Girls bring colour to lads' league

CRAIGSHILL Thistle Pinks are hoping for a new West Lothian girls' youth football league to launch next year so they can compete on a level playing field – not that they mind mixing it in the boys' league.

Pinks went wholeheartedly into their first season as part of a competitive setup in 2009, and the male-dominated footballing fraternity could have been forgiven for doing a double take as the new kids lit up the league with their all-pink kit and pink match balls.

Results may not have gone their way, but the experience will have served as a positive step in the girls' football education.

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It was also a reminder to the local authority that, as yet, there exists no platform for primary school-age girls in the area to participate in organised games.

Laura Grant, 27, is the coach of Craigshill's newest outfit and hopes a solution can be found soon after a season of tough-going in the boys' set-up.

"We went out each week fighting," she says.

"All the teams were very good to us, but we were not up to the ability of the boys. We won't go back to a boys' league but, if we get an under-11 league in West Lothian next year we'll be there, and then move on to under-13 level.

"Hopefully, there will be a league for us to compete in."

Currently, West Lothian girls' sides such as Whitburn, Murieston and Broxburn all compete in an Edinburgh-centric under-13 league. But Craigshill has the only girls' team at under-11 level in the region, and Laura, just months after leading the campaign for the foundation of her team, would like to set up a second side.

She said: "One of our aims is to form another team, and perhaps open up training to anyone who wants to come and learn the game.

"Initially, someone at the club suggested a girls' team. I played when I was younger and was asked if I'd become involved. I don't regret it at all!

"When I first started, we put adverts in schools and shops, and I wondered if anyone would come along. But, we had 24 girls along to the try-outs, but unfortunately we could only take 12.

"Four girls had played in boys' leagues, including my daughter Chloe, but she didn't get a game every week."

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Chloe Mabon, a primary six pupil at St John Ogilvie school in Livingston, captains the team. She lists her greatest feat in the pink of Craigshill as scoring 16 goals in a single game, but decries the boys that her side has faced in the past year as "hackers".

She saw her side's simple-sounding game plan – "Megan (Harley] assists, I score!" – reap dividends towards the end of the season, with the side recording their first victory.

The ground-breaking triumph saw the Pinks win 6-2 against a boys' side in a club tournament at St Margaret's school.

The side was honoured at a separate competition at Polbeth during the past season with an award "for bringing something special to the tournament".

After Pinks' performance, host club Polbeth United started a girls' team themselves.

Bill Crook, the chairman of Craigshill Thistle, whose son founded the club, is excited that multiple youth teams are now associated with the name.

He said: "Craigshill Thistle was founded 15 years ago as an amateur team and has since spawned many youth teams.

"The club achieved the SFA Quality Mark recently and now runs seven other youth teams up to under-12s.

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"We have over 100 kids a week training and Laura has done an absolutely fantastic job with the new girls' team."

Laura wished to thank local firm ASK Ceramics for providing the team with strips and training jackets.

• ANY girls or boys interested in playing or training with Craigshill Thistle should contact Mr Crook on 07957 568 704.

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