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Women

Meg hopes Cherries can start to pull rank

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

In her role in the British Army, fulfilling challenging assignments has helped Meg Vella climb the ladder.

Now, the ambitious AFC Bournemouth women’s Player of the Year is keen to take on what could prove to be her toughest mission yet.

Vella wants the Cherries to emulate the exploits of Eddie Howe’s first team by rising through the leagues to the top division.

The Cherries will start the new season in the Premier Division of the Southern Region League, four steps below the Super League, the highest level of women’s football in England.

Vella, a communications system engineer, based at Blandford Camp, admitted she had been “overwhelmed” to share a stage with the likes of Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson at the club’s awards ceremony at the BIC last month.

She told afcb.co.uk: “It was fantastic, it really was. It was the second time we had been invited and all the girls get so excited about going. It is good of the club to include us.

“I didn’t know I had won. I hate speaking in front of people and think I just kept repeating the same sentence over and over again when I was being interviewed!

“It was fantastic for young girls, whether they follow AFC Bournemouth or saw it on social media, to see a woman receive an award at such a prestigious and high-profile event.

“For me, the season was about trying to be a role model to the younger players and trying to get more girls involved in the game.

“Just being in the same room as people like Eddie Howe, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson was a great experience.

“I know about the history of AFC Bournemouth men’s team and the journey they have been on. Where they were 10 years ago to where they are now is remarkable.

“Hopefully, we can reach those heights as well and go from the fifth tier to the top. We have a really good group of girls and things are definitely heading in the right direction.

“The AFC Bournemouth story is fantastic and something people can look up to, aspire to and be inspired by as well.”

Nottingham-born Vella joined the Cherries following her posting to Dorset, having played previously for Notts County, Nottingham Forest, Swindon Town and Southampton.

She has also represented the Army and the Combined Services but opted to focus solely on playing for the Cherries following the birth of her first daughter Sophia 18 months ago.

“I joined the Army straight from school when I was 16,” said Vella. “It has been quite a steady career. I was based in Germany for a while and moved back to the UK five years ago.

“I’m a level-three support and help people on major exercises or operations if they have problems with kit or equipment. It’s a bit like when you’re at home and you have trouble with your internet, you contact someone to fix it for you.

“Since having my daughter, I have just played for AFC Bournemouth because rep football can mean a lot of time away from home.

“I have one child of my own and my wife (Joni) has four children. We both work full-time so it can be quite tricky but we manage.”

Vella finished 2018/19 as the Cherries’ second highest goalscorer, helping them to second place in the league and victory in the final of the Chairman’s Cup.

“Personally, it was a great season,” she said. “To finish as the second highest goalscorer and win the player of the year after having three months out was a great personal achievement.

“As a team, we were disappointed not to get the promotion we had set out to get at the start of the season but, with the squad we have, I think we have a great chance to get promoted this season.

“I will be looking to get my coaching badges next season as well and start getting involved working with the younger girls.

“The sport is heading in the right direction and this year’s Women’s World Cup is probably going to be the biggest it has ever been.

"A record number of people watched the England/Scotland game at the weekend so it is good to see that progress is being made and women’s football is going from strength to strength.”

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