Pools Women’s Team Manager Jonathan Gibbon-Hayes has backed the Lionesses to lift the World Cup and says their performances in France can help inspire the next generation of England stars.
Phil Neville’s team emerged from the group phase with a perfect record and have since put both Cameroon and Norway to the sword to set-up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with USA on Tuesday.
Their powerful display against the Norwegians, in particular, has raised hopes that the Lionesses can go all the way in the tournament but Gibbon-Hayes reckons they have already had a massive impact on the future of the sport in this country.
“The game is making massive progress,” he told us.
“Young girls are going to watching players like Lucy Bronze and Steph Houghton and wanting to be like them, which is really important and can only be good for the future of the women’s game.
“If you see the viewing figures, every England match becomes the most-watched and there are 7 or 8 million people tuning in to watch on prime time television.
“I saw that there were 20,000 England fans at the game on Thursday against Norway – we let our players leave training early to go home and watch it and I’ve been glued to every England game too.
“I can see the development throughout the tournament and it looks to me as though they are peaking at the right time so I have every belief they can beat the USA and then go on and win it.”
Not only are the current crop of England stars helping to demonstrate a pathway in to elite sport to aspiring young females, Gibbon-Hayes is also hoping they can have an impact on grassroots teams.
Funding has been in an issue in the women’s game and, on the back of the Lionesses gaining international headlines and acclaim, there is a possibility that new channels could open up for teams like Pools in the future.
“It could be massive,” Gibbon-Hayes explained.
“If we can have a successful England team then hopefully more funding can come in to the game and filter down the leagues to teams like ourselves.
“Unfortunately, at the moment clubs have to be totally self-sufficient but if more funding was to come from The FA it would really benefit us for the longer term.”