A trio of former Bradford City and Park Avenue coaches are on a long-term mission to establish their newly-formed women’s football team as one of the best in West Yorkshire.

It comes in the form of Bingley Belles FC, a club only established at the start of January by Stephen Rushforth, Anthony Joyce and Marcus Matthew.

All three coaches, who most recently managed Bradford (Park Avenue) Ladies first team and have had spells working with Bradford City Women, are ready to take their own club up through the divisions.

Ahead of hosting their very first open training session on Friday February 16 at Zara Sports Centre on Bingley Road, Rushforth admitted that this day has been a longtime coming.

Speaking to the T&A about the creation of the Belles, he said: “It’s an idea that we’ve considered ever since leaving Park Avenue because in our heads, we were hoping that our time at the club would go very differently (parted ways after several months). It’s a massive club with great facilities, and we’d envisaged taking them as far as the Women’s National League.

“Furthermore, Anthony lives in the Bingley area and he’s quite aware that there isn’t a women’s football team there. The nearest team to Bingley is probably Silsden’s women’s team, so we thought it was quite a good project to look at. So, we met up, had a chat and it all snowballed from there.

“We’ve got our own ideas on how we want our teams to play and how a club should be run, so we thought that we should give it a go.”

Keighley News: Stephen Rushforth at Valley Parade (far left) with the City Foundation back in 2016Stephen Rushforth at Valley Parade (far left) with the City Foundation back in 2016 (Image: Andy Garbutt)

Despite the short tenure for all three coaches at Avenue Ladies, the trio have had success at City along with the Foundation and expect to carry their valuable experiences within coaching into this new role.

Rushforth said: “Working at Avenue and then City with the u23s, you’re working with open-age players that are women, not children. So, you need to have a good understanding on how to manage players and how they tick as people.

“You’ve got conflicts that you don’t usually get in junior football, particularly if someone is unhappy about their lack of playing time; they’re usually going to let you know at this level.

“Like I say, it didn’t work out at Avenue, but we loved our time there and learned a lot even though it was a short spell. We feel that we can take all that we’ve learnt into the Bingley project.”

Speaking about his appreciation for women’s football, Rushforth admitted that he “originally had no interest in getting on board with it,” and a call from Bradford City Women’s chairman Qasim Akhtar persuaded him to do so.

He said: “He (Akhtar) rang me just as I’d left Farsley, where I was coaching the men’s side of the game and asked me to be the coach for the u15s at the time for City.

“I went down to a session, and I was on board with it straight away. The group was great to work with and the standard was really good, which did surprise me back then. We had a fantastic couple of seasons together at junior level and from there I’ve just been extremely passionate about it. I’d never say never, but I don’t think I’d ever look into coaching men’s open-age football again; certainly currently.”

Keighley News: Stephen Rushforth's Bradford Ctiy side in County FA Junior Cup Final action at Fleet Lane Stephen Rushforth's Bradford Ctiy side in County FA Junior Cup Final action at Fleet Lane (Image: Alex Daniel)

January 4 was the date of Bingley Belles’ establishment, and although their social media pages have only been active with information regarding the club for three weeks, Rushforth is happy with the feedback from the local community so far.

He said: “The response to training and the club in general has been good. Currently, we’ve got ten players who’ve registered their interest and Anthony has had conversations with several players he knows. I’ve thrown the idea out to people on the scholarship programme at City Foundation. Our aim is to create a good atmosphere for players to train and play and for them to just enjoy playing football.

“We’ll make sure that it’s a really great place to come and play football. At the end of the day, it’s a voluntary thing for me, Marcus and Anthony, so we want to enjoy it too and make sure we’ve got a positive feeling around the club.

“Fingers crossed that we get enough players at training and who show an interest in the project, and then hopefully by June we can get into a proper pre-season schedule ahead of next season (which will most likely be West Riding Division Four).”

Rushforth added: “We’ve got big aims for this club. We are looking to recruit some strong calibre of players, particularly with the contacts we have as coaches. Of course, it will be a long way off, but we want to aim for North East Regionals and then even push for the National League in the future.”

The Belles boss also confirmed that discussions are underway ahead of finding a suitable matchday ground for the club (around Bingley), whilst training sessions will take place at Zara Sports Centre.

To register your interest in joining the newly formed Bingley Belles Women’s team, fill out the form here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfrAfDXn5qTQx7_Gs53ieD2gdxDje6jBRgwML3GGDhMuj9xOQ/viewform?pli=1

The two opening training sessions will take place on Friday 16 February and Friday 23 February at Zara, and they get underway at 6:30pm and finish 7:30pm (both open age).

For further information, contact Stephen Rushforth (first team coach) on 07493 526552.