Angharad James Is Excited About The Progress Being Made @ FAW

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

Angharad James Is Excited About The Progress Being Made . . . As Gemma Grainger Looks To Kickstart The Evolution Of Women’s Football In Wales  

I spoke to Sophie Ingle and Angharad James at Wales’ press conference ahead of their opening Pinatar Cup game against the Philippines.

CARDIFF, WALES, – FRIDAY, APRIL 09, 2021: Wales Angharad James during the International Friendly against Canada at Leckwith Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. (Pic by Kunjan Malde/FAW)

Women’s football is booming in Wales, with record attendances being broken, seemingly every game. But Angharad James hopes the progress off the field will bring a fresh start as Gemma Grainger and the FAW look to evolve Women’s football in Wales.

It was heartbreak for Wales last October, when they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Switzerland after a late Fabienne Humm equaliser in extra time in the World Cup Play-Off final.

But significant progress has been made off the field by the FAW of late, as it was announced last month that the senior men’s squad had agreed a 25% pay cut to help fund a 25% pay rise for the women’s team.

Head coach Gemma Grainger has also put pen to paper on a new two-year contract extension, which will see the influential head coach lead Wales into the qualifying campaigns for the 2025 European Championships and the 2027 World Cup.

Angharad James said: “It’s nice to be back with the group, it seems like we’ve been away a long time. It’s nice to be back to see everyone to kickstart the new year.

“There was a lot of disappointment at first after that loss against Switzerland, getting so close to a major tournament. But since having some time away and some time to reflect on everything, I am so proud of the girls in the group, both the players and all the staff.

“It has given us a lot of hope moving forward. We will change little things and hopefully the next time we get to that stage the outcome will be a lot different.

“We are going to have to go up another level in the coming months to ensure that we are competing at the top with the hope to qualify to a major tournament.”

Despite the disappointment of missing out on that chance to reach their first major tournament, there has been plenty of progress made by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) in the new year following the success of the Women’s side.

Wales captain, Sophie Ingle said: “The step to implement equal pay is massive for our organisation. It shows what both the players and the organisation want is equal, we get the same training facilities as the men, same hotels, same travel etc.”

“We have had that for a while now to be fair, the organisation has really pushed that for us. We couldn’t ask for any more I think, we’re making huge strides in Wales.”

James added:

“It’s not just about equal pay, people think it’s just the money side of things but it’s the facilities, access to staff, the number of staff we have on camps now is very different to what we had four or five years ago.”

“So, we’ve taken big strides and together we created change which was important.”

CARDIFF, WALES – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9, 2021: Wales’ Sophie Ingle during a training session at The Vale Resort. (Pic by Kunjan Malde/FAW)

The extension of Grainger’s new contract is another step that has brought a lot of excitement, with the Welsh manager being afforded time to evolve the team and the playing style as she aims to help Wales reach their first major tournament.

The ingredients are all there for success in the women’s game. There is now a strong interest in the team, with several attendance records being broken over the past year.

But time is needed for the team to progress, as they look to the next level after the heartbreak of missing out on World Cup qualification just a few months ago.

With several young players like Carrie Jones, Ceri Holland and Hannah Cain starting to break into the senior team, there is plenty of positivity surrounding the camp.

It is hoped the core of experienced players, including the likes of Jess Fishlock and Sophie Ingle can will help the youngsters ease into international football to improve their options moving forward.

On the impact of the younger players coming in, James said: “It is really important that these experienced players are here to help the younger girls come through. We have some good young players coming through, who we have already seen glimpses of in the last campaign.

“They are going to be a very important part of our team going forward. The young players are going to need our support going forward and hopefully we can create a good balance between experience and youth.

“I think keeping the core and the experience has been great for us, the likes of Jess Fishlock and other players who have stayed on for this next campaign is huge for us”.