Derby County Football Club Women

Change in Format Boosts U13 Black Socks Development

Our Under 13 Black Socks side are back playing in the Derbyshire Girls League this season after a spell in the Derbyshire Junior Leagues where adapting to a change in format can only boost their development moving forward.

We spoke with Derby County Women Academy Director Dave Cholerton who gives an overview of the U13 Black Socks side this season before speaking to Coach Nathan Stevens, looking back at the season to date and how they have adapted to change.


Moving to a new format can often throw any side off its stride but after a move to 11-a-side football, both Cholerton and Stevens have been impressed with how quickly they have adapted and during these testing times they have praised the character and resilience of the team.

Cholerton said “Following a season of playing Derby Junior League football, this season have returned to the Derbyshire Girls league which has supported the girls’ transition from 9 to 11 a-side football. 

We have been really pleased with the girls’ development to 11 a-side football. They are an expansive team which has allowed them to play good football in possession and are learning the fundamentals that will see them progress further as they get older.

“I’ve spoke before about how football has allowed that sense of normality for all teams and it can’t have been easy but I know that everyone will come out the other end stronger, and everyone has rallied around each other and that character has shone through.”

Head Coach Nathan picks up on the resilience that has been shown this season from all aspects of football, whether it is parents, players and the club and said “Football has been a source of comfort for our players (and also our parents) this season.

 “I’ve seen first hand both for DCFCW and school how much football and sport brings a sense of release and normality to things as well as improving the mental health of our players. Football gives our parents and children the opportunity to socialise and to either play or watch the game they love and I know they will all be happy to see football return.

“I think switching from any format, whether it be 5-a-side to 7-a-side, 7 to 9 and 9 to 11 takes a little getting used to and initially it took the girls a bit of time to adapt to the extra space they had on the larger pitch. 

“The friendlies that we had pre-season were pitched at the right level for the development of our girls and gave us the time to develop a formation that the girls felt comfortable with.

“At times this season we have played some wonderful attacking football, keeping the tempo high and pressing the opposition as far up the pitch as possible, which has enabled us to turn the ball over in the opposition half and create chances. 

“The girls are playing in an under 14 league but aren’t letting the older girls use their strength to manoeuvre them off the ball, they are learning to be physically strong as well as technically strong. 

“When we return from lockdown we will be looking to add some consistency to the performances in the first half of our games and continue to add fitness and intensity to the way we play over longer periods of the games.”