Jess Andrew relishing Doncaster Rovers Belles' derby with Lincoln City at Eco Power Stadium
Three years on she will stride out at the Eco Power Stadium on Sunday as captain of Doncaster Rovers Belles, a club that may have been bypassed by all the money and interest flooding into women’s football, but a name that still resonates.
How did she get there? The influence of two men who showed her that age is no barrier.
"I was just playing locally for AFC Doncaster in the lower leagues of Sheffield and Hallamshire,” Andrew tells The Yorkshire Post. "We were a good team, made up of friends and local girls.
"Nick Buxton knew me from AFC Doncaster and when Andy Butler took over, Nick just messaged and said you’d be a good fit and should be playing at this level.
"At first I was a bit apprehensive, I didn’t want to go, but my friend Sophie Brown played and wanted to give it a go, so collared me into it.”
That was during the Covid-interrupted 2019-20 season.
By the time the 21-22 season was coming around, Butler – the former Doncaster Rovers defender – made another career intervention on Andrew.
"Andy had made a few references to me being captain and then just pulled me to one side one day and said it would be good for my development and that he sees me as a leader,” remembers Andrew.
"I didn’t really see it, but he had been instilling a few leadership skills in me.
"It’s been a challenge, a big learning curve, but something I’ve taken in my stride and I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it. I now pride myself on being captain of Doncaster Rovers Belles, looking after my team-mates. It was all down to Andy and Nick putting that faith in me.
"I improved a lot under Andy, a lot of credit goes to him for the confidence he gave me.”
Butler is no longer involved with Belles, he left in September to take up a full-time role at Scunthorpe United, telling the players after they had earned a 9-0 win over Long Eaton United.
Belles instantly turned to Buxton, that other great influence on Andrew’s career, and together they have taken the team to second in Division One Midlands, the regionalised fourth tier of the women’s pyramid.
Doncaster can command an attendance of 300 at their home games at Thorne, but on Sunday they face third-placed Lincoln City at the Eco Power Stadium, with the club hoping to celebrate a big year for women's football with every school age child in Doncaster invited to attend the game for free through their school.
"Lincoln and Doncaster Belles is always a good game, and it’s even better that it’s at the Eco Stadium, we get to show how we’re playing this season and it shows a bit of respect to Lincoln because they put it on for us as their ground and got a good crowd, so hopefully we can do the same for them,” said Andrew.
"They had over 1,000 fans there, so it’d be good if we can match it or better it."
A win for Rovers would strengthen their promotion ambitions; they trail leaders Stourbridge by nine points with two games in hand.
"In my career I’ve always said never give up,” added Andrew.
“I want to play in the league above and I want to do that with Doncaster Belles.
"I’m only 30, I feel like I’ve got a few more years left in me.
"It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can always achieve your goals.”