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Oxford United call up women’s team player to men’s squad

Oxford United have decided to call up women’s team player to the men’s squad amid an ongoing injury crisis at the League One outfit.

The U’s are currently without 13 first team players, club manager Karl Robinson has invited Beth Lumsden, from the women’s team to train with the men’s side.

According to The Daily Mirror, the midfielder has been taking part in sessions for the past few weeks, and has gone on to received great praise from the boss.

Lumsden has “fitted in really well” according to the gaffer Robinson, who is certainly a much talked about characters in the EFL and is always willing to try different things so invited her bring her in with the men’s first team.

Lumsden said: “It’s been such a good experience. I’ve done it for about three or four weeks now, once a week, there’s a session in the morning, followed by a gym session and an evening training session with the women as well.

“We were talking and Karl was there and he was really encouraging, he’s been brilliant. The men are a lot quicker, it’s not so much physically but it pushes you mentally to make decisions quicker and then I take that into games.

“I’ve heard stories of women playing with the under-18s but I’ve never been offered this chance before. It’s been brilliant for me personally because we’re having a good season, chasing promotion and it can only help me improve.”

Lumsden works an estate agent business which is run by former Arsenal boss Vic Akers who once created a seven-a-side game between his women’s team and some male journalists… who were given the runaround and were lucky the score did not reach double figures.

Oxford have been without seven players through positive Covid tests, three more have been isolating and three injured. They signed Birmingham keeper Connal Trueman on an emergency loan and beat Fleetwood 3-1.

Robinson has rarely celebrated so much after the game as to get a result with so many players missing and up against the odds was quite an achievement.

Karl Robinson has asked for his side to repeat their efforts from Tuesday night as they welcome Rotherham United to the Kassam Stadium on Saturday.

The U’s will once again be without 13 players but won 3-1 at home to Fleetwood on Tuesday despite a similar number of absences and Karl is relatively relaxed as his side try to overcome the odds against the Millers.

“We can replicate what we did on Tuesday, we honestly believe that” he told iFollow “but the odds have never been so stacked against us. We thought it was tough on Tuesday but now we are playing against the team who are top of the league under the exact same circumstances.

“But we are playing without one bit of pressure. I have never been so relaxed going into a game, it’s so surreal. I told the players after the game that they should feel proud not just of their performance but how they are as people. They gave me everything on Tuesday, just like they do every single day.

“Among all the things that went on they just dealt with everything and carried on, smiling and ready to embrace whatever the next challenge was. I thought they were excellent.

“We have to be the same on Saturday.

“Two of the players are out of isolation on Friday night but there is a ‘return to play protocol’ for two more days so we will follow the rules and do the right things, as we always do. So we will be without a lot of players but whoever plays, they know the importance of the game and I hope the fans get behind them again.

“I thought they were tremendous on Tuesday. They know the situation hasn’t changed between then and now and we know they will come along, get behind us, and play a part again.”

Back to the main story now and in relation to it, it is one hundred years ago this month that the FA outlawed women’s teams from playing on men’s professional football grounds.

The Football Association’s statement claimed that there was a “strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and should not be encouraged”.

The rise of women’s football in the First World War saw teams formed throughout the country and was at one point attracting crowds of over 50,000.

In total, there were 150 teams playing to crowds across England, but then in 1921, it all stopped. The Football Association decided football was “quite unsuitable for females” and women’s football was banned.

It would be 50 years before the ban was lifted and and the Women’s Football Association (WFA) was formed in 1969.

Major women’s football finals in Britain slowly started to be included in TV reports since then with the first ever women’s World Cup taking place in China in 1991.

Most of the players in the tournament weren’t used to playing in-front of big crowds however the Chinese embraced the tournament, pulling in 65,000 for the final.

In 1997, the FA announced plans to completely re-organise women’s football, wanting to encourage more girls to play at local level to make sure England’s next generation could challenge on the world stage.

By 2011, the FA Women’s Super League was launched, professionalising English football and in 2018 became the first league in Europe to become fully professional.

Also in 2018, Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé once looked for a new team to train with after playing for women’s teams in Europe and the US, before coming home with a bronze medal from the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Starting XI Questions: Stephanie Labbé • Courage Country

“I just had this drive, this determination to do something different and to take my career in a different direction,” she says when up for a challenge.

She wanted to join a men’s team and looked up to female players such as Hayley Wickenheiser, who in fact played for men’s leagues in Finland and Sweden.

“I started thinking about that in soccer, but no one’s ever really done that in the soccer world,” she says. “I thought, why not me?”

She called around different clubs and met with a lot of resistance – until she found Tommy Wheeldon, who coaches the Calgary Foothills.

He was open to the idea. “I said, ‘If you can keep the ball out of the net, I pick based on ability and not anything else,’” Wheeldon recalls.

However, her attempts of playing with the men’s team in the Premier Development League failed as the league responded that they are a gender-based league that does not allow women to play.

In response, she filed suit against the league, having been denied entry into the PDL, so Labbé had no choice but to sign with the women’s side, Calgary Foothills WFC in United Women’s Soccer.

She later wrote an article in The Players’ Tribune explaining her experiences with the men’s club in pre-season and with being denied entry, stating that:

“I kept going. I didn’t scale things back. I wanted to make that team so bad, and I loved the feeling that came along with not knowing how things would turn out.

“Of knowing that I needed to work harder than I had ever worked before if I was going to have a real shot. And the cool thing was that every day I could feel my legs getting stronger.

“My hands quicker. My passes smarter. I was proving to myself that I could hang. Something that seemed like it might be impossible when I started, was suddenly becoming very … real.

“And it became clear to me that in some ways I’d been selling myself short by assuming back then that I wouldn’t be able to hack it on a men’s team.

“After a while, I couldn’t help but wonder where that self-doubt had come from in the first place. When did I start believing I was less of an athlete than the guys?”

She has since played for many other female clubs, and currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain.

Could we one day in the future see women playing with men? Highly unlikely. We’re only just looking at women potentially managing in the men’s game, something AFC Wimbledon and Forest Green said they’d consider.

Forest Green owner Dale Vince said recently that he was open to appointing a female manager (rumoured to be Emma Hayes) when considering a replacement for Mark Cooper, before going for Rob Edwards.

Vince said he “really liked” a female candidate but it turned out her CV was handed in without her knowledge; “She’s not ready to leave the job she’s in,” added Vince.

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A female manager or head coach is yet to be appointed by a Premier League or English Football League club, while we have seen men in the women’s game.

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes, who has led the Blues to three Women’s Super League titles and two Women’s FA Cups, was linked to the AFC Wimbledon job in February.

However, the 44-year-old said the notion that women’s football is a step down from the men’s game was “an insult”.

Prior to her three and a half years as Scotland boss, Shelley Kerr took charge of Lowland League club Stirling University in 2014, making her the first female manager in Scottish senior men’s football.

On the continent, Corinne Diacre spent three years as manager of French Ligue 2 side Clermont Foot before taking charge of France’s female national team in 2017.

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