Ladies excited as they enter uncharted territory
Wednesday 30 August 2017 - by Stuart Smedley (Updated on 30 August 2017 at 20:06)
It says something about how far they have progressed that for Royal Wootton Bassett Town Ladies, Sunday's SSE FA Women's Cup clash with AFC Bournemouth comes in the competition they will be most familiar playing in this season.
Their 2016-17 runners-up league finish means they have said goodbye to the Gloucestershire County Women's League, and will this year ply their trade in the South West Women's Football League Eastern Division – the sixth tier of women's football.
While stiffer competition is no doubt on hand, Becky Gammon's side are relishing the prospect of testing their skills at a higher level.
And so they should. After all, they have earned the opportunity.
They enjoyed an extremely successful 2016-17 campaign. They lost just once in eighteen league games, ultimately winding up a mere four points behind champions St Nicholas Ladies Reserves.
Bassett then finished on another high, claiming the Gordon Perrett Memorial Cup by defeating Almondsbury UWE 4-3 after extra time in the final.
Both those teams will join Bassett in their new surroundings, while they will also face former Gloucestershire League foes Oldland Abbotonians, Cheltenham Town Development and Cheltenham Civil Service.
The division also offers the prospect of Wiltshire derbies against FC Chippenham, Swindon Spitfires and Swindon Town Development.
Trips to Somerset sides Frome Town, Portishead Town and Team Mendip await too.
While competing for honours may be a slightly unrealistic aim, Bassett will, however, be aiming to be competitive as they start life at a higher level.
By preserving the squad from last season and welcoming players from the club's double winning Under 16 Girls team, Bassett have plenty of quality at their disposal. The manager has also added firepower and experience as prolific goalscorer Beth Westlake and midfield dynamo Michelle Rich join from Swindon Town.
Ahead of the season, manager Gammon said: "I am so proud of the girls and what we have achieved together so far. Having been involved with the team from the start as a former player, I know first-hand the work that has gone into achieving multiple promotions over the years."
"We are understandably nervous about entering a new league, but there are exciting times ahead and lots of local derbies to look forward to."
"I have made a couple of quality signings who are fitting in well with the existing squad. We also have the youngsters coming in, so we are in a good place and I'm feeling confident."
"We can't wait to get started now!"
Bassett open their season on Sunday at home against AFC Bournemouth in the SSE Women's FA Cup first qualifying round. Kick off at the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground is 2pm.
Their first league fixture is away against St Nicholas Reserves on Sunday 10th September before they host Swindon Spitfires a week later on Sunday 17th.