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Women's Football News
Colchester United's rapid rise up the women's football ladder has seen them reach the Premier League after capturing the South East Combination title.
A superb run of form saw Colchester pull away from title rivals Northampton Town and Rushden & Diamonds to finish with a nine point cushion at the top.
The U's ladies success on the pitch is fitting testament that a good youth system does work and in just three seasons Steve Downey, the quietly modest manager of Colchester, has expertly guided the club to the second tier of the women's game.
As he prepares to hand over his management reins to his successor, Dmitri Halajko, he will leave behind a legacy which has been carefully nurtured and developed for over a decade now. Downey is in no doubt of the key to club's success, stating: "A combination of a good youth system, experienced senior players and professional, expert management have been the major contributing factors behind the phenomenal success of the ladies team."
This is a view reflected by new 'gaffer' Halajko and with this strong philosophy he will ably pick up the mantle for the U's ladies first foray into the Premier League next season.
The key to success is the player pathway according to Halajko, who cut his teeth in the women's game out in the USA and has been involved in coaching female football since 2001. Qualified to F.A. Level 3 standard, manager of the Colchester United Female Football Academy squad, Director of the Girls Centre of Excellence, he has his finger firmly on the pulse of the club and is well placed to continue where Downey left off, explaining: "Our club has stronger links, better fluidity in terms of player retention and player progression. The player pathway is in place and clear to everybody who is taking part, from grassroots to excellence, academy and then on to senior football."
Colchester are very proud of their home grown talent, particularly when you count the fact that out of the 35 strong ladies team squad, 30 of these players have risen through the ranks of the girls football programme. "We now have players in our ladies team who have quite literally grown up with the club, these same players were very much part of our promotion to the Premier League, it's a fantastic milestone for them to have reached."
It will be interesting to see how Colchester's talented youngsters will fare in the Premier League. One player, Kate Longhurst, has already represented her country and others may also benefit from the higher level of football.
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