Shan Jones makes it with the Virginia Beach Pirhanas

Martin Eaglestone’s summer takes an unexpected turn as he follows a Welsh soccer star in the States

In my younger days the summer was always a quiet time for football fans. Of course, we could look forward to the big Championships (Euros or World Cup finals) but otherwise it was quiet. Then along came under 21 tournaments, followed by the now incredibly early starts to European competitions – see the experience of Bala and Prestatyn having to kick off even before the first test match of cricket had seen a ball bowled in anger!

Well summer 2013 has held even more fascination as it has included regular trips to the computer to keep up with the progress of Wales’ own Shan Jones (pictured above, in black) currently shining in the Women’s Soccer League with the Virginia Beach Piranhas. The soccer league is covered here and is carrying a special Welsh interest this season.

Last week Shan, from Y Felinheli in Gwynedd, was named as the regular season honoree and will now lead the attack as the Piranhas enter the North Eastern Conference showdown with the Washington Spirit Reserves. Being soccer USA style it is full of statistics. That’s why Jones is honoured for her 11 goals and 24 points in 11 games. Now the 24 points may sound more like rugby, but the 11 goals in 11 games makes sense to me! For certain that is a good strike rate for any forward.

Shan has previously spent time at Middle Tennessee State University and it is great to see her success on return to the Women’s Soccer League. She is also a Welsh international. Dave Jones in the Daily Post profiled Shan here before her most recent spell in the USA:

 “Jones began playing football at a very young age with the Bethel boys team before committing to Caernarfon Town ladies in her early teens. 
After leaving Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen, she was accepted at Middle Tennessee University to study psychology, but her footballing abilities were also to shine through over four impressive years.
 In her first year, she was named the Sun Belt Soccer Conference’s Freshman of the Year 2008. Her goal scoring exploits earned her selection for the All Sun Belt first team and Soccer Buzz Central Region representative side.
 As a Sophomore in 2009, she was chosen for the All Sun Belt squad again and was top scorer with 11 goals for her university team, also known as the Blue Raiders.
 Her Junior and Senior years were also highly successful and she ended her Raiders career fourth on the all-time list with 32 goals.”

It is also interesting to keep up with the ways in which the Women’s Soccer League teams market themselves in the US via facebook and internet. I am sure teams in the League of Wales could learn from this. The encouragement of family days, BBQs, team posters and other activities shines out in the work of the Piranhas.

Summer 2013 has taken an unexpected turn – following the soccer career of a young woman from Wales – Shan Jones – and her starring efforts at the Virginia Beach Piranhas. Let’s hope that the next move is a step up to the professional contract she desired. It is looking good on this form.

Martin Eaglestone is a Labour political activist in Gwynedd.

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