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Ryan Conneely is confident that the future of Copsewood (Coventry) is secure following their move and change of name to Nuneaton Town.
After a season long battle against relegation which was ultimately successful, Nuneaton are preparing for a new campaign under a new name and also in a new division, having switched from the Southern to Northern Division during the close season.
"The fundamental reason for us moving to Nuneaton Town is so that as a team we can continue to build and improve," Ryan explained to Women's Soccer Scene. "As Copsewood, we were limited, but Nuneaton has everything in place for us to expand to more than a one team club.
"Even though we finished eighth in the Southern Division last season, many people involved in women's football still would never of heard of Copsewood Coventry Ladies. Now we are playing under the Nuneaton Town brand, I believe that people will begin to recognise us."
Was it a necessary move to safeguard the future of the club? "As Copsewood I think we had taken it as far as we could," he replied. "Formed 15 years ago, we were just a works team who actually finished bottom of the bottom league in our first season. Within 15 years and without kids teams and the brand of a recognised men's team, our final position last season ranked us as the 32nd best team in the country.
"That was Copsewood's maximum potential reached. I said when I took over four seasons ago that I would walk away if I helped get Copsewood promoted and then helped keep us in the league in our first season. Now that this has happened, I'm going back on words a bit and rather than walk away, the next challenge is to try to push higher up the Premier League and Nuneaton Town gives us the best opportunity to do so."
That opportunity will come in the Northern Division and Ryan admits that this has been the most imporant change of all with regard to the club's future. "The move was massively important," he said. "If we had remained in the Southern then Copsewood would have folded as a club.
"It took the enjoyment away from the football. Travelling down to a Brighton, Plymouth etc with half your team missing because some players couldn't commit to a 9am-9pm day isn't what it should be about and if you compare our away results to our home ones, you will notice the difference."
That doesn't mean that Copsewood had not expected things to be tough following their promotion from the Midland Combination. "No, life in the Southern was everything I expected it to be," he admits.
"Off the pitch, I knew it would be a real struggle. We were entirely self funded and to conjure up a business plan in order for us to complete the season was always going to be hard but thankfully we were able to maintain that plan and just about struggled over the line.
"In terms of on the pitch, the Southern Division has two standards within itself. We played Brighton on the first day of the season and for 60 minutes they were the best team I'd ever come up against and we looked out of our depth. As the games went by though we began to get used to the league and after about six games, we gained an understanding of the general strengths and weaknesses in the league.
"If we had had a stable team throughout the season then we would have finished seventh, which is only one place higher than we actually did, but we wouldn't have been anywhere near the relegation zone throughout the season.
"The top five in the league are extremely good and I'd compare them to the standard of the bottom half of WSL 2. The bottom seven of the league were all similar in terms that they worked very hard, were solid from 1-11 but they all had 2 or 3 players who stood out and could be a match winner on their day."
Nevertheless, the team finished the season brilliantly and after looking relegation certainties at one stage, they battled their way to safety. "Our form at the end of last season saw us collect 13 points from a possible 21," says Ryan. "This included wins against Tottenham and QPR and a vital draw away at the champions Portsmouth. The reason for this great run of form was because we had everyone fit and available and fortunately it was enough to keep us up.
"In terms of this season, we're only going to be as good as the players we have. If we keep the majority of our players and add in a few new additions, then we should have a good season. If the opposite happens then we'll likely struggle again.
"With Sheffield and Coventry leaving the league, it's completely wide open and I imagine there are seven or eight teams who actually fancy themselves to win the league. I'm not going to be as stupid to say that we are one of those teams but I do believe that we will have an improved season providing everyone stays fit and we are able to attract a few fresh faces."
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