A girls’ soccer team has gone from losing 20-0 each week to winning promotion to the top division—after a dad started coaching.

Leek Town Devils under 15s were getting routinely thrashed every time they turned out, until Stuart Henley stepped in two years ago.

The 41-year-old car valeter took the job when the previous manager quit because no-one else would, and he’s transformed the team’s fortunes.

With the help of 50-year-old assistant Ivan Austin, also a parent, they renamed the team the Devils and started training hard in February 2020.

The team, who used to be called Golden Hill, now win regularly—and secured promotion for next year after finishing second in their division.

Stuart, from Stoke-on-Trent in England, credits off-field bonding sessions like quizzes and a focus in training the basics.

A handful of players had never kicked a football before joining the team, so training them took hours of hard work and patience.

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He said, “After a good few weeks we got down to training and they really started to take it in what I wanted.

“My ethos has really been on doing the basic stuff well and letting the girls decide what they feel they need to work on rather than dictating the sessions myself.”

Stuart’s first season was blighted by the pandemic, which forced him and Ivan to get creative with training.

They organized team-building activities with the girls to help them bond on and off the field.

Stuart then spent the sessions they could hold focusing on the basics of football like passing, shooting, and movement to try and bring the girls up to a good standard.

He said, “The 2020/2021 season was really stop and start because of the pandemic but this gave us more time to train together as a team.


“Our first game together we were at home, and when we scored a goal it was like winning the World Cup.

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“Watching their faces light up was great to see, and although we lost the game, we didn’t care because the goal was a sign of progress.

“Each week we’d go back to training and work on the bits that went wrong the previous Saturday which really helped the girls learn.”

Stuart watched the girls develop over the course of last year, and in September they played their first match of the new season.

They won the game, and since then went on an unbeaten run of eight games, drawing just one fixture.

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The team’s star player, 15-year-old Chelsea, has also impressed individually, becoming the top scorer in the league with a whopping 30 goals.

Their newfound form led them to a top of the table clash at the start of February, where they were sadly beaten 3-2 by rivals Wyrley Pumas.

Although this means they have been denied the league title, the team have still exceeded expectation by winning promotion to the county’s top division.

Stuart, whose 14-year-old daughter Rebecca plays for the team, added, “We are about giving girls the opportunity to play football no matter what.


“We gave it everything we had on the weekend but sometimes it’s just not your day.

“No-one would have ever thought this time two years ago that we’d be in this position yet here we are.

“All the effort that the girls, us coaches and parents have put in to get this point has been immense.

“If I didn’t have the support of Ivan helping me every week this would have been an impossible task so I’m incredibly grateful to have him on side.

“All we want is to bring more girls into the game and show that it’s not all about having the best players; it’s about hard work and giving everyone the chance to play.

“We’re going into next season full of confidence and ready to compete against tougher opponents, but for now we’re still very much enjoying our victory.

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