The University of South Wales team looking to turn the Oxford Blues blue

USW Women 1st Image by Tom Young

by Callum Ellis

A UNIVERSITY of South Wales coaching duo take their team to one of the world’s most famous academic institutions on Wednesday.

Kaseem Taylor and Rhys James’ Women’s 1st team play Oxford University Women’s 1st, the Blues, in a BUCS Trophy clash.

The duo are looking to make the Blues blue by halting their progress through to the next round – a task they believe their team is up to.

Manager Taylor and his assistant James are both masters students who describe themselves as coming from ‘humble’ backgrounds.

“The thought of me and Rhys taking a squad from USW to the most famous university in the world is just a brilliant spectacle for us to have – and what an experience it’s going to be,” said Taylor, who is from Winsford in Cheshire.

“I was looking at the fixtures and saw ‘Oxford University’. The first thing I did was google whether it was Oxford University or Oxford Brookes.

“It was Oxford University and I just thought about my childhood; growing up in such a poor area and having a very humbled background.

“It’s probably one of the highlights of the season essentially, just being able to be at such an historic place.”

Their team has enjoyed an excellent start to the campaign, currently sitting second in the Western 1A division.

But their league form will be put aside as they look to advance to the last 16 of the cup with a victory over their English counterparts.

“I don’t think me and Kas could have asked for a better draw,” said Swansea-born James, a UEFA B Licence holder and 1st team assistant coach at Welsh Premier Women’s League side Cyncoed Ladies.

“It’s one of the biggest universities around so it’s going to be an unbelievable experience for us as coaches – and for the girls as well.

“We’re in good form so I think we can go there and get a positive result.”

Taylor coached grassroots football and spent a decade working at a leisure centre before doing a degree.

“I got bored with my day job and I just wanted to make the big jump to university and move as far away from home as possible.

“I ended up at the University of South Wales and studied Football Coaching and Performance for three years and now I’m on my masters, which is the only masters in football coaching in Europe. It’s a good progression level for me.”

For James, football was also a big part of his life from a young age, which is why he opted for a career in coaching.

“Football is my passion, but I realised quite early that I would never make it as a footballer and I was always interested in the tactical side of things.

“I did a foundation degree and then moved on to the BSc [Bachelor of Science] for the next two years – now I’m on my masters doing sports coaching.”

For both men, the focus on Wednesday though has nothing to do with history or prestige. It is on one thing – a win.

“Oxford University is very big compared to USW – but in terms of football, we go in as favourites,” said Taylor.

“We’re second off top spot in our league with a game in hand and they’ve not got the best run of form of late.

“It’s a nice spectacle and a good fixture for us to experience, however, I fully expect to win it.

“It’s not just a case of being in awe of the whole experience. We will go there and get a positive result if we can carry on playing the way we are.”