LANGUISHING at the bottom of the table with no silverware in sight, it seemed the young footballers needed a miracle.
As it turned out, all they required was a touch of girl power to add a little spice to the shot-shy team.
Fernieside Colts under-14s’ fortunes have been transformed thanks to four new female players who have, within the space of a year, catapulted them to the top of the table and a place in a cup final.
The youth team, which finished second from bottom in the Lothian Buses-sponsored league in 2011, is the only side across the four divisions to have any girl players.
In total, six girls – Caitlin Russell, Jamie-Lee Smith, Lauren Watters, Kelsey Boyle, Chelsea Cornet and Kirsty Jefferies – now line up in Fernieside colours while also playing for Hibs’ under-15 girls team.
Tracey Jefferies, whose daughter, Kirsty, has been in the squad since last season, said: “Other boys joined this season as well as the four girls and they have all just gelled together. It’s not all down to the girls, but they have played their part. It’s been a fantastic performance.
“There has been a mixed reaction to the girls from other teams, but Fernieside have welcomed them with open arms. The boys have been absolutely brilliant and don’t look at the girls as anything other than football players. They are on the park on merit so there’s a mutual respect.
“They have only lost three and drawn one game in the league this season, and drawn one game and won all the others in the league cup.
“It’s fantastic for the club to achieve this, particularly for a team that were going along every week and didn’t win very often. They have really had a taste for winning this year and they have really enjoyed it.”
Fernieside Colts won the league by six points, leaving the players “ecstatic” ahead of their meeting with Spartans in the cup final at Ainslie Park tomorrow night.
Team secretary and parent Annette Russell, whose daughter, Caitlin, was the top scorer this season with 23 goals, said: “Because we did so badly last year, we couldn’t get a team together this season. To keep the team afloat, we pulled girls in and it has turned the team around. We are playing some really good football.”
Last May, the News told how half of the players in the Hibs girls under-13 squad had been told they could not compete in the finals of the Tesco Cup national football tournament despite playing in the matches which got the team there. The girls qualified for the finals in Birmingham, after playing teams from across Scotland.
But because the competition was being held in England, it was governed by Football Association regulations, which insisted that all players must have been 12 years old in August 2010 to compete in the under-13s group.
Five members of the Hibs squad were only 11 in August 2010, including Kirsty, Caitlin, Jamie-Lee and Lauren.
WOMEN’S football is reportedly the fastest-growing sport in the world.
Scotland’s women’s national football team is ranked 21st in the world and 13th in Europe.
According to Fifa, there was a 136 per cent increase in the number of registered female football players between 2000 and 2006.
One in five of all new registered football players is female, while more than 27,000 girls are playing football in Scottish schools.
Maureen McGonigle, the executive administrator of Scottish women’s football, said: “All figures point to a continued growth in the number of girls and women taking up football.
“This, coupled with the increase in the standard of play, ensures a positive future for Scottish women’s football.”