Derby County Football Club Women

“The Key is to Move Things Forward” Gibbo’s Memoirs Part 4

Today sees Part Four of our seven part insightful and humorous look behind the scenes, in which CEO Duncan Gibb or ‘Gibbo’ as he is affectionately known to club personnel and supporters alike, shares memories of his time at the club.

Today he reflects on the clubs second five year plan, the exciting links with Derby University, the long term future with Mickleover FC and the intrinsic and positive links with the Derby County Community Trust

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Having delivered massively on every facet of the clubs initial five year plan, the Operational Board set a new one in 2019. It featured formalising the relationship with the main club, improving links with Derby University, becoming either a long term tenant or formal stakeholder in the ground at Mickleover and aligning the club more closely with the Derby County Community Trust in terms of their educational programme and Regional Talent Centre RTC. Let’s start with the first of those and probably key one.

As we’ve discussed, the relationship with the main club improved year on year and by early 2019 we’d got to the point where they felt comfortable to implement a similar set up to the one in place at the Community Trust, namely a formalised link to the main club with a Governance Board in place to oversee and support the day to day work undertaken by myself and the Operational Board of Directors.

The announcement of that and the clubs change of name to Derby County FC Women were landmark days and presented tangible evidence that those bridges in need of repair that had been talked about back in 2013 were well and truly fixed.

The key now, is through the work of the Governance Board and Operational Board, to keep things moving forwards.

Growing Stronger: Our Partnership with Derby University

The clubs relationship with Derby University drew widespread national media coverage back in 2018; however as a project it continues to develop?

This has been a project that has been a good four year in the making and is one of the key cornerstones of our current vision and business plan.

If you look at the USA, they have a model in place whereby talented young players can study and enhance their football careers at the same time, allowing them to then forge dual pathways in terms of successful careers either on or off the pitch, or hopefully both.

Currently we have a formalised link with what is the only Football Journalism degree course in the UK, with Olivia Fox being the first of our scholars and three more joining her in September, including two U21 internationals, if measures relating to the current Covid 19 crisis allow.

To have four scholar / players on full bursaries is something that both we and the university are hugely proud of; however we are already looking to take that to the next step in terms of extending the project in a number of potentially exciting ways.

News of the link drew major media interest at national level, which was helped by the fact that former England international Kelly Smith who now works in the media, and Jacqui Oatley who is a main sports media presenter, featured in our launch video.

The irony of this was not lost on me, as Kelly openly states in her autobiography that she was forced to go down this route in the USA, because the opportunities to do so in England weren’t there. A few year on and she’s appearing in a Derby County / Derby University video promoting our offer!

We hear bits and bobs; however how are things progressing on the long term stake hold at Mickloever?

Things are progressing nicely; however without question the biggest frustration associated with the Covid-19 crisis to date, has been that it has delayed the Mickleover ground redevelopment project.

Given our ambitious plans to reach Tier 2 within the Women’s game, as well as the brand and style of football that is synonymous with this club, the installation of the 3G was something that we were all so excited to see.

The relationship with Mickleover has been excellent from literally day one, when their committee sat in the main stand alongside 400 supporters for our first game there and watched us entertain Everton in a midweek prestige friendly. They knew from minute one how much potential we had, and how serious as a club we were about realising it, although I can still vividly recall their secretary, Tony Shaw looking at me and mouthing the words “Who the hell is he?” as Nigel commenced his pre-match routine!

Mickleover themselves are equally ambitious, with both parties recognising the impact that we can have on both the ground and the wider community. There is the option for a long term tenancy on the table; however the preferred option would be for us to become a formal stakeholder within the sports association. As such discussions on the feasibility of that are being discussed with the other association’s partners.

Our Growing Academy and Partnership with the RTC

The final strand of the current business plan revolves around the Derby County Community Trust’s RTC and Post 16 Learner Programme. Tell us about that?

In terms of the RTC element, the FA’s current development model sees something like 32 licences for Regional Talent Centre’s spread across the country. These tend to either sit directly underneath female clubs, with the local FA or with the community trust arm of football clubs.

Where they are in situ, you don’t tend to have club academy set ups on anything like the scale of the one at Derby County FC Women as well, with talent usually feeding in from the RTC.

Here in Derby we are blessed to have a Tier 2 RTC operated by the Community Trust and our Academy, meaning that there are probably more young female footballers under the umbrella of Derby County than at any club in the country.

Some players progress through the RTC, some through the Academy and many move between the two; however what both parties are keen to do is to present a collaborative pathway structure that provides clarity and the best experience for the players as they move from entry level towards senior football.

Hopefully the days when the two operated pretty much separately are gone now, and it’s just a case of finalising the pathway and announcing it.

How about the Post 16 Educational Link?

As with the synergy with the RTC, this has been something that we have been working in conjunction with the Community Trust on for some time, and is integral to our ambitions in terms of that dual player/scholar pathway.

The Trust have worked hard to create a broad and dynamic learner programme, providing links into higher education and football development. The plan is for Derby County FC Women to become a key partner, with players within our club continuing their educational and football development under the umbrella of Derby County, before hopefully then progressing into what we hope will be an extended scholar programme at Derby University.

If we are able to get these two projects over the line, then without question we will have one of the best educational / dual pathway offers of any female football club in the country.

So in terms of an overarching vision relating to both the football and educational side of things, how can you best sum that up?

For me it’s really quite simple. I would like to see us get to the point where players enter Derby County, whether that be through us or the RTC. From that point they develop their skills in what is an elite structure, either moving through the age groups of the RTC, Derby County Women’s FC or migrating between the two.

At 16 years of age their educational and footballing needs are met through the Derby County learner programme, which they then progress through until they reach higher education. At that point they either choose to leave education or they choose to access a variety of degree courses at Derby University that are either fully or part funded, with them committing to the University team which is managed and led by Derby County. In addition to that they remain with the club either within the U20’s U23’s or First Team.

I firmly believe that we can achieve the above, and in tandem with that we need to get the first team into the Women’s Championship. If we do that, then I  believe that our better players will not only want to remain with the club, but that we will attract players into the club that we might not as things currently sit. It would certainly make a lot of players think twice about both going out to the USA or going to other clubs.

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Join us tomorrow for Part 5 of Gibbo’s Memoirs as we look into the Managers/Staff that have graced the Ewe Rams under his guidance!