Amber Wildgust - Aston Villa LFC
My name is Amber Wildgust. I started playing football when I was 9 for Nottingham Forest and I stayed there throughout my whole childhood. I even started coaching the U10s and U16s at Forest whilst I was still playing there before moving to university. At university I joined the women’s football team straight away, started coaching at Leicester and then volunteering for The FA. My volunteering took me across the world and up and down the country. I met so many likeminded people and I fell in love with football development, event management and most of all coaching. After university I managed to secure a full-time job as a Football Development Officer for Northants FA alongside my various coaching and volunteering roles, and the rest is pretty much history. I am now 26 and two years into being a General Manger of a professional Women’s Football Club.
Who is in the photos? Where were the photos taken?
Most of the photos are of the fans. It’s all about the fans. Inspiring them to be what they want and giving them aspirations for the future. The rest of the photos are the staff, the ones that work tirelessly behind the scenes to give our players the best possible chance to reach their potential and inspire others around them. Without the staff creating the right environment and setting the standards we wouldn’t be able to develop people as well as players.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
Women’s football is on the up, and we are serious about it. The appetite is there, the fans love it, they want to be excited by women’s football and they want to meet their idols. No matter your age gender or background, people are turning up in the hundreds and thousands to support the game.
Are there any good stories connected with the people you photographed?
Gemma Davies – at the age of 25 she took on a massive task to manage a football club that had been under achieving for a number of years. Players and staff were at their lowest point and after losing our first game 12-0 she changed the environment and created a team people wanted to support.
West Ham Fixture (FA Cup Quarter Finals) – We defeated the odds and reached the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. After losing 6 games on the bounce at the start of the season we came back after Christmas and remained unbeaten, this was the point people started believing in us.
What are the opportunities for female footballers in the UK?
The opportunities are endless. Young girls can now dream of becoming a full time professional player, coach, referee, or general manager. The opportunities are there and the support to find them is there too. Women’s football is growing at a rapid rate and it is only going to get bigger.
What role does football play in British society?
Football is massive in Britain. Everyone supports a team and there are always local rivalries. It has the ability to bring a nation together, like it did for the World Cup last year.
What does football mean to you?
It’s not football; it’s the experiences and the people you meet in football. It is the friends and memories that last a lifetime.
What is the future for UK women's football?
The future of women’s football in the UK is very bright. I have no doubt we will be the best league in the world and provide the best grassroots opportunities for all.
What are the biggest changes happening at the moment in women's football?
Commercial opportunities, big brands are starting to recognise women’s football and everyone else is following suit.
What do you expect to change after the 2019 WWC?
I think the WWC will be a massive spectacle, which will capture a new audience that starts taking women’s football seriously.