Upcoming MatchSevenoaks Town vs Dartford/July 13, 2024/Greatness Park

DARTFORD FC WOMEN | IN CONVERSATION WITH JO WOODGATES

Tuesday night’s delayed game against Welling United saw Jo Woodgates feature in our matchday programme. For those who missed it, here is the full article:

Talking with Jo Woodgates is an interesting affair, as her experience, intelligence, and humility all come across, together with a healthy dose of humour during our discussions.

Fresh from a relaxing off-season, where she spent time on holiday with her partner, as well as spending quality time with friends and family, Jo is looking forward to the season ahead. Both her and her partner also spent time in the Cotswolds, where they celebrated their teammates Lizzie and Alicia’s wedding, as well as doing some activities, such as paddle-boarding, and even took a trip to Loch Lomond.

Life is busy for Jo, as she’s currently on a secondment to a new role in her day job at Tower Hamlets. That new role’s purpose is to try to engage people into treatment for substance misuse issues. The job involves long days for Jo, but evenings and weekends are spent either training and football, then time with her partner and their dog Rolo. But she did find the time to be in a Paddy Power advert once! She also likes to go to the theatre and take in a good musical or sit quietly in a nice country pub after a long walk with her partner and Rolo. She also likes the tranquillity of sitting near water and absorbing the surroundings.

Jo is a Christian, yet also says that she’s extremely superstitious, especially around football. “I always have my matchday shirt ironed and hung up (which I always get stick for by the girls!) I always put my right socks and boot on first, followed by the left. If I have had a good warm up, I refuse to take off my boots or redo the laces before the game.”

The central defender has been playing football for clubs since she was eight years old, where she was playing in the Crystal Palace Ladies U12 team. By the time she was nine, she moved to Millwall, where she progressed through their Centre of Excellence before making her First Team debut at the age of 15!

Two years later, she moved to San Francisco, before returning to Millwall. Jo then transferred to West Ham and that was followed by a move to Tottenham, where she played for three seasons. She stopped playing for a while, before signing for the Darts. Jo is obviously an integral part of Connor Dymond’s side, but where did her love of the sport begin?

Jo reminisces fondly, “I used to spend many weekends travelling with my Dad to watch my two brothers and sister play. They all played semi-professionally. Both brothers played for Dulwich Hamlet, while my sister played for Crystal Palace Ladies. I was often put in goal so that they could boot balls at me… but I took full advantage of half-time by running up and down the pitch with a ball. It’s definitely because of them and my Dad that I started playing football.”

With a family fully engrossed in the sport, it was only natural for Jo to gravitate towards football. And her Dad has played a huge part in her life, being what Dads should be – an inspiration both on the pitch and in Jo’s life in general, “Dad has spent many years taking me to training and games. He always ensured that I had boots and a kit to play, which often left him without any money. He’d drive for hours to watch me play, sometimes staying overnight in hotels on his own. He was always wanting to help around any club that I was involved in, whether it was driving the players to games, bringing people’s parents to games, or making the matchday programmes. He would always be at every one of my games without fail. Come rain or shine, at half-time he’d be waiting for me with a cheeseburger in hand and a can of coke for me. I’d like to think that I’m very much like my Dad and have some of the qualities he held, which makes me the person I am, both on and off the pitch today.”

For any aspiring young footballer, there are usually inspirational people, or even heroes, within the sport, and Jo isn’t any different. She loved watching the USA Women’s National Team play, especially Carli Lloyd. She states that Lloyd’s work ethic alone is something to be admired.

As Jo started playing football at the age of eight, it wasn’t until she turned 20 that the Women’s Super League was introduced. And now, with England’s Lionesses victorious in the Euro’s, she believes a real, positive movement has begun in women’s football. And, it has been during the recent three years that Jo has realised the potential for a career in football. She believes the possibilities are endless, even within the confines of coaching and management, stating the qualities of women like Emma Hayes and Serina Weigman as huge influences.

And Jo believes she’s learned from one of the best coaches around too, stating that another inspiration for her was her Centre of Excellence coach Jim Hicks. She continues, “Jim now works for the PFA, but everything I’ve learnt as a player both on and off the pitch is down to him and the standards he installed in me. From my technique to my footballing brain, has come from him, which I’ve managed to retain for over 25 years!”

All of that learning and intelligence is certainly being put to good use, as Jo has ambitions to move into the coaching and management side of football herself in the future. She is in the middle of studying for her UEFA B Coaching Licence and will be looking to joining the coaching team at Dartford FC Women during the next few seasons. However, for the time-being, she’s enjoying her football with the team, stating that they have helped her fall in love with the sport again.

One of Jo’s favourite memories is when she won the league with Millwall Lionesses is 2009. She then left for pastures new and to play in San Francisco, as she likes to travel when time allows. In fact, she hopes to travel more and take in more Women’s Super League games in the future. But one of her biggest hopes is to wake up and hear “…the pitter patter of small football boots very soon.”

Seeing as Jo appears to be a natural talker, I’ll let her have the last word as our discussion draws to a close – “Please come down and support us. Women’s football is moving in the right direction, thanks to our Lionesses! We have the backing of First Team Manager Alan Dowson and the continued support of Chairman Steve Irving. Put any pre-conceived ideas you have on the women’s game aside and come and see for yourself. I can guarantee you, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Not only will you see a good display of football, but you can watch your young daughters and sons be inspired by players which have played for clubs around the Dartford area. We aren’t just footballers, we’re role models and a part of the positive movement in women’s football. Your support and backing can push us through the leagues and put Dartford on the map in the women’s game.”

She’s not wrong you know. Please do come along and check the games out, you won’t be disappointed. Meanwhile, if you should happen to stumble upon Jo in a coffee shop or village pub somewhere, do say hello and buy her a drink.

By Chris Palmer