Women’s FA Cup: Fulham inspired by illustrious past in women’s football

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Mary Southgate
Mary Southgate is a lifelong Fulham fan – and captain of the women’s team

Fulham captain Mary Southgate says the team can take inspiration from their illustrious past as they take on Oxford United in the Women’s FA Cup first round.

Fulham were the first team in Europe to go fully professional back in 2000 under former owner Mohamed Al Fayed.

They won the FA Cup in 2002 and 2003 and had the likes of England’s Rachel Yankey and Katie Chapman in their side.

“They had a brilliant team back then,” Southgate told BBC Sport.

“Of course we would love to get to where they were.

“We are just so focused on what we are doing at the moment. We’ve got a really exciting journey but of course, everything that they did before was massive, so one day it would be brilliant to get back there.”

Turning professional helped bring Fulham success in the early 2000s, completing the Treble in 2003. But in 2006 the club scrapped the women’s team, saying that it was not “financially viable”.

Now, after relaunching in 2014 and with backing from the club’s current owner Shahid Khan, Fulham have a flourishing women’s section with a focused player pathway programme.

“This is my sixth season here and there is progress every year,” said Southgate.

“It’s just getting better week in, week out. We’re seeing it with the opportunities that we are getting but also with the kids that we are getting through to matches as well.

“This weekend, for example, we have a lots of mascots coming, lots of other children from the football programmes and schools coming down to watch. It’s definitely helping to create more opportunities.”

Can Fulham cause a cup upset?

Fulham currently sit second in the London and South East Premier Division and are on an eight-game unbeaten run, but the focus on Sunday is the FA Cup and Oxford United who play two divisions above.

“They’ve had good results recently, so we know that they’re going to be tough,” said Southgate.

“Physically, they’re going to be good, playing two leagues above us in the National League.

“But we’re excited. It’s at home and it’s the FA Cup and we’ve absolutely prepared the best we can.”

A Fulham fan – and captain

This weekend will be extra special for Southgate as she is also a lifelong Fulham fan.

She continued: “It’s brilliant. I love playing for Fulham in itself but to be in the FA Cup, everybody wants to be in that so to be playing for Fulham in it, is very exciting. And for my family as well, I mean we are all Fulham, it’s going to be a good weekend.”

Alongside captaining her club Southgate is a PE teacher, balancing her own sporting ambitions with a full-time career.

“The kids are brilliant,” she said. “They ask me each week how we got on and I show them clips sometimes of our goals.

“They are very much aware of what’s going on and some of the children have come to watch. I didn’t realise they were at some of our games and they’ve told me on the Monday that they came and watched.

“It’s just nice that we’re raising awareness to the children who want to follow, not just football, but women’s football as well. It’s really nice to be a part of that.”

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