From Amateur Side to Alex Morgan: The Remarkable Rise of Tottenham Women

Juan Amoros, Karen Hills
Karen Hills and Juan Amoros have done a remarkable job at Tottenham | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

When Karen Hills took the Spurs Ladies hot seat in 2007, the side were competing in the London and South East Regional Premier Division - the fifth tier of English football.

They were an amateur Sunday League side, playing against the likes of Ebbsfleet United, Woking and Crowborough Athletic.

On Saturday evening, Hills and fellow head coach Juan Amoros will lead their side out in the FA Cup quarter finals against Arsenal, faced with the dilemma of whether their double World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist Alex Morgan is fit enough to be introduced from the start.

This selection headache is a far cry from the days of driving the team minibus, players washing their own kit and getting comfortably beaten by Luton.

But it demonstrates just what a remarkable job the unique coaching double act of Hills and Amoros have done at Tottenham, thriftily building a squad that has enabled their side to steadily climb up the football pyramid to eventually mix it with English football's elite.

It is a rise that has often been described as 'meteoric' - can a meteor also be calculated, steady and shrewd?

Karen Hills
Hills has worked wonders at Spurs | Julian Finney/Getty Images

Hills guided Spurs to promotion from the fifth tier during her debut season in charge. The team had collected just 14 points from 20 games the previous campaign and had finished 41 points off first place Lewes. Fast forward 12 months and they were sitting top of the pile.

Tottenham were promoted once more from the South-Combination League during the 2010/11 season, and Amoros joined the club that year. He and Hills have been an inseparable head coach duo ever since.

The men's National League is traditionally cited as the most difficult division to get out of, with just a single automatic promotion spot and an additional playoff place.

In the Women's Premier League, winning the league is still not enough to guarantee promotion.

Spurs won the Women's Premier League Southern Division (the third tier) during the 2016/17 campaign to set up a playoff match against Blackburn, champions of the Northern Division, with a place in WSL 2 (now the Women's Championship) at stake.

They won 3-0, and two years later they were celebrating once more after coming second in the Championship, gaining promotion to the hallowed WSL in the process.

Hills and Amoros had masterminded two promotions in the space of three seasons to take Spurs into the fully professional women's top flight for the first time in their history. Long-serving captain Jenna Schillaci, who had been with the club since 2009, was able to sign her first professional contract at the age of 35.

But while other women's sides have occasionally been given free passes - Manchester City, Manchester United, West Ham and Brighton have all gained entry into one of the top two tiers without actually winning promotion, rather through a successful licence application - Tottenham have grafted their way to the top themselves, earning each of their four promotions over the last 13 years.

And now they will play Arsenal in the last eight of English football's most prestigious cup competition. Arsenal; the most decorated and illustrious team in the history of the women's game. But for the first time it will be rivals Spurs with the most high profile name on the team sheet after they pulled off the quite frankly outrageous signing of USWNT icon Alex Morgan.

Josie Green, Vivianne Miedema
Tottenham and Arsenal broke the WSL attendance record the last time they met | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Spurs played Arsenal in the FA Cup back in 2017 when they were still a third tier side, and were comprehensively beaten 10-0.

The pair met again in preseason ahead of Spurs' debut WSL campaign and Arsenal were once again comfortable winners, hitting six without reply.

But in the first ever league meeting between the two, Spurs squandered an excellent chance with the game still goalless, before ultimately succumbing to a narrow 2-0 defeat.

The gap is closing with every season, and although it would be considered a huge upset if Spurs can topple the might of Arsenal - currently the WSL's form side - on Saturday, the fact that the pair are now meeting in the cup as equals, the fact that talk of an upset is even on the cards and the fact that Spurs could have the Alex Morgan to call upon demonstrates the astonishing job that Hills and Amoros are continuing to do in north London.