Looking back on 2023 it’s safe to say that it was a year that surpassed all expectations for Wrexham AFC Women, as the Club’s trajectory sky-rocketed over the last 12 months.
Reflecting on the monumental progress that has been made over the course of the year, Head of Women’s Football Operations Gemma Owen admitted: “I’m sure there is going to be plenty more things that are going to come for the women’s set-up, and potentially even bigger than what has happened this year.
“However, this will be forever the year that will always remain in memory, because of the progress that has been made, but also as it was the year that it all came together.
“A lot of hard work had gone prior to this calendar year and there was so much build up to this year. You do look back and think wow, that did actually happen? We had some very special moments that I think will live forever in the memory of everyone.”
After heartbreak on the last day of the 2021/22 season, Owen explained the importance of using 2023 as an opportunity to bounce back from disappointment.
She said: “Last season was very important as we just missed out on the title the year before. We were very close and put as much into the process as we could at that time.
“We felt that if it didn’t happen in 2022, it would certainly happen the year after and we tried to put ourselves in the best position to do that and we certainly did that."
Since promotion, the Red Dragons now occupy third place in the Genero Adran Premier, with Steve Dale’s side holding a game in hand over second-placed Swansea City.
Owen explained: “The top four was always the ambition this season – first place is the ultimate ambition, but initially to reach top four and push on from there was always something that we had in mind going into this season.
“We did put pressure on ourselves, moving to a semi-professional model and with the incoming coverage from Welcome To Wrexham. As great as those things are, they do bring added pressure, as you’ve then got to go out and deliver that on the pitch.
“I feel that so far, we’ve done that, and we couldn’t have had a much better start than what we have had. We’ve narrowly lost out to Cardiff and Swansea but those are incredible teams, and they are always going to be the teams that we are going to have to beat.
“We are so close to these teams, and I think there are just the finest of margins between us again at this moment.”
Owen looked ahead to what is set to be yet another exciting year for the Wrexham AFC Women, both on and off the pitch.
She said: “I think that 2024 is going to be an incredible year, not only because we are going into the second half of the season, as it is going to be exciting to see how that unfolds.
“It’s going to be great if we can continue the amazing progress that we’re making, and I don’t see why we can’t and why we won’t.
"It’s exciting to see where we can end up – we will have a completely different pre-season compared to in previous years due to the new staff that we’ve been able to bring in. It’s going to be interesting to see how that improved preparation can help us.
"I feel that there is still plenty of opportunity for us to improve, I don’t think there will ever be a time when we decide that there’s nothing else everything that we can do.
"There will always be something else that we can do and once we’ve achieved one thing, we will always look ahead to what comes next. I think that there are still some very exciting things to come for us."
While 2023 was a year full of highs for Wrexham, with the move to a semi-professional side shaping the way for Cardiff City and Swansea City to also adopt the same principles.
Arguably, the most groundbreaking moment came in March, when Wrexham AFC Women packed-out the STōK Cae Ras to smash the Welsh women’s domestic record attendance with an incredible crowd of 9,511.
Owen admitted that the day was probably the best moment of the year, and that it would take a lot to experience something better - no matter what the future holds.
“That was a big day,” she explained. “There were a lot of people who worked very hard to build up to that day, and the Club was very supportive of us. It couldn’t have fallen any better for us to play Connah’s Quay on that occasion. It was important for us to play them and showcase just how good the league was.
“Firstly, to be able to see that many people coming to support the women’s team, but to also see a stadium that I regularly see full for a men’s game near enough to capacity for a women’s game, it was really special.
“I went out onto the pitch before the players came out, to be able to watch them and see the reactions on their faces as they walked out. To be able to see what it meant to them as players and the rest of the staff – it will take a lot to top that.
“Yes, we got promoted, but to be in front of all those people supporting our women, there isn’t much that could be better than that. It was an incredible day and we’ll always be eternally grateful for the support.”