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Boss Vanessa hails 'great achievement'
 Women's Football News 18 May 2012
Boss Vanessa hails 'great achievement' - 18 May 2012 - Women's Football NewsFor the past few seasons, Portsmouth have not just knocked on the door of promotion from the Southern Division - they have hammered it down. 
This season, Pompey have finally carried off the title after a number of near misses and manager Vanessa Raynbird, who has been in charge throughout that time, admitted to Women's Soccer Scene that she had experienced just about every emotion before they were confirmed as Champions. "I was pretty relieved to hear the final whistle against Plymouth as we were only winning 2-1 and needed three points to gain promotion on the day," she said. "Plymouth needed a draw to stay up and had a number of corners late on.
"At the end of the game we were euphoric, there was great excitement for everyone involved in the club. We all ran on to the pitch and players bundling on top of each other - even I ended up on the ground, although the players knew better than to jump on me!"
After being perennial challengers, finally winning the title made it extra special for Vanessa. "We have been close a number of times, which has been a bit frustrating in the past, but I think it's a great achievement to win this league, whenever and whoever does it. It's a very tight division and with only one team going up, you can't drop too many points - otherwise you won't make it."
So what has made the difference this time? "Strength in depth and more consistency have been the deciding factors this season," replies Vanessa. "We had a good squad last year but it simply wasn't big enough. We fell away at the end because we sustained a number of injuries at a crucial time and were asking players that had played most of the season in the reserves to compete at a level that you were not used to. So this year we managed to sign three or four quality players that went straight into the first team squad as well as a number of Centre of Excellence players, which we have been able to wean into the first team whilst giving them valuable playing time in the reserves.
"Our consistency throughout a whole game still needs improving but there were not many games where we didn't have the lion's share of possession, which we turned into goals on a regular basis. I was always confident in every game that we played that we would score goals, we signed on Jemma Tewkesbury, the second top goalscorer in the league last season whilst playing for Yeovil and Charley Wilson, a prolific goalscorer from Havant & Waterlooville and along with our captain Gemma Hillier, our three forwards notched up 46 goals in all FA Competitions."
Postponements and good Cup form meant that Portsmouth needed to catch up a number of games but Vanessa did not see this as too big a problem: "No not really, I tend not to feel too much pressure, what will be will be and all the time it is in your own hands you just need to keep winning - although that is easy to say now!"
Now the manager has a new challenge, to turn Portsmouth into a competitive side at a higher level, a task she is clearly relishing. "Well, we will certainly go into the season in great confidence but understand that we will need to start preparing for it now," she said. "We are having a team get together next week to discuss our expectations of the players during the close season and to outline the differences in the level of football. We will however encourage them to continue playing in the way that has gained us promotion this year and to look forward to the challenges that come our way.
"We need to recruit a few new players to replace and strengthen our squad as we want to finish as high as we can in the National Division. We are looking for a couple of defenders and midfield players as two regular members of this year's squad - Laura Heron and Lucy Quinn - have gained four-year Scholarships in America.
"Having been in the FA Women's Southern Division for nine years and been fairly close on a number of occasions, I'm sure you can imagine how thrilled everyone is that's involved in the club. Although we are the Women's section of Portsmouth FC, we are financially independent and rely very much on sponsorship and getting money by fund raising events etc so next season is going to be very testing for us, and if there is a sponsor out there that can help to support us next season we would love to talk about what we can offer."
Amidst all of the celebrations and joy amongst the players and staff, there was one person who was on everybody's minds: "Our 'Mr Portsmouth Ladies' Dave Coyle has been the secretary for over 20 years and it is an absolute pleasure to work with him. He's not been too well over the past four or five months and now hopefully on the mend. He managed to get to the game against Plymouth which gained us promotion and just the look on his face said it all. I know that all the girls hold him in great regard and we were all as pleased for him that we had won the title as we were for ourselves. 4 U DAVE."
And what about Vanessa herself? She has achieved a number of things during her management career, including once leading Southampton Saints to an F.A.Women's Cup Final, so how high does this rank amongst them? "Life is always good when you win things and very satisfying to win a league as it is over a long period of time and you have to play consistently to achieve it - but ask me again when we win the National!"

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