Interview by Leigh Bailey (BTFC Live Radio)
With the appointment of new Manager of the Women’s First Team, Scott Chickleday, we took the opportunity to catch up with the latest member of the Billericay Town Family. It was clear that this ambitious coach and manager is relishing working with the players, developing new talent, and has a firm objective to push the club forward and achieve promotion to the next level and beyond.
An early starter to coaching, Chickleday numbers 25 years in the field. Now UEFA ‘B’ qualified, with 12 years of experience at the Tottenham Hotspur and QPR academies, he has coached or managed all age groups up to U-23’s.
His background in coaching, both boys and girls at district and county level, and extensive work all the way up the pyramid to the elite level, fit in well with the club pathway strategy.
Delivering bespoke football sessions across Europe to men and women, Chickleday returned and had a two month spell working with the attacking players at Harlow Ladies last season. Kim Coster, promoted to the newly created role of Head of Women’s and Girls Football, moved to bring him into the set-up as he explains:
“I had a meeting with Kim and she liked my background and knowledge of football and passion. It went from there and she offered me the manager’s job.”
Chickleday is very familiar with the Billericay story having played a minor role in securing the return of Billy Bricknell and Matt Johnson to the club in November 2016. Since then, his involvement in Women’s football has made him well aware that similar momentum was building around Billericay Ladies. Present to survey the progress this season, he reflected:
“I went over and watched some games and was really impressed. They went on an absolutely unbelievable FA Cup run, which I followed through to the last round they got to.”
Looking back on what has been a hugely successful recent spell for the Women’s set-up, all who have been a part of the achievement have much to be proud of. Fans have clearly caught the positive vibe flowing through the club as gates have gone beyond the 100 mark.
Ambition shows no signs of waning as extra investment into the Women’s infrastructure is pursued. For the 2020-21 season, there will be eight dedicated Women’s and Girls teams providing a pathway to the First team all the way up from u-12’s level.
With nine Reserve players featuring for Kim Coster’s side last season, opportunity is clearly knocking for players aspiring to play first team football. This will only continue as the conveyor belt stretches through the structure to allow younger players to pass progressively through the age groups into the development squad, and, in turn, opening up passage into the senior team and the FA Women’s National League South East Division One.
As first team manager, Chickleday fully supports the initiative and, having coached youngsters at QPR now playing first team football in the Premier League, he believes that his philosophy of promoting young talent fits in well with the club’s aspirations:
“I’m a development coach and that’s what really appealed to me. They are trying to develop players to push into the first team and try and take the club to the WSL….. I’m not shy or scared of bringing young players into the first team. That’s something I’m keen to do.”
Bringing in young players will not see any compromise on the club’s ambitions to move upwards beyond the fourth tier of Women’s football. He intends to fulfil these objectives with his own brand of “quick, attacking football”, which is “good to watch”. A blend of youth and experience will be the subtle mix that he will need to forge into a winning team. He is under no illusions as to what the objective is and is quick to embrace the challenge:
“My goal is to try and win the League… I’ve always prided myself on winning the League because that’s your consistency over the due course of the season. Obviously if you win Leagues’, you move up levels, and that’s the plan as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
Momentum is there after a fine campaign this season, Chickleday underlines that the side remained in contention with table-toppers Ipswich Ladies, and AFC Basildon, until the shut-down. With plenty of football left to have been played, he reasons that the final outcome was still far from resolved. Boding well for the fixtures ahead, he will urge the players to take the achievements of the 2019-20 season as a positive into the new campaign.
When the new season may begin is subject to some uncertainty but Chickleday emphasises that plans still need to be made to prepare the team for the re-start. A recent first meeting with the squad was organised via Zoom at which introductions were made. With training not currently possible, routines to promote fitness and touch have been set for now.
Whilst the current situation is far from what anybody would have wanted, the longer -term future looks very promising within the Womens’ and Girls’ set-up at the club. A clear pathway into a successful team, playing attractive football, does not look that far away.