Holly Fowler playing for Notts County. Credit: Anna Dunleavy

After an early end to the 2019/20 women’s football season, there were higher hopes for this season. But Notts County women’s captain, Holly Fowler, talks to Emma de Duve about her frustration on not playing weekly football.

Notts County women’s team only got to play three games this season, before it came to an abrupt halt.

Fowler, who has been at the club since May 2018, explained her frustration about only playing three matches in 10 months.

She said: “It’s been tough as, although football is a physical activity, it has a big impact on my mental well-being and not being able to do something you love is hard.”

County women’s team was restarted in May 2018 and Fowler has been at the club since the start. She was vice captain for two seasons before being made captain for the 2020/21 campaign.

Their first season saw them go on a 16-match unbeaten run and they finished second in the league. They also went the whole of the 2019/20 season without a loss, before it ended in April 2020.

Notts County captain, Holly Fowler. Credit: Dan Westwell

As much as they’ve had great success on the pitch, the players and coaching staff are also very emotionally close off it and hold weekly zoom calls to keep in touch with one another. They have been a good way to make sure everyone is coping, from a mental health perspective.

In terms of the physical aspect, the team haven’t been able to train, but the Magpies captain says the team have been making extra efforts to stay fit.

She said: “We have been doing our own individual training to keep fit…we are all at an age where we know what we need to do for ourselves to keep fit.”

“Everyone on the team is there because they love football. We might have a big social team but primarily we all love the sport.”
Holly Fowler, Notts County captain

County manager, Adam Dunleavy, echoes what Fowler says on the effect the pandemic has had on the club: “I think Covid has been a massive challenge on so many different levels. It’s been really tough from a mental health and well-being side of things.

“We all have stresses of day-to-day life and whilst management brings with it its own pressures, it’s a fantastic feeling to get out on the grass with the players and I know it’s the same for the players.”

Notts County women’s team celebrating in September 2020. Credit: Dan Westwell

Fowler feels that her and the team are struggling with not being able to play regularly, as it gives the team a ‘release’ from different pressures.

She said: “Everyone on the team is there because they love football. We might have a big social team but primarily we all love the sport, so I know they will be finding it hard to not have that release from work or university that football gives you.”

There are lots of talks about what should happen to lower league women’s football seasons, with many thinking that it should be null and void again.

With much speculation around how the season will conclude, given the national lockdown restrictions currently in place, does Fowler think another null and void season is the only resolution for the league’s conclusion?

“I think that when it is safe to do so, it should carry on.”

“It’s pointless having another season null and void because it just puts a dampener on everyone’s hard work across all teams!”

The 23-year-old, who is also studying for a masters in architecture at Nottingham Trent University, also warned about the financial impact that another voided season could have on clubs at the lower level.

“Government funding might encourage more teams to keep playing, because I know a lot might disappear if they can’t play this year and fall out of love with the game,” she said.

“A lot of clubs might not be able to access a sponsor next year, as many sponsors might view it as a lost cause if the team they sponsor can’t even represent them weekly.”

With no sign of when the next lockdown may end, clubs have been surveyed by the FA as to how they think the season should conclude, meaning Fowler and her teammates must wait and see if their chances of promotion are once again denied.

By Emma de Duve