PLAYERS these days are not renowned for staying at one club for a long period of time, but Bradford City Women veteran Charlotte Stuart is celebrating an incredible 20th year with the Bantams.

The 30-year-old schoolteacher joined the set-up at the age of nine and has spent all but one season since at City.

The player-coach is delighted to see the women’s team continuing to grow, finally reflecting all that promise she saw as a child years ago.

She said: “I joined aged nine, and when I was that young, we had those girls’ teams, but went through a phase of not having them.

“But now it’s come full circle and we’re back with the juniors, as well as building relationships with the men’s side and the club’s Community Foundation, which is great.

“I’ve been there since I was young, other than a year out at Blackburn, which made me realise I couldn’t stay away from City.”

Stuart actually decided to retire from playing three years ago, when she was City’s player-manager, but that did not last long.

She said: “I came to the decision that I was just going to coach, but if you’re not injured or there’s no reason why you can’t physically do it, it’s hard to just stop.

“I’ve done the coaching for 10 years and I just felt it would be natural to stop playing, but I only stopped for two months.

“I came back because there will become a point when I can’t play any more, and that wasn’t it.”

Despite having held that top job at one point, she is happy to leave the manager’s role to Chris Hames now.

Discussing the impact he has had since joining at the end of 2019, Stuart said: “Chris has brought the stability and consistency we needed, as we’re really keen to progress as a club and get back to where we want to be.”

Stuart was also captain of City, but has now relinquished that role to defender Katy Woodcock.

But that suits her just fine, with the 30-year-old explaining: “A big part of that I feel is that I’m playing and coaching.

“We need a captain and leader the players can go to, as I’ll upset them with some of the decisions I have to make as a coach, which isn’t anyone’s fault that’s just the way it is.

“The captain needs to be someone that can fight the players’ corner and Katy gets on well with them all, and they all respect her.

“She leads on and off the pitch and Chris made a really good choice in making her captain.”

Now to the elephant in the room, why did Stuart leave to join Blackburn in 2018?

She explained: “I did leave for Blackburn a couple of years ago, as I wanted to challenge myself in the league above.

“But distance was a factor and I had an injury. I stopped playing for a while and got in with the coaches, but then decided to come back.

“As soon as I returned to City, the previous manager (Stephen Winterburn) said he wanted me to get my boots straight back on.”

Asked what is next for both herself and the club, Stuart said: “I’ll probably continue playing for another couple of years, then just focus on the coaching, which I’m doing a lot of work on at the moment, studying for my A Licence and all my badges.

“We only had four league games in the season just gone, so I definitely want to play on for another year or two as it’s not out of my system yet.

“As for the team, we hope to be up there challenging for promotion and get back to the league we were in the other year (the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division).

“It’s not a worry if that takes two or three years, it’s what we’re aiming for long-term and everything we do is building towards that.”