Trip to Eastlands could be the swansong for the Bedwell girls
IT was a bittersweet moment as former England international Trevor Brooking heaped praise on Stevenage s Bedwell Rangers despite suffering Tesco Cup final heartache at the City of Manchester Stadium. The under-16 girls had already secured Southern England
IT was a bittersweet moment as former England international Trevor Brooking heaped praise on Stevenage's Bedwell Rangers despite suffering Tesco Cup final heartache at the City of Manchester Stadium.
The under-16 girls had already secured Southern England and national honours but failed to repeat the trick falling at the final hurdle 2-1 to Scotland's Hibernian.
Bedwell got off to a flying start in the round robin at Eastlands seeing off Cardiff City 3-0 thanks to Nicole Hogan's double and Kate Natkiel.
But Hibernian took the title in the second and decisive match thanks to two late goals despite Bedwell taking the lead through Hogan.
A star-studded cast attended the showpiece Tesco Cup finals day with former England international Paul Merson joining Brooking, the Football Association's director of football development, among the crowd.
The presentations were made by Merson and Marieanne Spacey.
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Sponsor Chris Walsh Plumbing laid on an evening out in Manchester for the girls before the finals on Sunday.
And Steve Jones' troops were boosted with Brooking picking midfielder Megan Wynne as player of the tournament - for the second time after also picking up the award in the Southern finals - and Josie Green as best defender. Brooking said: "The quality of the football has been good and there have been one or two really good individuals on show which is encouraging.
"Megan and Josie are just a few among them and these are the age groups where we start to pick up one or two players who could make it to the top."
This looks like being one of the last outings for the squad though as they are being forced to disband.
This is due to the decision that has been made by the FA restricting girls to only play for FA schools of excellence as from next season.
Chairman Gary Dempsey said: "As a club we have spent considerable time nurturing these girls and teaching them loyalty to their junior club.
"While we are aware that some of the girls have been training at FA schools of excellence and playing for Bedwell, we are angered that no consultation has taken place with the clubs; this shows a complete lack of understanding of grassroots football.
"The parents of the girls that have been affected by this decision are absolutely livid and they have taken the time to write to the FA. In short, the answer they have received is 'tough'; if you want your girls to progress, then accept the decision."
A majority of the Bedwell girls attend the FA School of Excellence at Watford.
Dempsey continued: "I have already been informed by parents that they would love their daughters to continue to play for Bedwell but unfortunately we have not reached the school of excellence status.
"I now have managers reluctant to send any girls to trials at the schools of excellence in the knowledge that the girl would have to leave the club if they are successful.
"Naturally the club wants every girl to succeed and there are a number of girls in our under-16 squad who stand a very good chance of playing top flight ladies' football.
"The last thing that we want to do is stand in their way, but when this ends up in the complete destruction of a single squad, the FA need to realise that they have got it wrong.
"Unfortunately football is littered with a history of ill-conceived ideas and in my opinion this is yet another one that will not benefit this football club."
Bedwell squad: Demi Hobson, Josie Green, Leanne Jones, Megan Jones, Holly Butrimas Gair, Terri Gittings, Kate Natkiel, Megan Wynne, Chloe Payne, Shanice O'Sullivan, Becky Day, Chloe Gunn, Cally Cardines, and Nicole Hogan.
Bedwell will still continue to support and develop girls' football as the club gets ready for its 50th season.