David Preece: Change in mentality over women’s football needs to continue after England World Cup heroics

England players celebrate a 2-1 win over Canada during a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

England players celebrate a 2-1 win over Canada during a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

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The more I write, the easier it is to become bogged down in negativity when writing about football.

I’m trying to veer away from moaning for a while but I’m finding it more difficult than I thought.

Tell me women’s football isn’t entertaining and I’ll point you to West Ham v Hull last season

David Preece

I look around for stories to provide me with a ray of sunshine, in the hope something or someone will prove me wrong, that the game isn’t likely to disappear down a sinkhole of immorality and the misplaced belief in its own self-importance. God knows it feels like it at times.

Then, just when you think all you’ve got to go on are transfer rumours fueled by a player who starts following a club on Instagram, or the fabricated muck spread like manure on a farmer’s field by agents, along come the women footballers of the world to drag us back into the realms of real football again.

“Real football?” you say. “Isn’t real football about kicking opponents even further than the hundred channel balls wanged in behind defenders for your striker to chase down?”. No. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’ve spoken about how football’s compass has drifted away from its true north and how there’s a need for it to be recalibrated, but after watching much of the Women’s World Cup taking place in Canada right now, I’m grateful to Mark Sampson and his England team for providing me with a little of the Vitamin D I’d been lacking.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some patronizing “Look at the wimmin! They aren’t as bad as we all fink.” you might be expecting.

I can remember watching Gillian Coultard playing on Channel 4 when there was probably more people in my living room than there was in the stands.

What gets me is how women’s and men’s football have been perceived in the past as a two separate entities, that they should be judged on their own merits but I couldn’t disagree more.

They aren’t two disparate sports as some detractors try to make out.

It makes me laugh when I see the intentionally abrasive, disparaging male opinions on women’s football because, for the life of me, I can only think their only purpose is to wind people up and promote their misogyny with a warped sense of pride.

To say you can’t compare the two on the basis of the levels of physicality or skill is nonsense.

Tell me women’s football isn’t entertaining and I’ll point you to West Ham versus Hull City at The Boleyn last season and we could both realistically come to the conclusion the women’s game is actually better.

It’s been a joy to watch the game played in the spirit and with attitude we’ve been crying out for the men’s game to revert back to for years.

This was no more better illustrated than during the opening minutes of England’s quarter-final against the hosts.

Canadian captain Christine Sinclair picked up the ball out on the right wing, skipping past Laura Bassett, evading the desperate lunge from Fara Williams before clipping a delightful diagonal ball into the path of Melissa Tancredi, who shot over from just inside the box.

It was a wonderful counter attack and seemed to sum up much of the play I’d seen up to then.

The skill shown in slipping past the two English defenders was admirable, but it was the honesty from both sides in the incident that struck a chord with me. In the first instance, Bassett could easily have impeded Sinclair illegally as she arrived a split second too late to the ball, but she didn’t.

In the second instance, despite Williams’s wholehearted yet reckless attempt to stop her opponent, Sinclair rode a challenge that many of her male counterparts wouldn’t have, resulting in a yellow card or perhaps a red for their assailant’s rashness.

It’s almost as if they take pride in honestly staying on their feet without any histrionics and allowing the game to flow. An outrageous notion, I know.

We talk of great adverts for the game and whatever the outcome of the Japan game, the England women have been just that, yet this is where my only worry lies.

Remember the Olympics of 2012 and how we all celebrated the British athletes and wished footballers could be like them?

Well, the athletics stadiums around the four nations are hardly bulging and in a study published by The Guardian last year it showed there had been no noticeable increase in participation and attendance of women’s sports. Some legacy that.

It looks like we were inspired, but just not enough to get off the sofa to make a tangible difference and I’d hate this to be another missed opportunity. Women make up approximately 30 per cent of attendances in the men’s game whilst the the FA WSL’s average attendance this season was just 728.

I know it’s a fledging league in its current guise but it needs everyone’s support to grow. If you want real football, played the right way, go to an FAWSL match.

Don’t just happy to applaud in front of the TV, they can’t hear your appreciation from there. After all, it’s not “women’s football” we’re watching, it just football and should be thought of on exactly the same terms as the men’s game.

Whatever last night’s result against Japan, even if you’re not moved enough to go and watch the women’s game, a change in mentality is needed to bridge any gaps and a great start would be by recognizing the fifth England player to reach 100 caps wasn’t David Beckham, it was actually Gillian Coultard.