Women’s manager, Scott Booth, reflects on what it means to be part of Equality FC, the development of this season’s squad, and the turning point his team needed.
Exclusive by Will Kirkup
Even over the medium of a shaky WhatsApp call suffering from some faulty Wi-Fi and microphone shenanigans, it was clear that everyone associated with Lewes FC had been a big incentive for Scott Booth becoming manager in May 2022. “One of the big reasons why I came to the club in the first place is the whole feel of the club, the people in the club,” said the former Scotland, Aberdeen, and Borussia Dortmund centre forward.
For Booth, everybody involved in Lewes’ progression is the source for himself and his staff to stay motivated and give their all week in week out. “We give everything that we can as a staff and it’s for a great club, a great cause, because the club and the people at the club are amazing. There’s a pride in being at Lewes.”
It seems fitting that on December 8, three days later, Lewes released their 22/23 Impact Report, where CEO Maggie Murphy expressed gratitude to Lewes’ “long list of volunteers and to [their] staff and Directors for their tireless work” in her opening statement. Clearly from the cleaners to the ground staff, to the players, to the owners, everyone’s chipping in.
The report also highlights Booth’s magical FA Cup success last season, when he led Lewes to a quarter-final with Manchester United where England’s Euros and World Cup hero’s Mary Earps, Alessia Russo and Ella Toone all featured for the Red Devils.
Although the visitors prevailed 3-1, it was still a wonderful occasion and saw a club record attendance of 2,801 at the Dripping Pan.
This season’s campaign was delayed after our third-round tie with Ipswich was postponed last weekend. Lewes now play it this Sunday, and Booth appreciates the danger posed by the Tractor Girls. “It’s a tough draw … they’re a good side, coached well,” he said.
“The FA Cup holds so much history and the players really bought into that big time last season, so it’d be nice to have that going hand in hand with some really good league performances.”
A vital 2-1 league win over London City Lionesses will go some way to achieving the Rooks’ mission. “It was just important for the three points. I would say 95% of games this season, we’ve competed really well with all the sides and lost games by the odd goal. In games we’ve had our own chances [but] maybe not taken them,” said Booth.
The result lifted Lewes off the foot of the table and just three points from safety, and Booth remains positive. “That’s obviously the main aim but at the moment it’s still early, halfway through the season. Everyone knows that if you can string two or three results together then it goes a long way in this league.”
Needing just two or three wins to drastically change the table’s look is no exaggeration. The men’s Championship is famous for being packed tighter than Brighton’s North Laines on even the best of occasions, and the women’s version is no different. Only eight points separate Lewes in 11th and their next league opponent Blackburn, who lie in sixth on 15.
“[The players have] come a long way since the start of the season where they were a brand-new young squad, put together very quickly,” said Booth.
Eight first team regulars were signed over the summer, with captain Caragh Hamilton, who signed from Irish champions Glentoran, and November player of the month Anna Grey, who switched from Ipswich and made the jump up from the National League, among them.
“It’s so obvious that when you pretty much put a full new squad together that it’s going to take time for them to gel, to understand each other, to understand the new club that they’re at,” Booth added.
Booth praised his players for “how far they’ve come” and said that they now hold an “understanding of what it takes to win games in this league.” The London City win was proof of this.
The Lewes boss is no stranger to the difficulties players face, which perhaps influences his message to the squad. Booth played across Europe, has won a cup final in the Netherlands, scored 51 goals in 181 games across two spells at Aberdeen and made 351 senior appearances for club and country. He knows as well as anyone that it’s a tough old game.
He appreciated that playing professional football is a “great way to earn a living” and that “it doesn’t feel like work” most of the time. “But … football’s incredibly difficult. It’s not just a bed of roses to be a professional football player,” he continued.
He said he likes to remind his players just how difficult playing can be, the importance of giving everything and remembering to enjoy it.
Remembering why we all play or follow football amongst the pantomime of a league season feels like a resonant message, especially at a time where referees are getting assaulted in Turkey and Lauren James is suffering from racist abuse online.