you then that's fine. As long as people respect it and acknowledge that it's here to stay and it's only going to get bigger then that's all we can ask."
Thanks to the lads for answering our questions at such a busy time. If this article has piqued your interest in the Gas Girls, they will be playing in the next round of the Women's FA Cup on Sunday the 4th of October 2pm at "Estádio da Leaze" Lockleaze Sports Centre (BS7 9XF). With no crowds allowed at the Mem for the foreseeable why not give it a go? Bye for now!