Doncaster Rovers Belles manager John Buckley has hit out at the critics who say his team will finish bottom of this year’s Women’s Super League
The Belles have finished second from bottom out of eight in each of the last two seasons, and former England and Arsenal ladies captain Faye White said this week she expects Doncaster to struggle after failing to attract star names.
But Buckley, whose side open the season against Chelsea at the Keepmoat Stadium today, says there is no way they will finish 2013 propping up the table.
Buckley, the former Doncaster Rovers, Leeds and Rotherham player, said: “Everybody thinks we’ll finish bottom. I don’t think for a second we will. We’re just going to sit quietly and take each game as it comes. We’re a really hard-working team.
“Obviously we finished second-bottom last season, and want to finish above that. We have a good set up but we don’t have the financial clout that almost all of the other clubs have got.”
Buckley knows Doncaster will have to be on form to challenge some of the more established clubs in the division.
He added: “We have to be at the top of our game when we play the likes of Arsenal and Birmingham. I think there’s enough evidence that we can.
“The other teams, I don’t think there’s a million miles between us. I mean, they have got a lot of international players.
“They have got some top players but it’s just up to us to try and deal with that.”
Buckley feels the return of influential midfielder Sue Smith can make the difference for the Belles. He said: “She’ll be like getting a brand new player, I think she can give us a real boost. I think she’ll be quite instrumental.”
Lacking the financial strength of many of their rivals, the growing popularity of women’s football is crucial to Doncaster’s future. The sport is the UK’s third most popular in terms of participation, and the Belles hope to nurture their own talent.
Buckley said: “For every year that I’ve been in it, I can see them getting better and better. We have to look at the younger end where they’re coming in and try and develop them.
“We feel that we have done that. We have a lot of cracking young players.
“In real terms what I’d want to be doing is feeding them into the team, but there will be times when they will have to play.
“We have a high number of young players but we have a few more experienced ones who should help them.”