YOUNG girls in the Wee County are making friends for life through their love of football.

Sauchie Juniors Girls U14s group topped their league after winning all 14 games against teams from surrounding areas, including Dunblane and Dunipace.

Remarkably, last April when the girls came back to football after a Covid-enforced break, there were only seven players in the U13 team.

Now, there are more than 70 girls associated with the club, spread through the U10 to U16 age groups and in the mixed teams.

Steve Stenhouse, coach of the U14s team, is thrilled with the progress the club is making.

He told the Advertiser: "My daughter's been playing for three or four years.

"As is always the case with the dads you get roped into helping out."

When the previous coach left, Steve decided to take on the role "for two or three weeks".

However, he said: "For whatever reason more and more girls started to come.

"I'm not really sure why, it was just a quirk of timing.

"We ended up getting a squad of 10 or 11 and we did well. In the new year we moved up to 11-a-side and we've gone from strength-to-strength."

The team have grown alongside the interest in women's football and numbers at the club have skyrocketed.

Steve said: "When I took over, there was probably seven girls in our team and maybe three across the other age groups.

"Now there's 70 girls signed with the clubs – and that's just in the space of 15 months.

"It's great because it's been a boys-only thing for so long; it's great to see the girls getting a fair crack at it.

"The girls still have to put up with [negative comments] at school like people saying 'girls can't play football' but I think that's slowly changing."

More importantly for Steve is the budding friendships that the players are making off the pitch.

He continued: "It's been really brilliant watching them grow as a team and the friendships they've made.

"That's the bigger part for me; they're a proper team.

"It's been really good watching the older ones look out for the younger ones.

"Again, as a parent it's really nice to see. Some of the girls who didn't even know each other before are now having sleepovers together.

"They're right good pals now."

Steve also touched on the fact that because there's such a wide age gap in the team, some girls are already in first or second year at high school so the younger ones transitioning from primary school to high school have a familiar face there.

He added: "It gives them a bit more confidence because they know there's girls that will look out for them.

"It's much more than football, football's the side part of it."