On Sunday, ahead of the FA Women’s Cup final, fourth-tier Hashtag United Women’s Sammy Rowland was awarded the Miter Golden Ball as the competition’s top scorer this season with 11 goals.
Hashtag United were knocked out in the Fourth Round by Second Division Coventry City but with hat-tricks against Bedford and the Actonians and a stunning five goals in a 10-1 win over Colney Heath, the AFC Acorns signing had already piled high last September. More goals than any other player in the competition.
Rowland finished two goals ahead of Ashford United’s Rebecca White and Cardiff City’s Corey Williams on nine. Khadija Shaw from Manchester City was the highest scorer in the First Division, who entered the competition in the fourth round stage, with seven, and the winner of the Cup Final, Sam Kerr, with five.
When asked to choose her favorite among the eleven goals she scored in the FA Cup, she chose the second of her three goals against the Actonians in December, a stunning volley into the top corner of the goal. Rowland told me, “To be fair, it was a great run by Malika (Abindia) down the left wing, she cut it up for me and I just hit it home.”
Rowland succeeds Chloe Williams of Liskeard Athletic who were the inaugural winners of the Ballon d’Or jointly with Miter awarded to the top scorers in the men’s and women’s FA Cup competitions. Accompanied by her Wembley teammates Grace Gaillard, Sasha Adamson and Hayley West, she received the trophy from former England international Verne Whelan.
A Manchester United fan, Rowland also had the honor of executing the match ball in front of a world record attendance of 77,390 before both groups of players. They may have lost that day to league champions Chelsea, but Rowland got to see her favorite player in her first grand final and, as she told me before the match, “I’m also excited to see Lauren James play.”
James, the former Manchester United striker, is one of the players who have broken into the England first team since they won the UEFA Women’s Championship last summer. If she started in the finals, she would probably be the only black player in Sarina Wegman’s first-choice team, more so than the all-white team that triumphed on home soil last year.
I asked Rowland if she felt represented by the England team. “It would be great to see more black players in the squad. Obviously I was still hype for the girls and what they did for England but it would be great to see more girls of colour.”
She feels that the lack of black players in the Lionesses squad does not represent what she is up against in the Women’s National League (WNL). “Oh yeah, 100%. I felt like the diversity is there, just within the women’s national team it’s not there now. I hope that changes going forward.”
When I asked her about her striking influences when she was younger, like many women currently playing the game, she had to look to the men’s game for role models. “Being a Manchester United fan, I think Ruud van Nistelrooy (joint top scorer in the FA Cup 2003/2004) was one of my idols at the time. Some of the goals he scored, he just showed great composure on the ball. Of the current team, she admires Marcus Rashford, “Obviously he’s at his level this year as well, and definitely looking at it at the moment.”
With 26 league goals, Rowland also finished top scorer for her club Hashtag United this season as they topped the WNL Regional League in Division One South East to gain promotion to the Southern League Premier next season, one step away from the professional second tier, the Football Association. Women’s championship.
Hashtag United was founded in 2016 by YouTube personality Spencer Owen, and they have used their channel and social media platforms to gain a large following which has enabled them to enter a men’s team up the Premier League pyramid. In 2020 they acquired Asian club Basildon to establish a presence in the women’s game.
Speaking to me about Owen, Rowland told me “He’s been so supportive of us, there’s probably only a few games he’s not been in so it’s really nice that he’s been involved with the women as much as he’s been with the men’s team. He’s just a great guy to be around to be honest .can’t blame him.”
For two years in a row, Hashtag United’s season has been cut back due to Covid lockdowns. Finally competing in one season, they finished second to Billericay Town last season, but this time they topped the league by winning sixteen of their eighteen matches.
Should they finish top of the Premier League next season, Hashtag United will be the beneficiaries of a rule change by The Football Association that will allow the winners of the Northern and Southern divisions to be automatically promoted to the FA Women’s National Championship, the second tier of the women’s game.
This season’s Premier League champions Nottingham Forest and Watford will be forced into a play-off on Saturday in neutral Milton Keynes for the only promotion place available this season, with the losing side remaining to start over in the same season. to divide.
Roland thought that the rule change was not ahead of time. “I think he should have been in place from the start to be honest, it seems a little crazy to win the league and then have to play another final to try to get promoted. I think it’s about time really.”
Going into the Premier League next season, Hashtag United will aim to go straight and claim the automatic promotion place. Rowland told me, “Well, I know our manager (Jason Stephens) wants to win it! We’d be silly if we didn’t get in and hope. It’s going to take a lot to do but I certainly think we have the potential to get in and win.”