For AFC Bournemouth Women, this season has been one like no other, with the Covid-19 pandemic causing their campaign to be somewhat disrupted.
With just one league game played at the turn of the year, Steve Cuss’ side are on stop once again following the latest national lockdown.
But 17-year-old defender, Abby Jones, is still seeing positives and benefiting hugely from the experience of teammates within the dressing room.
Speaking with afcb.co.uk, she began by discussing the opening six months of the campaign and how she stays motivated.
“It’s been very frustrating,” began Jones.
“We went into a period where we didn’t play football for a while, then we came back and had to play a game the following week.
“It was very hard because we knew we had to keep our fitness up while we didn’t have a game and now it’s been halted again.
“A lot of people have been keeping up fitness, which is very impressive. We’ve had a lot of help and guidance from the older players, plus our coaches.”
Jones went on to discuss the importance of experienced heads in the dressing room, citing the club’s three summer signings as crucial to her development.
Gemma Hillier, Molly Clark and Becky Barron all joined the Cherries ahead of the 2020/21 campaign and have over 30 years of knowledge in the women’s game.
“They’ve given us lots of advice and we have our group chat that we all chat on.
“They’re always sending us workouts to do, especially Gemma [Hillier]. She is always on our case, making sure that we’re exercising.
“When we were playing as well, they were giving us lots of advice during and after games.”
One fixture which sprung to mind for the right-back was a qualifying game in this season’s FA Cup.
A penalty shootout was required to overcome local rivals Moneyfields and, while Jones’ penalty miss ultimately didn’t matter, it was a big learning curve for the youngster.
“I missed the penalty in the Moneyfields game,” Jones explained.
“It wasn’t great, but I had a lot of support from all of the players and the coaches and they said it didn’t matter.
“Then when we had the opportunity to score a penalty in the Southampton game, Molly [Clark] was the one who told me to take it.
“I scored it and everyone was happy for me, it was a good feeling.
“I didn’t really know what to think, I was just happy that I scored the penalty and it helped us win the game which was positive.”
The run in this season’s FA Cup has equally the best in the club’s history, with Steve Cuss’ side winning five games to reach the first round proper for just the second time in history.
Jones admitted that it gave the squad a huge boost: “I think we started off the season very well with our great FA Cup run where we were winning all our games.
“We lost against Southampton but, other than that, we’ve done really well.
“We’ve been working really hard, especially because the season has been on and off through the lockdowns and with the pandemic, so people have done well to keep their fitness up.”
With the season now on pause again following the Government’s announcement of a third lockdown, life is also different for Jones off the pitch.
A student at Brockenhurst College on the Community Sports Trust’s Female Football Education Programme, she is forced to learn from home for at least the next six weeks.
“I’m doing all my college online learning from home,” she said.
“It’s also finding the motivation to keep fit outside football as we aren’t allowed to train or play, which is difficult.
“My mum and dad are always on my case, making sure I’m exercising.
“It is quite strange going from seeing my friends and teammates every day to not seeing them at all, but we’re always checking in on each other and asking how each other are.”
AFC Bournemouth Women are proudly supported by two local companies.
Thank you to Bournemouth University for being the front of shirt sponsor and thank you to Vitality for supporting our Women's and Girls setup.