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Birmingham City v Lewes: Barclays FA Women’s Championship

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Lasses Fan Focus: We speak to Lewes FC Women fan Joe Ketchum ahead of the big game!

Ahead of today’s game we spoke to Lewes fan Joe Ketchum. What can Sunderland Women expect when they take on Lewes Women in the last league home match for 2022?

Photo by Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

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Roker Report: Thank you for speaking to us. Lewes Women currently find themselves just above Sunderland Women in the table. How would you rate Lewes’s performance so far?

Joe Ketchum: After a slightly stuttering beginning to the season, with four draws on the bounce, Lewes have begun to find their rhythm. Three wins in the last four in all competitions is really promising, despite the narrow nature of the wins. I think this is where their main focus for improvement lies, the lack of goals, especially from open play. Although Kraft only has the one goal (I think) she is looking really really good. So hopefully the goals will start to flow now she got off the mark against Coventry.

A thought I keep coming back to, is despite only two wins out of seven so far, Lewes have been behind for only one minute this season, the late winner away at Durham. (This does also mean they’ve thrown away nine points from winning positions, but I ignore that bit)

Lewes Women v Charlton Athletic Women - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Charlie Crowhurst - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

RR: What did you make of your transfer business in the summer? Happy with the additions, some big losses, or still need to add more?

JK: My friends and I only started following Lewes in September 2021, after I was enthralled by a 2-2 friendly against West Ham in the summer. This means we haven’t been involved in a transfer window with them before, so this summer was a little bit of a surprise with so much movement. The league still has a lot of short contracts, obviously giving clubs better financial flexibility, however it was tricky to see so many favourites leaving last year.

Also, the order in which it gets announced, with the outgoings proceeding the signings, made it very difficult at times.

I believe last season's wages ended up being a little beyond the capacities of the club, in what started out as a promotion push. So, a mix up was necessary.

With the favourites we lost include Lucy Ashworth Clifford (who has just won player of the month for October in the Scottish league playing for Celtic, she is far too good for that league, and I believe she harbours dreams of playing for Man United, I hope she gets there. Georgia Timms, also playing in the Scottish league for Hearts, scored five goals in August, winning her player of the month too! Tatiana Saunders was a big personality to leave too, joining Durham but also getting a Masters course thrown into the mix, so understandable.

Then a few more popular members within the squad, Ellie Noble and Sophie O’Rourke both left for south London, followed by players that probably didn’t reach their potential at Lewes; Heidi Logan and social media sensation Frida Ayisi joining O’Rourke at Charlton. Umotong, Cross and Porter also retired at the end of the season (although Lucy Porter is more of a sabbatical)

A lot of players to move on! And all still on my mind half a year later!

But, the players that have come in have all either shown their qualities already or are young players showing glimpses of what they can do.

Sophie Whitehouse, from Bristol, is amazing. It looks like she’s playing with 1 elbow out there. But is already proving to be a different level. Her ‘back up’ Emily Moore got a clean sheet on her debut, in Lewes’ first win of the season, against Charlton in the league cup.

We’ve stolen Nat Johnson from Coventry, one of our more experienced signings. And she’s been dragged from a left winger, to left wing back to left centre back to sweeper! I don’t know how she feels about it but she’s doing incredibly, I think she’s formed a nice partnership on and off the pitch with the recently returning Rhian Cleverly.

Lewes v Southampton: Barclays FA Women’s Championship
Nat Johnson (L) of Lewes
Photo by Steve Bardens - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

The other defenders we have on are amazing, McKenna being the best right back in the league in my opinion.

Midfield has been a little bit trickier to settle. Our usual playmaker, Izzy Dalton has been suffering with a knee injury for the past few weeks. But this has been filled in by the experienced Amber Keegan Stobbs, who started off as Sweeper and has even partnered Howells up front. Again, an experienced signing, from Palace I believe. I would suggest she’s been our best and most consistent player so far this year. Her first goal, carrying the ball from the half line, was fantastic.

The other players we have brought in are a lot less experienced in the league, Grace Palmer (u19 lioness) is growing into the team, quietly improving each game. I’m waiting for a magic moment from her, to spark a little confidence. Loves a tackle! Similar player, Libby Copus-Brown, from Oz, has taken a little bit more time to settle as well. A diminutive figure on the pitch, I feel needs longer to bed in after moving halfway round the world.

Emily Kraft up top, scored teo goals in two minutes against West Ham in a preseason friendly. She has been on our radar since; however she only has a couple goals to her name so far this year. I think she will carry on improving, she has some great attributes. Picked up from Frankfurt in the summer, she is fast, strong, technical and most importantly, she is clever! Very exciting player, I think if Lewes can manage the balance between defence and attack a bit better, and give her some more chances, she could challenge for top scorer (well behind Abby Harris probably...)

Emma Thompson, on loan from Chelsea, is another U19 England international, but is taking a little bit of time coming up to speed with the senior game I believe. She needs a goal.

RR: What is it like being part of a club that has 100% fan and community ownership? As well as of course, equal pay across the men’s and women’s teams?

JK: The club is incredibly refreshing. Like I said, I’ve only been actively following since September 2021. I think my trends switched during the pandemic and I began to focus on a lot more local things. I’m disappointed I didn’t get myself down to the games sooner really. I don’t know if I can pin it down, but following Lewes is so much more satisfying and rewarding than following a big premier league team.

I love Lewes as a town anyway, I grew up here, moved away as an adult but have found my way back again. I also love football. So, it’s perfect for me.

But for the past decade for me, top football has steadily become less relatable. Issues like the super league break out and Qatar World Cup really highlight these concerns, but the way wages have escalated, and managers contracts have shortened makes it really difficult to invest yourself into a team. Brighton, down the road, have bucked that trend a little bit for me, but I’ve always kept an eye on them, so am just enjoying it whilst it lasts. But the Chelsea’s of the world (my original team) continue to alienate my interests.

So, feeling part of something at Lewes, just feels like your interest is reciprocated. Being able to join in with Town Hall meetings, vote on who joins the board and be privy to club strategies, these are all amazing perks that come with the owner package! It may sound like a novelty, but (looking at your bio, I’m sure you’ll understand) it like real life football manager! Something most of us don’t get to have a go at in reality!

The equal pay is brilliant. Some people don’t get on board with the amount of off the pitch issues Lewes get involved in. But I honestly think it’s just incredible. I’ve never been so proud of supporting a football team. It also really pushed us into getting behind the Lionesses in the summer, which obviously was incredible too!

Having voices like Maggie Murphy and Kelly Lyndsey speak on behalf of little Lewes is awesome, I can’t imagine anyone listening to them and not wanting to support the cause! There’s also plenty of volunteers, such as Karen Dobres who also go out of their way highlighting the equality message.

And again, it’s just really refreshing that Lewes are at the forefront of these issues. It’s impossible not to be a smug and proud owner!

Lewes Women v Bristol City Women - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Steve Bardens - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

RR: Is anyone currently having a breakout season or someone you suspect will breakout, or will you likely be relying on key players?

JK: Whitehouse, McKenna and Kraft are destined for the top division. I’ve been really impressed with Ellie Hack, a giant of a centre back in the women's game. I think she already has three goals from corners this season. She was really good for us last year and is getting better.

I think a massive player for us is Amelia Hazard, really clever and technical. She’s struggled for fitness so far it seems but is just coming back into the team. Lewes’ fortunes could depend a lot on what sort of form she hits. Kraft will get a hat trick at some point this year.

But I am most impressed with the team ethic this year. A lot has been done within the recruitment process to make sure the person behind the footballer is also bringing something into the team, and it is showing, it’s already looking like a really close group.

Durham Women v Lewes Women - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Stu Forster - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

RR: Who would you say could be a thorn in the side for Sunderland? Who do we need to look out for?

JK: There are a few players within the team who can dictate a game. Amber-Keegan Stobbs is a big one for us at the moment. Ellie Mason is another great influencer out of defence. Izzy Dalton when she’s fit. And Amelia Hazard when she’s in form. Lewes try to play a big possession game, and Mason, Stobbs and Hazard are fantastic ball carriers in a system like this.

Lewes Women v Charlton Athletic Women - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Charlie Crowhurst - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

RR: It’s always tough to give score predictions, but how do you see this game panning out?

JK: I’d go for a 2-0 to Lewes. Although this fixture last season was particularly tough (Lewes did not travel very well at all) I think the form that Lewes find themselves in (two wins in two) puts them as favourites for this for me.

Lewes Women v Charlton Athletic Women - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Charlie Crowhurst - The FA/The FA via Getty Images


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