Sheffield United Women are putting together a run of form that could emulate the promotion feats of their male counterparts – even if it may result in some serious life decisions for a number of their players.
Carla Ward’s side have won 11 of their last 12 games dating back to last season, with four of those five victories seeing them rise to second in the embryonic FA Women’s Championship table.
Take top spot by May and they will win promotion to the Women’s Super League, the top flight of the women’s pyramid, therefore matching what Chris Wilder’s men’s team have done in reaching the Premier League.
Should they do that, Sheffield United Women will have to comply with FA regulations and go full-time, meaning the likes of Jade Pennock will have a decision to make.
“There’s room to maneuvre but football is my No 1 goal,” says Pennock, who currently combines playing semi-pro with United Women with a 37.5-hour, full-time job as a community sports coach for the YMCA in Leeds.
“The club trains three nights a week and I’m able to attend two of those. It’s a quite similar arrangement for a few of the girls working full-time jobs.
We focus on the game plan each week and we’ve managed to start quickly in every game.Jade Pennock
“It’s tough when you come up against full-time teams. There’s two or three in the Championship and they’re all full-time in the league above.”
Not that Ward’s team have been anything less than professional in the manner in which they approach games during a sequence of results that dates back to February.
“It’s down to hard work, on and off the pitch,” explains Pennock, who joined United from Doncaster Rovers Belles last summer.
“We focus on the game plan each week and we’ve managed to start quickly in every game. We’ve scored 11 goals in the first 20 minutes of games during that run.”
Pennock’s hat-trick on Sunday helped the Blades women thrash Crystal Palace 5-1. Sustaining that run is now the biggest challenge.
“Because of the class we’ve got in the team, we expect a lot of ourselves,” says Pennock. “As for other teams, they’ll be surprised how strong we are. We’ve got goals all across the pitch.
“It’s not just one or two players, we’ve got goal threats all over.
“This is a big season for us. The men did it last year, we want to follow in their footsteps.”