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Women's Football News
Helen Mitchell has been the mastermind behind Sheffield FC's climb up the women's football pyramid and reached the pinnacle of her 12 years as manager when they won promotion to the FA WSL on Sunday.
A 1-0 win over Portsmouth in the FAWPL Championship play-off match clinched Sheffield's Super League place and a delighted Helen was generous in her praise for both teams after the match.
"What an incredible day!" she laughed. "I've been so privileged to have experienced some amazing days with this club over the past 12 years, but this tops the lot.
"There was so much at stake today, but you'd never have known that watching the match, as there was no sign of nerves or cautiousness from either team. The desire to win the game was evident from kick off and it resulted in a fantastic game of football, well worthy of the occasion, and one which you simply couldn't take your eyes off. The players from both teams were superb in all respects, before, during and after the match, and I think the fans from both teams have been out through the mixer emotionally too.
"Portsmouth have been magnificent and I feel so much for them, and their supporters. Perry [Northeast - manager of Portsmouth] and I had been in touch at the start of the week, wishing each other the best for the game, and both recognising that the end of the game was going to be a difficult time for one of us. He was so generous at the final whistle, and that says a lot about him as a manager, and a person. Same for the players - they've played so well today, and I truly feel for them as a group because I know how we'd have felt to have missed out. Again, they were all so complimentary at the end of the match, and that's very tough to do in the moment. They are a complete credit to Portsmouth FC and I really hope they come back stronger next season, and repeat the successes they've enjoyed this season."
Helen also paid tribute to her own players: "They've been brilliant today, and I am so proud of every single one of them. After a long and hard season, they've given everything they had left to win this match. I thought we were so strong defensively, limiting Portsmouth to just a few chances which is tough to do against a strike force of Charley Wilson and Gemma Hillier.
"Claire (Wallhead) has pulled off two incredible saves which have kept us in the game, whilst at the other end, we perhaps should've capitalised on one or two more of the chances we created in the 90 minutes. Thankfully, we got one more opportunity, and a moment of real composure under pressure from Lisa (Giampalma) has made the difference.
"This was a true team performance though, with everyone doing their individual jobs - the togetherness on the pitch was really intense, and the players have been so focused on their tasks. I can't really put into words how proud I am of them.
On such an historic day, it was perhaps fitting that Sheffield's longest serving player should make such a significant contribution to the result. Lisa Giampalma joined the club in 2007, the year the ladies won the first of their six league titles in the last eight seasons. She is the only player at the club to have played in part in all 12 trophies they have won over that period.
"Everyone is so thrilled for Lisa to score the winner", said Helen. "She's been such a loyal and committed player, such a hard worker, and such a big part of this team's successes over the years. She's seen the team climb through the ranks and still holds a regular place in the team. She broke her arm earlier in the season and had to miss four months, so to come back and finish the season off in that way is brilliant for her personally.
"The atmosphere at the game was really great, and it was brilliant to see so many supporters making the trip down from Sheffield, and really special that there were a lot of ex-players and staff there on the day. We've had so many messages of support from former Sheffield FC players and other clubs we've competed against over the years too - that's meant such a lot.
"It's just brilliant news for everyone associated with the club. Our reserve team can now play with some of the best young players in the country, and the first team gets a totally new challenge - and we're well aware it's going to be a challenge. It will change the operation of the ladies completely, but the potential is so exciting. WSL football in Sheffield - it's massive."
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