This year's FA Women's Football Awards was one of energy, positivity and excitement. Excitement, of course, to see who was going to take home the trophies for this past year's achievements but also, I believe, for something greater.
It's fair to say this year has been an astounding year for women's football, culminating with the Lionesses reaching the semi-final of the 2017 Euros. And on Friday night the Football Association recognised one of those players in particular for delivering an impressive campaign throughout the European Championships. Jodie Taylor took home the prize for England Player of the Year, after scoring five goals in the tournament, as well as picking up the Golden Boot award.
England women have done so much more for their sport than just performing at a world-class level in competitions - they're igniting and driving an audience of football fans across the country to watch the women's game. This year saw a record attendance at the SSE Women's FA Cup final, with over 35,000 people watching Manchester City take home the trophy at Wembley Stadium. This was up from last year's attendance of almost 33,000, with children being able to attend for free due to the FA's partnership with SSE.
But that wouldn't have been possible without so many other groups of people, both past and present, who have been leading the charge. The Special Award for their Contribution to Women's Football was presented to the Dick, Kerr Ladies Club, paying homage to the centenary of their formation and for their continued involvement and support of the women's game.
The evening also celebrated other initiatives running up and down the country which are trying to make a difference in their area. One key standout is the SSE Wildcats, which launched this year, designed to inspire girls and provide them with an opportunity to play in a safe, fun and friendly environment. Each club is run in conjunction with local county FAs and aims to get girls more active and to potentially help spark the passion for a future Lioness.
With the current Lionesses helping to present some of the awards, seeing how much it meant to the winners was incredibly heartwarming. But it felt more than that. It felt amazing to watch everybody receive the recognition they deserve for playing their part in excelling the women's game, from the England players to the coaches and staff at grassroots facilities around the country. In a world where women's sport is not faced with equality *note - personal bug-bear of having to write WOMEN's football instead of football, whilst never having to write MEN's football*, witnessing the awards take place was nothing short of inspiring.
And it's clear that there is more determination than ever before to continue to propel the women's game. This was solidified with the evening finishing with the FA Chief Executive Officer, Martin Glenn, setting out his hopes that by next year, England will have won the bid to host the 2021 UEFA European Women's Championship. The room felt in unison at their pursuit in the vision of continuously increasing the profile and uptake of the women's game, and I cannot wait to follow that journey.