Sikh-Punjabi midfielder Roop Kaur Bath capped an unforgettable few weeks with a debut for West Ham Women in her first taste of senior football.
Kaur Bath, who has only just joined West Ham’s WSL full-time academy, was given 25 minutes off the bench by manager and former England international Paul Konchesky as a young side lost 3-1 to Hashtag United at Parkside in a pre-season fixture.
The midfielder, who is supported by the Sporting Equals and Sky Sports partnership, showed some neat touches and put in a composed performance in front of 350 fans as she made her first appearance for the Hammers, aged just 16 years and 11 days.
Senior players Grace Garrad, Jess Ziu, Keira Flannery, Alex Hennessy and Sophie Hillyerd were all involved, with the rest of the first-team squad – including recent summer signings Viviane Asseyi and Thea Kyvag – watching on and supporting their younger team-mates.
Singh: This is epic
Apna England official supporters’ group spokesperson Micky Singh told Sky Sports News: “This is epic news and will give so much hope to so many girls from all backgrounds that there is a pathway for them in the women’s game.
“Everyone at Apna England is delighted for Roop and really proud of her and her family who have never given up and fought tirelessly to provide the best opportunity for her talent to shine.”
West Ham Women academy manager Dan Mlinar said the match was a good learning curve for the players who will form part of his squad for the coming season.
“It’s actually the first minutes that our academy players have had since returning for pre-season, so it was nice for them to be back out on the grass,” he told West Ham’s official website.
“We had players making their West Ham debut, we had players playing in their first-ever match against older players – and for some it was their first-ever match in front of a crowd!”
‘A priceless experience’
Mlinar added: “It was a priceless experience for them all, and I’m sure they will take many things from the game. They’ve played alongside a number of first-team players, so they’ve seen the level that they need to get to if they want to be a fixture of the first-team squad.
“It’s a good time for these youngsters to be at the football club, because there is a clear ethos here of being able to promote from within if we have the right calibre of player that’s ready for first-team action.
“Our WSL academy team will have quite a young squad this season, but I saw enough to show that this group has something. We’ve only really had about five or six sessions since we returned for pre-season, so I’m looking forward to a couple more matches and seeing the girls grow.”
Kaur Bath was the mystery schoolgirl who left Sky Sports News viewers stunned back in March last year when she did almost 1,100 kick-ups for International Women’s Day, aged just 14.
After two spells with QPR, the Sikh-Punjabi central midfielder joined London Bees for the 2021/22 season, exclusively telling Sky Sports News at the time that she was keen to step out of her comfort zone and test herself in a new environment.
A Middlesex Centre of Excellence graduate, Kaur Bath was part of the Ruislip Rangers side that won the Capital Girls County Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
Kaur Bath also represented Middlesex at county level last term, featuring in a 4-3 win against MK Dons.
Speaking at the end of last season, Kaur’s coach at former club London Bees John Ryan pointed to the midfielder’s technical and tactical ability as a good indicator of her potential in the game.
At West Ham, Kaur Bath will work under renowned talent developer Stephen Opoka, and ex-Millwall Lionesses boss and lifelong Hammers fan Mlinar, who was brought in as academy manager by West Ham Women general manager Aidan Boxall.
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